DECEMBER 11, 2007
CALL TO ORDER
Chair John Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at the Council Chambers,
John Stromberg, Chair
Cate Hartzell, Council Liaison, absent due to quasi-judicial items
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
Absent Members: None
Sue Yates, Executive Secretary
Molnar said at their last meeting, the Council approved the
Molnar also mentioned they are in the process of finalizing the date for the first kick-off public workshop for Croman Mill master planning effort. This will be scheduled for the last week in January.
Stromberg welcomed Michelle Mihalovich, our newest reporter from the Ashland Daily Tidings.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA - Black/Dimitre m/s to approve the agenda. Voice Vote: Approved.
Approval of minutes:
September 25, 2007 Planning Commission Study Session Minutes
November 13, 2007 Hearings Board Minutes (Stromberg, Morris, Mindlin)
November 13, 2007 Planning Commission Minutes
November 27, 2007 Planning Commission Study Session Minutes
Dotterrer/Dimitre m/s to approve the consent agenda. Voice Vote: Approved.
ART BULLOCK, 791 Glendower, gave an update on the Park Street Apartment case. He reminded the Planning Commission that they approved the apartment condominium conversion project that was appealed to Council and then taken to Circuit Court. The judge ruled malfeasance and nonfeasance, and decided the allegations in the petition for Writ of Mandamus were correct and signed a judgment in favor of the applicant, The Park Street Apartments. He asserted the City did not make a decision within the required 120 days due primarily to the action of the Planning Commission. Bullock suggested in the future that: 1) Findings should be adopted the same night as approved, 2) ask for an extension, 3) if not extended, expedite.
TYPE II PUBLIC HEARINGS
PLANNING ACTION: #2007-01398
SUBJECT PROPERTY: 167, 185, &
OWNER/APPLICANT: Havurah Friends Investment Group, LLC
DESCRIPTION: A request for Outline Plan Approval to allow a 12-lot, 15-unit subdivision for the properties located at 167, 185 and
Marsh excused herself and left the room during this item because her husband has done work with Larry Medinger.
Recap – Last month Staff made a recommendation for approval. However, they asked that the Commission continue the action to this month to allow Staff to re-notice the action and include criteria for Exception to Street Standards. The application was noticed as a continuation, but there is new information from the applicant. If the public wishes to speak again, they may do so.
Ex Parte Contact/Bias/Conflict of Interest/Site Visit
Dawkins has been by the site several times. Stromberg received an e-mail that he forwarded to Staff, but had no ex parte contacts. Dotterrer said there has been no change since the last meeting. Morris, Fields, Mindlin, Black and Dimitre did not have a site visit or ex parte contact. There were no challenges.
Severson said since the last meeting there are two elements to discuss: 1) Exception to Street Standards (he read the criteria), and 2) the separation of
MARK KNOX, 700 Mistletoe Road, Suite 204, explained this is a complex proposal. The applicants are unique; they are not looking a project as a financial investment, but a community investment. The site is unique because of the following: 1) The wetlands, 2) angle of the railroad tracks creating a number of odd shaped angles to the properties, 3) there are multiple properties with different ownerships, 4) there is a historic home on the property, 5) there is a lack of storm water infrastructure for the entire neighborhood, 6) the uniqueness of having the synagogue a participant in a residential application (a hybrid mixed use), 7) having a major street that is an artery that will connect North Mountain Avenue to Oak Street, and 8) the application incorporates a number of off-site improvements. Knox believes this is a better plan than the previous proposal. The owners of
LAURA ROBIN, 1090 Elkader, former President of the Havurah membership, is currently President of Havurah Friends Investment Group (HFIG). She said at the last meeting those that spoke gave a great overall picture of why they are doing what they are doing. None of the people in the HFIG would have gotten together to do this or any development had it not been for the intention of the whole project; that is, there is a piece of land surrounding the Havurah on three sides and they had one opportunity to grab it and do something with it. What they really wanted to do was to create community. They are very, very excited about this plan.
LARRY MEDINGER, Fork Street, said they have a buyer for 203 North Mountain. They are a young family and they plan to do a lot of restoration to the house.
AKIVA DEJACK, 534 Washington Street, has succeeded Laura Robin as President of the Havurah. He presided over the meeting where they unanimously gave their approval for this project. There was not one vote against approving. He’s proud to witness the real effort that the HFIG group has done to do things the right way to keep the ideas of good urbanism in mind.
LAUREL MILLER, 550 Cove Road, stated she is on Board of the Havurah and she is an investor in HFIG. She supports everything that was said at the last meeting. The support of the people she has talked with in Havurah and the greater
FRAN ORROCK, 1030 Ivy, was at meeting at Havurah last week (about 25 people in attendance). There were about eight there people representing five reservations on the units. It would have represented a savings about ten trips if they lived there.
