Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012

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:
Michael Dawkins
Richard Kaplan
Pam Marsh
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Eric Heesacker   Russ Silbiger, absent
Commissioner Marsh and Community Development Director Bill Molnar reviewed the Commission’s upcoming meeting schedule.
Commissioner Marsh suggested the Commission hold their annual retreat in May and asked the members to check their schedules. She also noted the vacancy on the Commission and encouraged interested citizens to submit applications to the Mayor’s office.

A.  Approval of Minutes:

1.  January 10, 2012 Regular Meeting.
2.  January 24, 2012 Special Meeting.

Commissioners Dawkins/Mindlin m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.
No one came forward to speak.

A.  Approval of Findings for PA-2011-01699, 763 & 777 Jefferson Avenue (Brammo Motorsports)

Ex Parte Contact: Commissioner Mindlin stated at the Commission’s Joint Meeting with the Transportation Commission, Zach Brombacher made a comment questioning why the Planning Commission would approve this application without first looking at the transportation issues on Washington Street. No ex parte contact was reported by Commissioners Dawkins, Kaplan, Miller or Marsh.
Commissioners Miller/Kaplan m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2011-01699. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.
Commissioner Marsh commented on the issue raised by Mindlin and clarified there was extensive consideration of the transportation network when the Brammo property was annexed into the City a few years ago. Mr. Molnar agreed with Commissioner Marsh and added there was also a limited traffic impact analysis submitted with this current application. He stated the street network has been evaluated and the biggest issue long term is whether future interchange improvements will restrict access in and out of Washington Street. 

B.  Pedestrian Places – Continue Public Hearing to February 28, 2012. 

Commissioners Kaplan/Miller m/s to continue the public hearing to the February 28, 2012 Planning Commission meeting. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.

A.  PLANNING ACTION: #2011-01731
DESCRIPTION: Amendments to the Ashland Land Use Ordinance (ALUO) including Chapters 18.08 [Definitions], 18.68 [General Regulations], 18.72 [Site Review], and Chapter 9.08 [Keeping of Animals]. The proposed amendments provide new standards to allow deer fencing, the keeping of chickens, rainwater harvesting, greater eave extensions, and the installation of solar panels within historic districts. The Planning Commission will review the ordinance amendments and make recommendations to the Ashland City Council.

Mr. Molnar stated this work is prompted by the Council Goal to promote sustainability and green building. He stated this is an opportunity to look at minor code revisions that provide incentives for more green development, and the changes put forward focus on energy efficiency, local food production, water conservation, and address some of the repeated questions staff receives from the public.
Staff Report
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman explained the proposed ordinances address solar energy systems, rain barrels, keeping of chickens, eave extensions and fencing; and provided a brief overview of each code section.
Solar Energy Systems
Mr. Goldman stated the proposed amendment would allow commercial and employment zoned properties in historic districts to install solar energy systems without having to obtain site review approval if the following three conditions are met: 1) the system is mounted parallel to the slope of the roof, 2) the footprint of the structure is not exceeded, and 3) the system does not extend above the peak height of the roof, is screened by existing parapets, or is otherwise not visible from the public right of way. Mr. Goldman noted the proposed amendment was taken before the Historic Commission for review and the Commission raised no objection.
Rain Barrels
Mr. Goldman stated this is another minor change that would allow homeowners to capture some of the stormwater runoff from their roofs. He explained this code amendment defines a rain barrel as “a barrel with a capacity of 90-gallons or less used to collect and store rainwater runoff from rooftops via rain gutters for non-potable use”. He added the 90-gallon definition comes from the building code, and clarified anything larger than 90-gallons is defined as a cistern in the building code and additional building code requirements apply. Mr. Goldman stated the code change allows rain barrels to be located within the property’s side or rear yard, and requires property owners to make every attempt to place the rain barrels so that they are screened from view of adjacent properties and public streets.
Commissioner Mindlin questioned why the code amendment limits the size of the rain barrel to 90-gallons. Mr. Goldman stated this figure was included because anything larger than 90-gallons is considered a cistern and requires a building permit. Mindlin stated there are 350-gallon barrels that fit under the eaves, and if the intent is to keep barrels within a certain distance from the property line the language should clarify this and they should allow larger barrels. She also questioned staff’s statement that permits are required for larger barrels.
Keeping of Chickens
Mr. Goldman stated this amendment aims to address local food production opportunities and provided a brief review of the current requirements for keeping chickens within the city limits. He stated the proposed amendments address the health and sanitation section of the code as well as accessory structures and buildings. Mr. Goldman reviewed the recommended changes for the two sections of the code:

Health & Sanitation - AMC 9.08: 1) no more than five hens are permitted (no roosters), 2) chickens are kept for personal use (not commercial), 3) chicken slaughtering shall not be done outdoors, 4) chickens must be secured at all times (during the daytime in a chicken run or fenced yard, and within a coop at night), 5) feed is kept in rodent and raccoon proof containers, and 6) manure not used for composting or fertilizing shall be stored in an enclosed container (not more than 20-gallons) until removed.

