Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Special Meeting

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October 25, 2011


Chair Pam Marsh called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.


Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Mick Church
Michael Dawkins
Eric Heesacker
Pam Marsh
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Michael Pina, Assistant Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
    Russ Silbiger
Commission Chair Pam Marsh welcomed Mick Church back to the Planning Commission. She also reminded the group of the joint Transportation/Planning Commission meeting on Monday, November 7.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the City Council will hold public hearings on Pedestrian Places and the Wireless Facilities code amendments on November 1st. He also noted the possibility of having the November 8th Planning Commission meeting canceled.

  1. Approval of Planning Commission’s Recommendation for PA-2011-01174, Pedestrian Places.
  2. Approval of Planning Commission’s Recommendation for PA-2011-01175, Wireless Communication Facilities.

Commissioners Dawkins/Mindlin m/s to approve the Planning Commission’s recommendations for Planning Actions 2011-01174 and 2011-01175. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0. [Church abstained]


  1. Discussion and request for Council to initiate an ordinance amendment that would reduce Planning Commission membership from 9 to 7.

Commissioner Dawkins provided an overview of the discussion he had with Mayor Stromberg in regards to reducing the number of Planning Commission members. He stated he and the Mayor had a long discussion and the Mayor’s primary concern was maintaining a good balance on the Commission. Commissioner Dawkins countered that it is the Mayor who makes the recommendations for appointment, and hopefully future Ashland mayors will keep in mind that balance. The Mayor directed Dawkins to speak with the Commission’s council liaison, Councilor Silbiger, and bring a formal recommendation before the Council for consideration.
Comment was made questioning if the Commission could adopt a range similar to the Tree Commission, instead of a specific number of members. Councilor Silbiger explained why he does not think this would work for the Planning Commission. Mr. Molnar asked the group to articulate why they feel seven members would be better. Commissioner Marsh noted that the Commission started discussing this possibility back when they had a full commission, and this request has nothing to do with the lack of succession. She stated nine members is too big, and makes it difficult to have a back-and-forth discussion. Mr. Molnar noted the Planning Commission was originally a seven member group. Commissioner Mindlin stated deliberations work better with seven members, and it is hard to have a back and forth debate when there are nine people. Commissioner Miller noted that many Oregon cities have seven member Planning Commissions, including towns that are larger than Ashland. Commissioner Dawkins commented that there seems to be a tipping point where they are functional and non-functional, and he does not believe they are functional as a nine member group.
Commissioners Miller/Dawkins m/s to ask Councilor Silbiger to bring forth a change in the Planning Commission’s membership from nine members to seven. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 6-0.


  1. Consider initiation of possible code amendments to:
    1. Establish standards and height allowances for deer fencing.
    2. Permit greater flexibility for the keeping of poultry on property within the city limits.
    3. Modify setback requirements related to the installation of rain water harvesting equipment within the side or rear yard areas.
    4. Increase the allowance for the extension of roof eaves into setback areas (i.e. required yard areas)
    5. Adjust standards for installation of solar collection systems on Commercial and Employment land within a Historic District.