LAMA YESHE PARKE, 147 Granite Street, representing the Buddhist community in
ART BULLOCK, 791 GLENDOWER, thanked the applicants for the major re-do of this application since last October. The unresolved issue relates to the drainage. The wetland area on the west side is fed essentially by a creek that goes under the railroad, and the ability of that wetland to absorb a given amount of water is not clear. A major water main broke in the railroad district last spring and the flooding through there was significant. It was more than the gutter area under the railroad tracks could handle and overflowed onto the back side (west side) of the property. There is a lack of information as to what that area can hold and how much has been going through in the past during these critical events. Can an accurate finding be made for adequate storm drainage and urban flood protection? (Relevant criteria: 18.88.030.4.a., b. and c.)
KEN WILSON, 190 Logan Drive, stated that he and his wife are members of HFIG and members of the Havurah synagogue. He sent a letter to the Commission summarizing their thoughts. They are involved with this project because it has become evident this will make a nice addition to the community.
DEBORAH ZASLOW, 692 Elkader Street, said she is the wife of Rabbi David Zaslow and speaking on his behalf. She reiterated that a lot of things could have been done with the land surrounding the Havurah. They are glad they have gotten together for this intergenerational interaction for housing for seniors, ease of those housed to access the Havurah, and the ability to set up programs that really foster interaction.
STAN SHULSTER, 165 Pilot View Drive, Medford, is a member of HFIG. He hoped the Commission would remember his testimony from last month. This is a win-win situation for the City and all involved.
Knox agreed there are capacity issues on this property. They have been working with Public Works and the problem will be fixed. Currently, the water sheet flows across the property, at times filling houses with water. This project will improve the situation because they are adding wetlands that have storm capacity abilities. Public Works will do some channeling improvements. All new storm water will be collected, fed through a bioswale and will go down a new pipe to
Black expressed concern about the assessment and accuracy of the flows. What if the flows are heavier and higher? Medinger said civil engineers will do the design work that will have to be approved by the City.
Stromberg closed the public hearing and the record.
Questions for Staff
Dimitre noted there would be approximately 60 vehicle trips per day to
Severson said the applicants will have a more detailed engineering plan at Final Plan.
With regard to Bullock’s references, Molnar said the approval standard (b) requires that the application provide adequate City facilities. Based on the standard not to operate beyond capacity, he believes there is ample evidence in the record from the engineering design and just how the aspects of the site work now to conclude or make a finding the approval standard has been met. Standard (c) – existing natural features have been identified and incorporated – the applicants have a wetland delineation that has already been approved by the State. They are increasing the size of the wetland in the common area. There seems to be sufficient information to make a finding.
Black expressed concern that if they don’t know what the flow is going to be and there is sunken parking, she hopes they have the flood issues figured out.
COMMISSIONERS’ DISCUSSION AND MOTION
Dotterrer/Morris m/s to approve PA2007-01398 including the Conditions of approval as listed in the Staff Report of this meeting.
Mindlin expressed a particular appreciation for this application. Her first Planning Commission meeting was the first application on this property. Her concerns about solar and over-paving have been addressed.
Black/Dotterrer m/s to call for the question. Voice Vote: Approved.
Roll Call: The motion carried unanimously with Morris, Black, Fields, Dotterrer, Mindlin, Dawkins, Dimitre and Stromberg voting “yes.”
Adoption of Findings: PA2007-01398, Havurah, 167, 185 and
Black/Dotterrer m/s to approve the findings. Roll Call: Unanimously approved.
Marsh rejoined the meeting.
ARTERIAL SETBACKS - CONTINUED FROM SEPTEMBER 25, 2007
Molnar said this is the third opportunity for the Planning Commission to discuss this item. Study Sessions were held in July and September. Right before the September Study Session, an outreach workshop was held that was funded by the State through the Transportation Growth Management Agency to talk about designing great arterial streets.
Harris explained why the setback issue is being considered. It was on the Commission’s short-term code amendments in the Zucker Report and an item mentioned in the Siegel Report that needed to be looked at. It was probably on both lists because the arterial front yard setback has presented difficulties in terms of inconsistencies with other parts of the ordinance, the Downtown Design Standards and the Historic District Design Standards. There has been disagreement among the community on the intent and purpose of the regulation, and where it should be applied. It has come up in a couple of planning actions where it was very controversial (Northlight and North Main & Glenn Streets). After the September 25th Study Session, the Planning Commission directed Staff to bring back one of two illustrations on Lithia Way that would show: 1) what the street would look like if developed under Staff’s recommended street frontage improvement approach, and 2) if Lithia Way was developed under the existing regulations. She explained the four illustrations included in the packet (cross-section drawings of the street). Harris said our current standard is a bit wider than what is seen on
Stromberg wondered what Harris means when she talks about tree wells and the rest as sidewalk. Harris said there is a tiny footnote in the Street Standards that says in a commercial area you’ll use hardscape parkrows and street tree wells. The idea is you usually have on-street parking in those areas and if you have a parkrow, it tends to not work very well because passengers are exiting a car onto a grassy area. The parkrow gets replaced with concrete.
