Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, August 23, 2011





August 23, 2011



Chair Pam Marsh called the meeting to order at 7:10 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.


Commissioners Present:


Staff Present:

Michael Dawkins

Eric Heesacker

Pam Marsh

Debbie Miller


Maria Harris, Planning Manager

Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner

April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor





Absent Members:


Council Liaison:

Mick Church

Melanie Mindlin


Russ Silbiger, absent



A.      Pedestrian Places Proposed Code Amendments.

Planning Manager Maria Harris provided a brief background of the Pedestrian Places project and explained new code language has been drafted to address the five key recommendations that came out of the final Pedestrian Places report. She noted the five recommendations were to: 1) increase the allowable floor area ratio (FAR), 2) establish a maximum building setback, 3) establish a minimum building height, 4) revise the landscaped area requirements, and 5) reduce the parking standards. In addition, some “housekeeping” updates are included in the amendment package, including language to codify the Council’s decision regarding telecommunication facilities. Ms. Harris reviewed the proposed code amendments for AMC sections 18.72, 18.92, 18.68, 18.108, the Ashland Site Design & Use Standards, and the Ashland Street Standards. She also provided a review of the proposed new chapter titled 18.56 Overlay Zones.



Colin Swales/143 Eighth Street/Noted Southern Oregon University’s plans to construct dorms on the north side of Siskiyou Blvd. and commented on providing adequate crossings and pedestrian areas for students. He recommended public art installation be a requirement for new buildings in the detail review zone, and also voiced support for solar photovoltaic parking lot shading. Regarding arterial setbacks, Mr. Swales suggested mini-plazas be incorporated to avoid a continuous facade of buildings.


Cate Hartzell/892 Garden Way/Questioned what was driving this process and expressed concern with the proposed change to AMC 18.72.090 regarding administrative variances to the Site Design and Use Standards. She stated that while creative ideas are good, property owners need to be given some assurance of what might be developed. Ms. Hartzell also recommended examples be provided that show what a development might look like under the current code, and what it could look like under the revised standards.  


Jay Harland/4497 Brownridge Terrace, Medford/Stated he is speaking on behalf of Rogue Federal Credit Union and agreed with the concerns raised by the previous speaker in regards to the variance issue. Mr. Harland recommended the Commission incorporate a provision for floor area ratios to be dealt with on a project basis, instead of lot by lot. He also spoke to the setback issue and stated a 5 foot setback is really tight; and questioned if utility easements might create problems with a setback this narrow.


Chris Hearn/515 East Main Street/Stated he is speaking on behalf of IPCO and the Brombacher family. Mr. Hearn stated the initial Pedestrian Places plan showed a road through his client’s property, and while he did not see this on the current version of the plan, asked if this would come up again. He stated the Brombacher’s property is zoned E-1 and encouraged the Commission to promote this area and not overly regulate it. He also raised issue with delivery vehicles that serve the E-1 businesses and questioned if they should be increasing pedestrians in these areas.


Ms. Harris commented on the road issue and clarified there was a circulation plan that showed various street connections, including one on the Brombacher’s property. She stated staff has met with Mr. Brombacher and Mr. Hearn and are recommended they delay the adoption of these circulation maps until the TSP Plan is complete. Senior Planner Brandon Goldman commented that this connection issue is much bigger than the Pedestrian Places project, and noted this issue also came up with the Interchange Area Management Plan.  


Zach Brombacher/1370 Tolman Creek Dr/Stated he has been here for 40 years and resents that the City wants to provide a connection through his property to benefit someone else. He stated it is the City’s fault for not acquiring the right connects to Washington Street and this should have been considered before it was annexed. Mr. Brombacher stated he has plans to do more things and bring more jobs to Ashland, and every square foot of his property is needed.



Commissioner Marsh recommended they frame their discussion by addressing each issue one at a time.


Floor Area Ratio – It was clarified the proposed language would increase the minimum FAR from .35 to .50, and delete the maximum FAR. Several comments were made voicing support for the proposed increase to .50.


Maximum Setbacks – Comment was made voicing support for a slightly deeper setback; perhaps 10 ft instead of 5 ft. Ms. Harris commented on the issue raised during public testimony regarding utility easements and stated she does not anticipate this being a problem. She added the proposed change would keep buildings from being pushed too far back, unless the extra space is used for plaza and outdoor seating areas. Staff was asked to take another look at the utility easement issue and make sure this is not problematic.


