Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, November 27, 2007





NOVEMBER 27, 2007

I.             CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order at 7:05 p.m. by Chair John Stromberg at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main Street, Ashland, OR


Commissioners Present:        


Council Liaison:

John Stromberg, Chair

Michael Dawkins

Mike Morris

Olena Black


Cate Hartzell, Council Liaison, present



Dave Dotterrer

Melanie Mindlin

Absent Members:



Staff Present::

Bill Molnar, Community Development Director

Tom Dimitre,  excused

Pam Marsh, excused

John Fields, excused


Derek Severson, Associate Planner

Sue Yates, Executive Secretary














Morris/Black m/s to approve the agenda.  Voice Vote:  Approved.


III.          WETLAND AND RIPARIAN AREA PROTECTION ORDINANCE – UPDATE, Discussion and Direction            Presented by Bill Molnar, Community Development Director

Stromberg mentioned that the Wetland and Riparian Technical Advisory Committee was the original committee that was formed to study this ordinance.  He thought we might want to invite interested members of that committee to join back in this process.


Molnar said Staff has come before the Planning Commission over the last several months with a draft ordinance.  There is a lot in the ordinance.  Rather than going through the ordinance step-by-step, this is an opportunity to touch base, gauge how the Commission feels about certain elements of the ordinance, see if we are on track, and talk about some of the areas where there are options to consider in the ordinance.  Then, as we move forward in finalizing a draft in the next three to four weeks and consider scheduling the first public meeting, at least at the Commission level, we have a clear idea that we are moving in the right direction.  They are making some changes to the ordinance out of respect for the Environmental Element of the Comprehensive Plan (last updated in 1992) to keep some wording consistencies between the proposed ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan.  


Molnar added they are proposing to take wetlands and riparian areas out of the Physical Constraints Chapter and add a new section to the Land Use Ordinance (18.63) in order to separate out water related resources from environmentally sensitive lands due to slope, erosion and hillside constraints.


Stromberg noted the letter from property owners, Rick & Carlotta Lucas that will be entered into the record with comments concerning this proposed ordinance.


Tonight’s discussion will focus on the following three areas as outlined in the November 27, 2007 Study Session packet.  Comments added in these minutes are in addition to the text included in the packet.


1)            Why are we contemplating changes to the Wetlands and Riparian Ordinance? 

               a)            To make the Land Use Ordinance consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

                               As part of the State’s requirements, they ask us to conduct an economic, social, environmental, and energy consequence analysis.  When looking to protect a natural resource, the protection needs to be balanced with other state goals and identify the conflicts of either fully protecting the resource, allowing for some impacts on the resources, or in some cases, making a finding that there is a resource that lies in a prime economic development area.  We concluded that there was enough flexibility through our zoning process, that in most cases, natural resources should be protected and incorporated within projects.                             


Black asked if there was anything to maintain the environmental integrity of a riparian corridor between projects or keep the whole system contiguous.  Molnar said hopefully this ordinance will take into consideration any upstream property to protect the system.  For example, a five acre parcel is proposed for development with a degraded stream.  As part of that project, the Planning Commission would require protection of the stream area along with some restoration.  Currently, an upstream property owner could remove important vegetation that would cause erosion downstream.  The proposed ordinance would prohibit the removal of native vegetation without going through a review process.


               b)            It is a Council goal. 


               c)            Riparian protection has become part of Ashland’s storm water management plan.

                               Over time, community values change.  The storm water master plan has reflected these changes.  We know our creeks convey storm water, but how do we insure the capacity of the creeks is maintained but in a natural state?  How do we deal with sedimentation and water temperature through maintaining riparian canopies?  We are currently updating our Storm Water Management Plan.  One of the consultants will be touring some of the creek sections to evaluate what natural changes need to be done to the creeks in order to deal with some of the issues mentioned. 


Black asked if the natural drainageways used by Talent Irrigation District (TID) had been overlaid on the storm water map.  How are they affecting our riparian corridors?  Molnar was uncertain about the mapping.  He knows there is a discussion on irrigation water and how it is used through the system.  He believes this becomes more of an issue particularly during dry periods and it has been an advantage to have these diversions.  At certain times of the year there are certain water courses that might get down to a trickle if TID water was not running down it.  Black said they have had some real gully washers in August with a lot of water volume.  Morris sees the TID waterways having the biggest impact in the winter when acting as collectors during floods.  Hartzell said if the TID was piped, some of the water dynamics throughout town might change.  It might be helpful to look at a map with TID and another map to see what they think it might look like with piping.  Molnar said he is not an expert, but would be interested in seeing what work has been done.