Mr. Molnar explained Planning staff maintains a list of “housekeeping measures”, which are minor, non-controversial revisions to the land use ordinance that would address inconsistencies and issues that staff deals with on a reoccurring basis. He stated while the list is quite large, the items brought forward tonight are ones that seem to be in line with Council goals, including sustainability and resource conservation. 
Deer Fencing
Mr. Molnar explained staff frequently hears from property owners that they want gardens and have a difficult time protecting them from deer under the current fence regulations. He stated one idea is to allow property owners to go above the 6.5 foot height limit and allow deer fencing (mesh, wire, etc) up to a maximum height of 8 feet.
Commissioner Miller voiced support for this idea. She stated deer fencing can look attractive and recommended not limiting the material to netting. She added they should do what they can to help people with this issue. Comment was made questioning if 8 feet is high enough. Assistant Planner Michael Piña stated deer could potentially jump an 8 foot fence, but would typically need a running start. With our urban built environment, he stated staff believes 8 feet is appropriate. Commissioner Heesacker voiced his support for this coming forward and asked whether they should allow a solid fence up to 8 feet. Mr. Piña stated a solid wood fence could pose issues regarding wind load and would entail more stringent building code requirements. He stated limiting the additional 1.5 feet to deer fencing would prevent the building code requirements from kicking in and would also reduce permit costs to the homeowner. Commissioner Heesacker stated there seems to be a bias against chain link fence material and asked why. Commissioner Dawkins commented that there is a visual difference between chain link and mesh. He stated mesh blends in better with the surrounding environment and is visually less offensive than chain link. Commissioner Marsh voiced her concern with higher fences for front yards. She stated backyards are not an issue, but questioned what it would look like if every home along Siskiyou Blvd. had an 8 foot fence. Dawkins agreed and stated this would not be a pleasing entrance to a home and could ruin the sense of a neighborhood. Mr. Molnar indicated there may be some front yard options that would be acceptable to the Commission and stated staff will bring back some creative ideas on how to address their front yard concerns.
Keeping of Poultry
Mr. Piña stated the keeping of poultry is one of the most received inquiries by Planning staff and also receives the most hits on the Department’s FAQ webpage. Mr. Molnar explained the keeping of poultry does not fall under the Land Use Ordinance and is contained in the Nuisance Chapter of the Ashland Municipal Code, which also addresses unnecessary noise and smell. He stated the current regulations do not put a limit on the number of chickens or roosters allowed, but do require poultry to be kept at least 75 feet from neighboring dwellings and for the environment to be kept odor and debris free. Mr. Piña clarified most of the reported noise complaints are regarding roosters, and stated this proposal would remove roosters from being permitted. Staff noted the code requirements of other jurisdictions and asked the Commission to consider how close they would prefer chicken enclosures to be kept from setbacks and property lines.
The commissioners shared their input on this item. Commissioner Miller voiced support for establishing a minimum setback from residential dwellings as opposed to the property line. She recommended they start simple and if a number of complaints arise over the next couple years they can look at making this more restrictive. Commissioner Mindlin received clarification about the City’s current setback requirements for small structures. Mr. Piña clarified this ordinance change would not address other birds, such as turkey or geese. Commissioner Dawkins suggested using the term “chickens” in the ordinance instead of poultry. He also stated keeping with the setback requirement seems to be cleaner than dealing with distances from other dwellings. Commissioner Marsh commented that staff is on the right track with this; it is straight forward and establishes basic constraints. She added she is comfortable with chickens loose in the yard as long as the yard is secured. Commissioner Church stated the interest should be ensuring people have enough space to move around the coup or structure, and to not allow someone to build right up against the fence. Mr. Molnar thanked the commissioners for their input and clarified because these code requirements are contained in Chapter 9, this amendment will not come back before the Commission for approval.  
Rainwater Harvesting
Mr. Molnar stated common methods for rainwater harvesting are 50-90 gallon drums and stated the primary question that arises is whether these drums are considered structures and whether they need to conform to setback requirements. He stated staff has not received complaints about the placement of these types of rainwater harvesting systems but would like to have clear language in the code. He stated staff feels it is reasonable to place a rainwater drum within the side or rear-yard setback, but would like to know how the Commission feels about relaxing the setback requirements for these small rainwater catchment systems. Support was voiced for allowing rainwater drums in the setback and also for the handout materials being prepared by staff.
Roof Eaves
Mr. Molnar stated the City currently allows a maximum 18 inch encroachment into the setback, but more and more home builders desire greater roof extensions because they reduce energy consumption. He stated this proposal would amend the standard and allow roof eaves to extend 3 feet into the setback. No objections were voiced to this proposal.
Solar Collection Systems
Mr. Molnar stated House Bill 3516, which goes into effect January 1, 2012, states photovoltaic energy systems have to be allowed in any zone where commercial or residential structures are permitted. Additionally, jurisdictions cannot require property owners to go through a land use process if the system does not increase the footprint of the building or the peak height of the roof, and if the system is installed parallel to the roof line. He added the City does have the ability to place additional regulations for photovoltaic systems places on historic properties within our designated Historic Districts. Mr. Molnar stated our current policies are consistent with HB 3516, but would like to know whether the Commission would like to create additional flexibility, including allowing these types of systems on commercial buildings in historic districts without triggering a site review and public hearing. Comment was made that the City should establish reasonable standards so that property owners can do this without paying a large planning approval fee and going through the public hearing process. General support was voiced to create more flexibility for property owners wanting to install solar collection systems.
Co-Housing Communities and Building Barriers
Commissioner Mindlin stated she has been in discussion with the Mayor about this topic and this seemed to be the appropriate time to bring it forward. Mindlin provided an overview of potential barriers to co-housing communities in Ashland. She stated pedestrian communities are unclear in our design standards for single family zones, and locating parking on the periphery is one of the primary elements of co-housing developments; however standards regarding parking lots in residential zones are unclear. Mindlin stated building spacing and orientation, as well as the density and affordable housing component create additional barriers to these types of developments. She commented on the benefits of co-housing living and recommended the Commission consider removing some of these stumbling blocks for pedestrian communities.  
The commissioners shared their input on this subject. Commissioner Dawkins supports the concept of co-housing and stated the social justice being provided should excuse the affordable housing requirement. He also stated co-housing is a realistic way to support Ashland’s desire for infill and to accommodate future growth within the current urban growth boundary. Commissioner Marsh stated the issues raised by Mindlin are good ones and should be looked at in general, not just for co-housing projects. She also suggested the Commission look at reducing the lot size for single family lots. Commissioner Mindlin commented that 12 units is the minimum for a functioning cohousing development, and stated it is challenging to find lots in Ashland that can accommodate this. Commissioner Dawkins gave his opinion that it is appropriate at times to increase density in R-1 Districts and does not think they should limit these developments to R-2 and R-3 zoned land. Mr. Molnar clarified all of the City’s residential zoning districts provide flexibility for a variety of housing types.
Commissioner Marsh stated it appears the parking lot issue can be addressed in the current requirements; however the setback and street orientation issues may be more problematic. Mr. Molnar explained the Department’s plate is tremendously full, and it would be helpful if the co-housing community could put forward specific, clear changes they believe would make improvements. He added the Planning Commission will need to provide staff direction and the Council will have to approve whether this is something that can be added to the list of items staff is working on. Commissioner Church suggested a freestanding section of the code that speaks just to co-housing (or pedestrian access communities) rather than amending all of the other sections of the code. Planning Manager Maria Harris gave her opinion that the primary stumbling block is not the code, but rather finding a big enough lot in Ashland that is configured in a way to accommodate this type of development. Commissioner Marsh asked Mindlin to give this topic some additional thought and research possible ways to pursue this. She also recommended any commissioner who has not visited the Fordyce Co-Housing Development to do so and believes this will provide them a better perspective of the issues at hand.


  1. Staff Report Content.

Mr. Molnar requested the Commission provide feedback on the format and content of the Planning Division’s staff report and asked if the information being provided allows them to make informed decisions. He noted the previous suggestions for a broader vicinity map and also the project planner, and stated staff could start including these in the packet.
The Commission briefly shared their input. Request was made for staff to include comparisons to other projects, when appropriate. It was also suggested staff include a box of key items, including staff’s concerns and options for how they might address the different criteria. Commissioner Marsh asked the group to keep this item in mind when looking at the next few sets of staff reports and provide feedback to staff.
Meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor


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