Green Parking – Ms. Harris clarified this requirement would apply to all parking areas with more than 7 spaces. Several commissioners expressed interest in solar panels to create shade and generate power. It was questioned if there is anything in the code that would prohibit this, and whether there are ways they can encourage this type of treatment. Comment was made questioning if enough tree shade can be generated in 5 years to meet the requirement; and whether 10 years might be more appropriate.


Residential Overlay Zone – Ms. Harris clarified staff used Eugene’s code as a basis, and stated if is a common approach in land use codes to have one chapter that addresses all of the overlay zones within a community. Commissioner Marsh asked if anyone was opposed to a residential overlay, and asked if staff had modeled this to ensure it would work. Comment was made questioning why schools were proposed to be excluded in this zone. Ms. Harris clarified this recommendation had come from the consultant; however staff is not recommending any change in uses.


Administrative Variance – Ms. Harris clarified this recommendation came from the Siegel Report and allows applicants to receive a variance without proving demonstrable difficultly so long as it results in a design that equally or better achieves the purpose of the Site Design & Use Standards. Comment was made questioning if they should exclude Type I’s (staff decisions) from this revision. Statement was made that this change would broaden the discretion of staff and the Planning Commission, and a public hearing should be required. Ms. Harris explained the code is a living document and if the new language does not achieve the desired result they can always change it back. Comment was made voicing support for the concept of more creative designs, however the downside is reduced predictability. 


Wireless Cell Phone Towers – Ms. Harris provided an overview of why this code change is recommended. She explained last fall the City Council held an appeal hearing on the Planning Commission’s decision of the AT&T application, and in their ruling made an interpretation of AMC 18.72.180.D.2 to mean a stepped hierarchy of the list of preferred designs. She stated based on that decision, and because we are in the process of revising this same chapter, it seemed appropriate to include the Council’s interpretation at this time.


James Fong/759 Leonard/Commented briefly on solar parking shading and recommended they contact a local associate. Mr. Fong also spoke to the cell tower decision and codifying the Council’s decision in the land use code. He stated he has met with City staff regarding this and warned they are nearing the one year anniversary of the decision date. Mr. Fong stated they initially discussed this element coming forward with the next “housekeeping” ordinance, but since that was delayed they are now asking this get codified with the other changes they are considering for this chapter. He added AT&T will be able to come back and resubmit an application after the year is up and urged the Commission to adopt this language. He also commented on determining “feasibility”, and recommended the City require applicants to provide a fee that the City could use to hire consultants to perform an independent analysis.


Comment was made questioning if staff and the Council had considered adding this fee. Ms. Harris explained staff is looking into this and felt at a minimum we needed to get the Council’s interpretation into the ordinance since we are nearing the year anniversary. She stated in the mean time staff will be looking into the suggestion to charge an independent analysis fee. She added this is more of a policy decision and the City’s Finance and Legal departments will need to be consulted to flush out how this fee would be collected and returned. 


Cate Hartzell/892 Garden Way/Voiced her appreciation for getting the Council’s decision into the code as quickly as possible, however she would like to see the fee adopted as well. Ms. Hartzell stated the current proposal is bare bones and would like to have a larger discussion as a community about how they want to handle these types of applications.


Staff clarified that a fee for independent review would need to be charged up front, and if any money remains after the analysis is complete it would be returned to the applicant. Commissioner Marsh voiced her opinion that the Commission should define their role as narrowly as the wording in front of them, and stated the Commission does not have the authority to enact new fees. No objections were voiced to the code amendments as presented, and it was agreed that the public hearing on the code changes would be held on October 11, 2011. Comment was made that the addition of a fee should be researched by staff and brought before the City Council for discussion.


B.      North Normal Avenue Neighborhood Grant

Senior Planner Brandon Goldman announced the City of Ashland has received a grant for the Normal Street project. He stated the City Council voted to move forward and gave their direction for an Intergovernmental Agreement. Mr. Goldman stated the next steps will be drafting the project scope and selecting a consultant, and staff expects this project to start at the beginning of the year.


C.      Buildable Lands Inventory Update

Senior Planner Brandon Goldman provided a brief presentation on the Buildable Lands Inventory Update. He reviewed the purpose, land availability, demographics and land supply figures.  


Colin Swales/143 Eighth Street/Voiced concern that partially vacant land is not accounted for and hopes this can be updated. Mr. Swales stated there is already plenty of R-2 and R-3 land within the City that is underdeveloped (often a single family home on a large lot) and no rezoning is required or needed. He added he would like to see more emphasis placed on infill and not annexing.


Meeting adjourned at 10:15 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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