Black asked what if a property owner is being burdened with a storm water problem (a municipal problem), not a natural occurring water problem? Molnar said the way we address wetlands in this ordinance requires the same type of delineation that the State requires.  It does not preclude the applicant from having to go through the State process.  Molnar gave the Billings Ranch Subdivision area along the railroad tracks as an example.  The delineation concluded that while it met all the attributes for a wetland, the wetland is there because the non-maintained irrigation ditch is leaking along the railroad track.  The State’s analysis said that might be true so they had the option of maintaining or piping the ditch to see if the wetland goes away or if left as is, it met the requirements for a wetland.  When the developer built the bike path, they had to pipe the irrigation ditch and Molnar has heard the characteristics of the wetland area has changed and it is hard to tell it is even there anymore.  Molnar noted that water is difficult to track.  We have done an inventory, but it will have a disclaimer that there are wetlands that we have missed.  It is not an exact science.


Dawkins said the whole conversation of natural wetlands becomes somewhat silly because wetlands have been changing since 1860 because urbanization has created a lot of impervious surfaces. We’ve piped over a good part of the natural waterways, and people are still farming and using the natural waterways.  He believes it will be a property-by-property discussion of each wetland.


Molnar said the 2000 Storm Water Master Plan identified key locations toward the lowlands of town where storm water retention facilities adjacent to a creek channel would be beneficial to remove sediment as water comes off the hill and to slow it down as it goes toward Bear Creek.  They will be identified in the Master Plan because they are expensive projects and are often paid for through Systems Development Charges because it is a benefit to the whole system.


               d)            It keeps the City in compliance with Statewide Planning Goals 5.

                               Molnar said creating enhanced local review for projects is one of the main components of the new ordinance.  Currently, any permitting for wetlands goes to the Division of State Lands to get a delineation approved before finishing local planning approval.  The proposed ordinance states the City will require delineation and buffering of the wetland.  Therefore, if the State is open to allowing for some changes, the City has to agree to it as well.  There will be a parallel process with the State.  The applicant would also have to get federal approvals.


Molnar said the State encourages the adoption of local ordinances.  They have a relatively small staff responsible for enforcing wetland regulations and delineations throughout the entire state.  They get caught in the middle as they are not aware of certain conflicting goals the City is trying to balance when evaluating plans for wetland removal or mitigation.  Why would we want to defer local review of a community resource to a state body that is understaffed and they allow for mitigation by removing a wetland and doing a mitigated wetland in some other location?  Under Goal 5 there is a model wetland provision. The proposed ordinance is important if we are to have local evaluations for smaller, more isolated, intermittent wetlands that make up the majority of our inventory because the State might be more open to mitigation.  Molnar explained that our definitions match the State’s.  The flexibility occurs with how much of a setback we want from the riparian area.  With riparian areas, the State says the city only has to address significant riparian corridors – riparian corridors that follow fish-bearing creeks.  Once a creek is not fish-bearing it falls within our local jurisdiction to require a certain level of protection.  Molnar noted the proposed ordinance is not charting new territory.  The format we are using for the ordinance is comparable to ordinances already in place in Oregon, but we are customizing it for Ashland.  There was discussion about making sure the process is simplified or more user-friendly since it involves local, state and federal processes so applicants will know when they go through the process they will be able to fulfill all the requirements.


Hartzell asked if wildlife has been discussed along with wetlands.  And, do we have a goal of maintaining a certain minimum acreage of wetlands within the UGB?  Black also expressed an interest in addressing wildlife.  Dotterrer said every time we start adding another item we are potentially expanding the riparian areas.  Every square foot we put into riparian just puts that much more pressure on the price of land or the UGB.  It’s a trade-off.  Morris said if we require a minimum acreage for riparian and a riparian area dries up, would we require property owners to pump water into areas to re-create riparian areas?  We have to re-evaluate the riparian and wetland areas every three to five years.


2)            Specific changes to the ordinance – most substantive parts

a)                  Establishes the types of Protection Zones.

                               Molnar said the purpose of the buffer is to protect the resource.  Black mentioned health issues of building near wetlands and she feels there is a need to protect people.  Dotterrer doesn’t want to create some type of artificial buffer.  Molnar said there are examples around town where we’ve delineated a wetland and then allowed the development to go right up to a building because it becomes difficult to create an area to maintain the building or parking area.  For example, the wetlands are almost right up to the decks at Chautauqua Trace on Tolman Creek Road.  Over time, residents weed whack the vegetation because they can’t get to their deck to even maintain it.  Sometimes there is a practicality issue.


               b)            Establishes the size (e.g. width) of Protection Zones.

                               Molnar said that any wetland less than one-half acre are not required to be inventoried.  He further explained that the State determines a significant wetland by looking at whether or not the system serves as flood control, water quality and habitat.  An applicant just has to meet one of these.  The State is setting minimum standards for the community and they change over time.  If you look at the Environmental Resources Element, it will identify that riparian areas function for flood control, habitat and water quality.  They have all been identified as a value.  In determining the width, the functions of water quality and flood quality for riparian areas are carried out in the narrowest part.  Wildlife habitat increases as the width of a riparian area increases. 


