Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12, 2013
Chair Melanie Mindlin called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.

Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Richard Kaplan
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Mike Morris, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar reminded the Commission of next week's Planning Commission training presented by the Rogue Valley Council of Governments. He also announced the City Council passed first reading of the Transportation System Plan Update and stated second reading will be held in March.
Commissioner Mindlin requested the commission set a date for the annual retreat at the end of the meeting.  
A.   Approval of Minutes.
       1.  January 8, 2013 Regular Meeting.
       2.  January 22, 2013 Special Meeting.
Commissioners Miller/Dawkins m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. [Commissioner Brown abstained from the adoption of the January 22, 2013 minutes.] Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
No one came forward to speak.
A.    Potential Code Amendments Related to the Establishment & Operation of Short-Term Vacation Home Rentals.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar stated the purpose of tonight's agenda item is to review the draft memo prepared for the City Council's March 4th Study Session meeting and for the commission to provide any final refinements to the memo. He briefly outlined the current requirements for short-term vacation rentals and stated at their last meeting the commission recommended to: 1) extend this use to all lands zoned multi-family, 2) maintain the conditional use permit requirement, 3) remove the owner on-site requirement for single home rentals, and 4) not allow this use in single family zones. Mr. Molnar noted the compliance discussion that occurred at the last meeting and believes the City needs to be more aggressive in this area. He suggested further efforts may include making information available to those seeking to travel to Ashland so they can find out which accommodations are legitimate and which ones are not.
Commissioner Mindlin noted the letter from the Housing Commission which recommends the City not alter the current ordinance requirements; and stated Ashland's Bed & Breakfast industry has also lobbied for no change. Mr. Molnar commented on the Housing Commission's viewpoint of looking for housing opportunities within our boundaries. He stated they believe there is a finite supply of housing available in Ashland and they want the City to be very cautious about any ordinance changes that would reduce that inventory.
Commissioner Mindlin questioned the statement in the draft memo that claims there is an increased demand for short-term home rentals. Mr. Molnar clarified the commission can edit the memo as they choose and could reword or remove this statement if they feel it does not capture their intent. He also clarified for the commission that the Comprehensive Plan supports economic activity if it is not incompatible to do so and the City's Comprehensive Plan speaks to the benefits of mixed use neighborhoods; however, this should only be done if the use does not disturb the main intent of the neighborhood. He stated there needs to be a review process and the current practice is to issue conditional use permits in the multi-family zones so that the uses can be monitored and evaluated.
Commissioner Kaplan recommended several modifications to the memo:
1)       Item #1 (pg.2), last sentence: suggested the phrase "not in compliance" instead of "conflict".
2)       Under Other Considerations (pg.3), he stated the language switches to first person and the rest of the memo is written in third person.
3)       Item #3 (pg.4), last sentence, he stated the word "No" is too strong and suggested using "fewer complaints" instead.
4)       Kaplan voiced support for the option to prohibit advertisement of invalid establishments and would like this language reflected in the memo.
Public Input
Mark Schoenleber/60 Wimer/Stated he owns two legal vacation rentals and stated removing the owner on-site requirement conflicts with the City's desire to maintain the character of neighborhoods. He also voiced concern with removing the 200 ft. from an arterial requirement and stated this will drive these uses deeper into the neighborhoods. Mr. Schoenleber also raised the issue of parking and cautioned the commission about changing the current ordinance. 
Abi Maghamfar/120 Gresham/Stated he owns Abigail’s Bed & Breakfast and is also one of the founding members of the Ashland Lodging Association. Mr. Maghamfar stated he understands enforcement is not their purview, but at the same time they are setting land use regulations and when you do this someone has to enforce them. He stated his organization adamantly objects to opening up R1 zones to vacation rentals and stated the City needs to address the illegal vacation rentals operating in Ashland. Mr. Maghamfar requested an equal and level playing field in the multi-family and commercial districts and stated everyone should have to comply with the same rules. He stated the existing ordinance is sufficient and they do not believe this issue should have come this far and all started because one person who was operating illegally addressed the City Council. He commented on supply and demand and noted there are 75 licensed establishments in Ashland. He stated the supply is plentiful and the demand can be met by existing licensed establishments. He added shutting down those who are operating illegally would benefit the City.