Accessory Structures & Buildings – AMC 18.68.170: 1) shall be at least 20 feet away from any dwelling on an adjoining property, 2) shall be less than six feet in height, 3) chicken coops shall be less than 40 sq. ft. in area, and chicken run enclosures shall not exceed 100 sq. ft. in size, and 4) structures shall be screened from view of adjacent properties and the public right of way with a combination of fencing and/or landscaping.

Commissioner Dawkins questioned whether they should require chicken runs to be screened. Mr. Goldman stated this is how the ordinance is drafted but the Commission can recommend changes if they do not agree with this provision. He also clarified how the 6-foot maximum structure height is measured and suggestion was made to amend 18.68.140(C)2.b to read “structures shall not exceed six feet in total height”.
Commissioner Dawkins questioned the slaughtering provision that prohibits this from being done outdoors and stated not many people would want to do this inside. He added since they are limiting it to five chickens, he does not believe people will be doing a lot of slaughtering.
Commissioner Miller commented on the odor produced by manure and asked if homeowners can discard this material with the normal garbage pickup. Mr. Goldman stated he can look into whether Recology will pick up this material, and noted there is already a provision in the Nuisance Chapter regarding odors.
Eave Extensions
Mr. Goldman stated this is a simple change. He explained the current code allows eaves to encroach up to 18 inches, and the proposed change would allow eaves, awnings, and gutters to intrude up to 3 feet into required yards.
Mr. Goldman stated the three main issues are fence heights, fencing materials, and deer fencing; and provided an overview of each area. He stated the current code language provides a clear definition of fence height, but this ordinance provides further clarification for fences that are on properties that are below street grade and fences on retaining walls. Regarding fencing materials, he stated the majority of the proposed security fencing language already exists in the code and this ordinance would just move it to the land use general regulations section. The one addition is the language that states on commercial, employment, and industrial properties such fencing shall not be visible from the right-of-way or with approval on properties deemed hazardous or in need of additional security. Mr. Goldman commented on the proposed deer fencing amendments and provided several photos of various deer fencing treatments being used throughout town. He stated staff is recommending property owners be allowed to build up to an 8 foot fence in front, side or rear yards, with 80% visibility through the open mesh deer fencing material. Additionally, any structural supports within 10 feet of a public right of way, other than an alley, cannot exceed 2 inches in width or depth. He clarified chain link fences are not permitted, and if propylene mesh is used there must be a tension line across the top.
Comment was made questioning the 2”x2” supports. Mr. Goldman stated 2”x2” posts are sufficient to keep deer out of a property and the smaller post size also addresses the opacity issue.
Dale Shostrom/1240 Tolman Creek/Stated he reviewed this item when it was presented to the Historic Commission and commented on his experience with deer fencing. He noted he performed a tour this morning and commented on the variety of materials he saw being used. He stated very often property owners are choosing to use very flimsy materials and supports and questioned if this is because people are unsure if the City will require them to take it down and therefore do not want to invest a lot of time or money. Mr. Shostrom provided several fencing samples for the Commission to view, including: rodent fencing, chicken fencing, welded wire mesh, horse fencing, field fencing, cattle fencing, and hog fencing. He commented on the size of the posts and stated he saw lots of different sizes and shapes when he conducted his tour. He questioned what the appropriate size should be, and noted from a distance you do not detect the fencing or mesh materials and only notice the posts. Mr. Shostrom stated the 2” verticals could be too limiting and recommended the opacity requirement be based on the entire structure. He provided several drawings that contained different fencing styles and post sizes but would still meet the 80% opacity intent. He added the code should be simple enough to allow some design flexibility for professionals, but also simple enough for homeowners to install a deer fence themselves.

Commissioner Marsh closed the public hearing at 8:20 p.m.
Commissioner Dawkins voiced concern with the aesthetics of some of the existing front yard deer fences. Commissioner Marsh agreed and stated she is not as concerned with side or rear yard fencing, but even a wonderfully designed front yard fence can have a big impact in the way the streetscape feels. She voiced her opinion that the code be more generous in rear and side yards, and more specific for front yards. Several suggestions were proposed by the commissioners, including: excluding arterials from the front yard fencing provision, encouraging compatibility between existing fences and the deer fencing, and prohibiting bird netting.
The Commission briefly discussed the 2”x2” post size limitation. Comment was made that this is not heavy enough and perhaps 4”x4” posts should be allowed. Commissioner Marsh commented that front yard fencing should be as inconspicuous as possible and suggesting limiting the post size to 2”x2” for front yards only.
Deliberations and Decision
Commissioner Marsh recommended the group worked through each issue one at a time.