Molnar has received some comments from citizens who have reviewed the ordinance.  They are concerned that we do live in an urban area and though we want to manage creek areas, they want to be able to balance that with using their backyard space. 


Morris noted one of the biggest issues with the committee was defining the options – how do you be clear and objective.  The more options you add, the more complex the ordinance becomes.


Black asked about how the ordinance addresses the integration of bike and pedestrian trails.  Molnar said low-impact trails have been identified as an exempt, non-permit activity to encourage trails (referencing the Parks Trails Plan).


The Commission skipped the following items:

               c)            Defines the method for determining the on-site location of a Protection Zone

               d)            Establishes what actions and activities are allowed that do not require a permit.

               e)            Establishes what level of development or building construction is allowed and prohibited within Protection                                          Zones

               f)             Establishes what other activities are allowed and prohibited in Protection Zones, such as vegetation removal.


3)            Some areas where there are options to consider

a)               Options for Ordinance Flexibility

                              Examples:  A property along Oak or Helman backs a creek.  Instead of having a 20 foot setback from Oak or Helman, it could be reduced to 15 or 10 feet in order to site the home closer to the street.  It would not require a variance and it would be a way of staying out of the Protection Zone.   


Perhaps there is a wetland or creek protection zone rendering only 60 percent of the lot outside the Protection Zone as useable.  Could you allow for some increased lot coverage on the 60 percent?  It is transferring the building potential to allow for a more intense building on the area outside as an off-setting measure for the restriction.


b)              Customizing the Code to Address Specific Situations

i)        Subdivision and other Land Divisions vs. Existing Lots

ii)       Public vs. Private

iii)     Smaller projects may be permitted to follow a prescriptive path for mitigation, rather than submit a more detailed mitigation plan.

Currently the ordinance outlines seven steps of a mitigation plan.  Molnar has had at least two property owners express some concern about this.  For an individual property owner that gets approval to make some changes in a Protection Zone, rather than having to hire an expert to go through an elaborate mitigation plan for disturbance of 500 square feet, there is a formula given in the ordinance that would allow the property owner to comply without having to hire an expert.


4)            Fee Waivers

               a)            Voluntary restoration and enhancement projects.


5.            Approval Process

               a)            Administrative (Staff) vs. Planning Commission (Hearing).

               b)            Level of Protection vs. Property Use (objectives)

                               i.             Meet the minimums

                               ii.            More aggressive approach


Molnar said he is looking for direction from the Commission.  Stromberg believes we should have a skillfully designed ordinance.  The more reasonable we can be, the farther people will be willing to go with us in doing a good job in protecting the environment.


Molnar said Staff will attempt to make the last changes to the ordinance over the next two to four weeks so we have a sound, final draft.  Hopefully, the Legal Department will have a chance to review it.  The ordinance changes fall under Measure 56, therefore, a list of affected property owners will need to be compiled.  Staff would like to conduct the first public meeting with the property owners – more of an informal meeting with Staff giving a presentation, but allowing for general questions.  The format would not be as structured as a Planning Commission regular meeting.  It would be helpful to have two Planning Commission volunteers help facilitate the meeting. 


Dotterrer agreed and suggested Molnar use the same discussion points he used this evening. 



               Presentation by Bill Molnar, Community Development Director

Molnar gave a PowerPoint presentation that provided the Commissioners with the status of the master plan. The Croman Mill Redevelopment Plan is part of a Quick Response Project sponsored by the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development.  We have been awarded a grant and they look to have the project completed in four to six months.  Crandall Arambula has been selected as the consultant.  Molnar read the purpose of the Quick Response Program.  It involves areas where development is imminent in the future.  It is best to look at a coordinated approach.


Molnar showed the project study area.  It is defined as follows:  Tolman Creek Road is the westerly boundary, the northerly and westerly boundary is the railroad track and Crowson Road and the far south is Siskiyou Boulevard.  Molnar also showed the Study Area – Physical Constraints. 


The Work Tasks (begin on Page 3, Draft 8 of Statement of Work) and are as follows:

Task 1 – Information Assembly and Review

The kick-off is planned before the end of December to talk about background information and consultant needs.  

Task 2 – Reconnaissance 

Task 3 – Conceptual Plans

Task 4 – Concept Review (charrette style)

Task 5 – Potential City Funded Task – Additional refinement and Review – anticipate by end of March

Task 6 – Final Products – not in an adoption format.

Task 7 – Adoption Hearing


The work is scheduled to be completed by May or June 2008. 


V.            DECMEBER 25TH STUDY SESSION – Black/Dotterrer m/s not to have a study session on December 25th.  Voice Vote:  Approved.


VI.           ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 9:37 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by,

Susan Yates, Executive Secretary




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