Ellen Campbell/120 Gresham/Stated legal units pay Oregon state taxes and also pay the County's personal property tax. She added those that are operating illegally are pocketing a lot of money that should be going to the City.
Mr. Maghamfar was asked to provide the current vacancy rates during high season. He responded that the vacancy rates vary, but on average it is 70% during high season. He noted guests are limited to the number of seats available in the theater, and until there are other reasons for people to visit Ashland there is no need to increase the City's lodging capacity. He added if the City were to place a list of licensed accommodations on their website, the B&B industry could promote this.
Commission Discussion/Deliberations
Commissioner Brown stated he is on the same page as the Housing Commission and they should leave well enough alone. He added the draft memo seems to suggest they are advocating for change and believes it should read if you must change, these are the areas that could be looked at.
Commissioner Kaplan agreed with Brown's statement, but stated he agrees with the position to advocate for change. When asked if he believes whether Ashland needs more inventory or if his support is based on making the ordinance easier to comply with, he stated it is the latter. He added he would prefer that people be allowed to operate legally than to operate illegally for no good reason.
Commissioner Dawkins stated he was happy to see the Housing Commission's recommendation and stated his position is halfway between Commissioner Brown and Kaplan. He agreed that there needs to be a level playing field and would be comfortable with allowing some homes in the multi-family zone to come in as rentals, but would only advocate for this if they adopt a fixed number for these types of units. He added if the Commission does not want to set a number, his position is to not change the ordinance.
Commissioner Miller stated her preference is to not expand into the R-1 zone, and if they were to remove the 200 ft. from an arterial requirement it should only be in the downtown area. She noted the parking concerns raised during public testimony and stated this is a concern for her as well.
Commissioner Brown commented on the purpose of zones and stated the City is correct to limit where these uses can exist. He stated he does not see the need to increase the housing stock for these temporary tenants and stated if they increase the number of units available, this will increase the compliance problem.
Commissioner Mindlin voiced her desire to provide a clear recommendation to the City Council and questioned whether they want to recommend expanding this opportunity or not. Commissioner Brown stated "No". Commissioner Miller stated only in the downtown area. Commissioner Kaplan stated "Yes" and supports removing the 200 ft requirement in the multi-family zone. Commissioner Dawkins stated "Yes", but only if they place a limit on the number permitted.
Commissioner Mindlin summarized the commission's discussion and stated it appears they are not convinced there is more of a demand than the City can meet, however there may be a demand for certain types of accommodations that are not currently available. If the Council decides to expand into this area, the commission recommends that the units be in a multi-family zone and within walking distance of the downtown, and to establish a limited number of allowed units. The Commission also supports the prohibition of advertisements of invalid establishments.
Mr. Molnar stated it would be helpful if the commission could draft a formal recommendation and Commissioner Mindlin stated she would work on this with staff.
B.    Unified Land Use Ordinance – Part 4: Site Development and Design Standards.
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained tonight’s meeting will focus on the first section of 18-4: Site Development and Design Standards. She stated this section covers the standards that apply to site and building design and provided an overview of the proposed amendments.
1)       Width of Garage Openings Facing a Street. This is a proposed new standard for multi-family residential developments that require site review approval and requires garage openings facing the street to not exceed 50% of the building width. Commissioner Mindlin raised issue with this amendment. She stated with a 50 ft. wide lot and a two car garage, you would not be able to meet this standard and still accommodate the City’s required setbacks. Ms. Harris clarified this standard would only apply to multi-family developments and it is uncommon to see multi-family developments with the classic single family home and garage design referred to by Mindlin.