Solar Energy Systems: No concerns or objections were raised to the proposed code amendment.

Fence Height: No concerns or objections were raised to the proposed code amendment.

Fence Materials: Commissioner Marsh noted this is the relocation of existing language regarding security fencing. No concerns or objections were raised to the proposed code amendment. 

Keeping of Chickens: Commissioner Dawkins objected to the requirement for fencing or screening chickens from public view. Mr. Goldman stated staff’s concern was making sure the structure is screened from view and stated this could be accomplished by using plants, vegetation, hedges, etc. Commissioner Mindlin stated she is not in favor of a screening requirement for side or rear yards but is unsure about front yards. Mr. Goldman noted the proposed ordinance already states that chicken coops and chicken runs shall be located within a side or rear yard only, and shall be at least 20 feet from dwellings on adjoining properties.

Commissioner Dawkins recommended they delete 18.68.140(C)2.e, which states “structures shall be screened from view of adjacent properties and the public right-of-way with a combination of fencing and/or landscaping to create an opaque screen.” The Commission voiced support for removing this language from the proposed ordinance.
Commissioner Dawkins also recommended they remove the slaughtering requirement (9.08.040(D)4.c). Comment was made that there is an existing process for people to report concerns under the nuisance ordinance. Dawkins stated the ordinance places a limit on the number of chickens a person can keep and most people will not slaughter more than one chicken at a time. The Commission voiced support for removing the slaughtering requirement from the proposed ordinance.

Eave Extensions: No concerns or objections were raised to the proposed code amendment. 

Rain Barrels: Commissioner Mindlin stated she has a difference of opinion with staff that needs to be researched and stated she is resistant to making it more difficult to install a rain barrel than it is now. Mr. Goldman clarified under the current standards if someone proposed even a 50-gallon barrel attached to the wall in the side yard setback they would not be allowed to do so. Mindlin asked what would happen if the barrel was not in the side yard setback and staff clarified this provision would not apply and this requirement only addresses structures placed within the setback area. Mr. Molnar added the main question is how big of a structure is the Commission comfortable allowing in a setback area, and staff has proposed a 90-gallon limit. Mindlin noted there are larger water containers available that are specifically designed to fit within the intent of the language and questioned why they would want to prohibit them. Mr. Molnar noted the weight with larger containers can be an issue, especially if it is placed close to the foundation and not properly placed or secured. Mindlin stated she would like to obtain additional information on this subject and would like to hear from building staff and professionals that are working in the field regarding this issue.

Commissioner Marsh recommended they move forward and come back to this issue later. She stated approving this would allow people to do something that is currently prohibited, and the Commission can continue research on expanding the size of the containers. Mindlin suggested they more clearly define what the intent is, such as not more than (x) feet in height and not closer than (x) feet from the property line. Commissioner Marsh asked if the Commission was comfortable moving this amendment forward but including a recommendation that staff look into the capacity issue before this goes before Council for review. The Commission voiced support for forwarding this language to the Council and for staff to look into whether the size of the barrel can be expanded and still meet the intent of the amendment.  
Deer Fencing: Commissioner Marsh suggested increasing the deer fencing opacity requirement in front yards to 90% and removing the 2”x2” support requirement. Additional recommendation was made for the Commission to limit the mesh size and have a 2 inch minimum. Commissioner Miller suggested deer fencing in front yards should incorporate elements of the existing fence, and recommended an 85%-90% opacity requirement. The Commission continued their discussion and agreed that they are not concerned with rear or side yards. In regards to the compatibility recommendation, Mr. Goldman suggested including language that states “every effort be made to use compatible materials with the existing fence”. Mr. Molnar clarified fence permits are a ministerial permit and stated judgment calls on a counter permit could be problematic and recommended against this. Commission Marsh suggested a handout be provided with the fence permit encouraging compatibility and the Commission voiced their support for this.

The Commission continued their deliberations on deer fencing and recommendation was made to eliminate 18.68.010.D.3, which states “deer fencing structural supports within 10 feet of a public right of way, other than an alley, shall not exceed 2 inches in width or depth” and requiring a 85-90% opacity for front yard deer fencing. The Commission voiced their support for this change and including a recommendation for materials to be handed out at the counter that encourage design compatibility.
Commissioners Dawkins/Mindlin m/s to forward this item to the Council with the recommendations as discussed. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.
Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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