Stromberg is interested in measurements. Harris said they’ve tried to distinguish between a concrete parkrow or street tree line from the actual sidewalk measurement. Stromberg found the language in the Street Standards to be confusing (page 22).
Harris continued with her presentation stating that
Mindlin asked if it is a problem to have different setbacks on different sides of the street. Harris said it’s subjective. Some people prefer inconsistencies. Molnar saidwe have inconsistencies because certain lots developed under standards we had on the books at the time. The Commissioners should be looking at how they want the form to be. It shouldn’t change because one side of the street is zoned differently. Harris said in terms of a pedestrian corridor, the downtown areas tend to be the highest traffic pedestrian corridor and there is a value in having a sidewalk that is wide enough on both sides of the street to accommodate that.
Harris explained that the Commission recently struggled with the approval on the Kendrick building. When the end of the block is book-ended by existing buildings that are close to the sidewalk and you are trying to transition the actual building faces and respect the historic nature of that district, it’s difficult to figure out how to physically transition the buildings and keep historically compatible architecture at the same time. It can be pretty tricky. In the case of the Kendrick building, they asked for an Exception to the Street Standards. Molnar said the Jasmine building came fairly close to the implementation of the Street Standards and at that time there really weren’t any examples. Do you apply an Exception or do you just build to the historic sidewalk? Over time, to be cautious, regardless of whether there is an existing sidewalk, an applicant has to meet the new sidewalk standards or if they want to get a little closer to transition, they go through an Exception process.
Harris said she’s heard comments from people about whether the slanting of the Kendrick building face is really compatible with the historic nature of downtown. It’s indicative of dealing with a block where both ends are set with buildings and street improvements and trying to juggle with historic compatibility issues. The positive aspect of
Harris showed some photo manipulations giving a sense of what the two standards would look like.
Staff believes there are a variety of benefits of having a 15 foot setback as outlined in the Staff memo dated December 3, 2007. Briefly, those reasons are:
In terms of direction, Staff is looking for whether the Planning Commission wishes to proceed or move forward with modifications of the arterial front yard setback. If so, should Staff to develop ordinance language to modify the arterial front yard setback based on the street frontage improvement approach that Staff has presented?
COLIN SWALES, 461 Allison Street, referred to Figure 2. Most of the Railroad District was platted with a 70 foot right-of-way. Lithia Way narrows to 60 feet. This can be seen because trees are having to be clipped off and can block off light to the upper windows. On the north side of
ART BULLOCK, 791 Glendower, stated that though the City hired consultants, Zucker and Siegel who did their analysis and found inconsistencies in the ordinance, that the little stuff cannot be resolved without resolving the big stuff first. Policy decisions have to be done at the Comp Plan level. The Commissioners are looking at a development driven patch to an already dysfunctional patched code that immediately gets into questions about changing the C-1-D zone, building height, function and transportation. It would be appropriate for the Commission to stop this process and fix the Comp Plan. A transportation plan needs to be done first. Additionally, the Commission needs to take public safety into consideration. The problem with the setback portion of the code is that the intention gets in the way of putting buildings all the way to the edge of the street. The historic design code can still be satisfied without invading the 20 foot setback.
Black/Dawkins m/s to extend the meeting beyond 9:30 p.m. Voice Vote: Approved.
MARK KNOX, 700 Mistletoe Road, Suite 204, said he doesn’t think it’s all about what the developers get. It’s about what we like as a community. He loves Downtown Ashland; it is one of his favorite places. Why? The buildings themselves have certain elements that create a wonderful fabric for the Downtown. One of the most important things in the Downtown is the relationship between those buildings, the windows and the sidewalk. The sidewalk is relatively narrow and could be widened, but at what point do you stop? If it gets too wide, there is a loss of connection between the pedestrians and the activities within the buildings. As Swales said, if we can provide for just enough setback so the same opportunity that is provided along East Main Street can then eventually applied to Lithia Way. He is concerned about the timing and the amount of money that would eventually be spent to completely redo the section of
Dawkins asked if it is conceivable you can fix the two ends between First and Pioneer Streets by bring the curb out further and get the sidewalk so it has a more uniform line to it. Molnar said it’s conceivable, but you have to look from the signal past Puck’s Donut lot. This would involve a multi-multi million dollar project. There is an opportunity on the Elks property, Wells Fargo and Puck’s Donut property to build to a wide sidewalk. You can’t just shift the alignment on one block without it affecting some severe transportation safety issues. Harris said it’s an issue of property acquisitions.