2)       Parking Demand Analysis. This amendment would allow an applicant to provide a parking demand analysis as a basis for differing from the minimum number of off-street parking spaces. This option requires the analysis be prepared by a qualified professional and assess the parking demand and supply in addition to a variety of other factors. Ms. Harris asked the commission for input on whether this provision should be a staff approval, a public hearing, or to process it with the main action and support was voiced for processing it in the same manner as the main application. Comment was made questioning what kind of professional is going to provide this analysis and recommendation was made for this to be defined. Additional recommendations were made for the language to better define what the analysis needs to include and for it be clear that there is discretion involved in approving these.
3)       Joint Parking and Shared Parking Maximums. The proposed change would allow up to a 100% reduction for facilities that are jointly used or shared.
4)       Minimum of Two Bicycle Parking Spaces. The amendment is to provide a minimum of two bicycle parking spaces.  
5)       Threshold for Dividing Larger Parking Area and Provide Walkways Through Larger Parking Areas. Ms. Harris noted this issue came up during the review of the Pedestrian Places ordinance and stated the proposed language changes the threshold for dividing and providing walkways through parking areas to meeting two requirements – 50 spaces and areas where pedestrians have to walk across more than 100 ft.
6)       Vertical Clearance for Driveways, Aisles, Etc. The recommendation is to exempt parking structures from a vertical clearance requirement because this is already addressed by building code.
7)       Vision Clearance for Screening Walls and Hedges. The proposed addition is to require that walls and hedges designed to screen driveways and parking areas meet vision clearance requirements.
8)       Amendments to landscape Plans. The suggestion is to allow amendments to landscape plans for fire safety, decreased water use, and energy efficiency as a ministerial or Type I approval.
9)       Credit for Existing Plants and Trees. The proposed language makes it clear that existing healthy plants and trees that are preserved can be counted toward meeting the landscape requirement.
10)   Bio-Swale Plantings. Requires plants used for storm water retention/detention to be water-tolerant species.
11)   Expanding Low Water Use Landscaping to Residential Projects. The commission was asked whether they would support expanding the low water use landscaping requirement to multi-family residential projects that require site review approval. Commissioner Mindlin commented that this idea has merit, but does not want to add this as a requirement. Commissioner Dawkins commented on the use of emitters and the damage they do to plant life, and would like to specifically prohibit their use in the code.
12)   Plant Size Specifics. Ms. Harris clarified minimum tree and shrub sizes are suggested. Commissioner Mindlin commented that the issue might be a lack of water rather than the wrong plant size being planted. She also stated that homeowners often don’t know how to get the same quality plants as landscape professionals. Commissioner Brown suggested including a maximum plant size. Ms. Harris clarified this language comes from the State model code and they would be taking this amendment before the Tree and Conservation Commissions for input. She also clarified the Tree Commission reviews landscape plans and lets people know if they have the wrong tree or planting selected for a specific area.
13)   Erosion Control, Soil Maintenance and Crime Prevention. The proposed new language addresses erosion control, soil maintenance, and design landscape with crime prevention in mind.
14)   Screening Loading Facilities. The suggestion is to include loading facilities in the screening and buffering requirement.
15)   Maintenance of Landscaping. Ms. Harris stated a requirement to replace dead or dying plants within 180 of discovery is suggested. Comment was made questioning how someone knows when a plant has started to die. Additional comment was made that sometimes there are good reasons to remove a dying plant and not replace it, such as when overplanting occurs.
16)   Temporary Tree Fencing in Riparian Areas and Wetlands. The suggestion is to include an exemption for temporary tree protection that is required as part of construction.
17)   Fence and Wall Setbacks. Language has been added that clarifies fences and walls that meet the height requirements do not have to meet the standard setbacks for structures.
18)   Outdoor Lighting. Several new standards are suggested addressing the shielding of light fixtures, locating light fixtures in walkways so there is an adequate pedestrian through zone, and maintaining outdoor lighting.

Commissioner Mindlin requested the Commission discuss potential dates for their annual retreat. The commission held a short discussion and agreed to use the second weekend in May as their permanent date for the annual retreat.
Meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.

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