Morris said it’s not just sidewalks and curbs. There are storm drains, utilities, gas lines, water lines, etc. If you move the street, all the infrastructure would all have to be moved too.
Stromberg believes the south side of
Before we make changes to the ordinance because the 20 foot front yard gives us a kind of flexibility, are we going to do a Downtown Plan and visioning and get the community behind it? If that is going to happen, we should not be pre-empting this by doing some relative simplistic change even though there some good reasons for it. In addition, the 20 foot front yard may be a useful public interest in future court cases (Measure 49 and 37).
Dotterrer doesn’t think it is realistic to realign the street. It seems to him we are not really talking about arterial setbacks but what we decide to do in different sections of town. It seems it would be ridiculous to have the same arterial setback rules on
Marsh finds it a joy to walk from her house to the Downtown. She wants to continue to have pedestrian-friendly access as part of an alternative transportation plan. She sees this very much pedestrian driven, not developer driven. When Marsh walks through the Downtown she finds she just starts walking at the places that feel good. She never walks in front of Soundpeace. She always walks on the south side of
Marsh commented that she works in
Harris reminded the Commissioners that at the first study session they went through each arterial. Each recommendation was slightly different and tailored to each corridor to match the context and the character.
Dotterrer/Black m/s to continue the meeting beyond 10:00 p.m. Voice Vote: Approved.
Dimitre is not sure he’s in favor of giving back 12 feet for nothing when we can bargain something out of the developers. He also has a problem with the bare minimum setback where there are no bus turnouts or any planning options in the future because the street will be too narrow to do anything different. The curb can move; it’s not set in stone. He had hoped there would be more of a balanced presentation tonight. He doesn’t feel we have had both sides of the issue and he feels the Commission has something that is being pushed on them. He does not feel he has adequate information or different options.
Fields said the Downtown is for shopping, community, socializing, high density and people being on the street. Cities have been planned all over the world. The accidental ones have been more successful than those that have been planned. The one fact in the New Urbanism that keep coming back is there is a relationship to the street to the window. There is a relationship to the volume of the buildings, the enclosure and how someone feels. We can’t reconfigure curbs and gutters. He doesn’t mind the eight or nine foot sidewalk. As we see higher densities and taller buildings we’ll begin to see that we need more width. This is about creating good urban bones so that over time as these buildings come, businesses fail and are replaced with new uses, that these buildings are capable of learning. When they are 30 feet back from the curb they can’t learn anything because there is not enough room to build another building in front of it, on top of it or over it and we end up with dead space between the street and the building. All we are trying to do is get around
Molnar said it has never been Staff’s intention to push this on the Commission. They support long-range planning for the Downtown. The proposed modification was an interim step to get us back to what we started on the books 15 years ago with the Detailed Site Review and ten years ago with the Downtown Standards. Staff thought there was much more to lose by going back to the antiquated 20 foot standard than what we had in practice for the last ten to 15 years. He added there have been a lot of valid comments about looking comprehensively at areas of the downtown.
Morris said the 1992 Site Design Standards define the Site Design zone. Alcoves, setbacks and cafes are all things identified in the standards. He would like to see Staff go ahead and come back with something on all the arterials either all at once or whatever is most efficient for Staff.
Stromberg believes we should move ahead. The proposals by themselves are good ideas, but he also feels part of our town running from the park to the railroad station is a real critical part and the couplet is a big problem. If we could solve those few blocks, especially Lithia Way where it goes right through the middle and separates things and make that a really good pedestrian environment, that it would be worth dollars and cents and social values, community unity, etc. What scares him is that we go ahead with something tonight that turns into a very simple formula for how this area has to be treated, pre-empting the ability to do something like make
Marsh said we have an opportunity tonight to take a small step toward making things better. That doesn’t preclude us from looking at much more detail at all of this area at some future point or adjusting or amending. In the meantime, if we do nothing, we know that big parts of this area will be decided for us.
Marsh/Morris m/s to have Staff come back with appropriate language that would implement Staff’s recommendation on the
Molnar said Staff will draft language allowing some flexibility and address issues concerning Measure 37 and 49.
Morris/Fields m/s to call for the question. Voice Vote: Morris, Fields, Dawkins, Dotterrer, Marsh, Stromberg and Mindlin voted “yes” and Black and Dimitre voted “no.”
Roll Call on the motion: Dotterrer, Marsh, Morris, Fields, Mindlin and Stromberg voted “yes.” Dawkins, Black and Dimitre voted “no.”
ADOPTION OF FINDINGS, ORDERS & CONCLUSIONS – PA2007-01756
Dotterrer/Morris m/s to approve. Voice Vote: Unanimously approved.
ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 11:00 p.m.
Respectfully submitted by,
Susan Yates, Executive Secretary