Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014
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
Tracy Peddicord
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Mike Morris
Commissioner Kaplan provided a brief summary of the recent Downtown Parking Management and Circulation Committee meeting. Commissioner Dawkins provided a recap of the Downtown Beautification Improvement Committee meeting. Dawkins also noted the City Council passed first reading of an ordinance amending the Uniform Policies and Procedures for City Advisory Boards and Commissions. Commissioner Brown noted his participation on the Systems Development Charge Review Committee. Commissioner Miller announced she will be absent from the March Study Session and both April meetings.
A.   Approval of Minutes.
       1.  February 11, 2014 Regular Meeting.
Two corrections were made to the February 11 meeting minutes: 1) Roll call vote on the motion to approve PA-2013-01421 (page 5) should read “Dawkins, Kaplan, Thompson, Peddicord and Mindlin, YES. Brown and Miller, NO” and the sentence at the top of page 10 should read “… and placed on the recommendation of Parks Department staff as to the number, type, and placement.”
Commissioners Dawkins/Thompson m/s to approve the February 11, 2014 minutes as corrected. Voice Vote: All AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
No one came forward to speak.
  1. Approval of Findings for PA-2013-01421, 270 N First Street.                        
Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported.

Commissioners Thompson/Peddicord m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2013-01421. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
  1. PLANNING ACTION #:  PL-2013-01858               
DESCRIPTION:  A proposal to amend the Comprehensive Plan, Comprehensive Plan Map, Transportation System Plan, and Ashland Land Use Ordinance and to implement the Normal Neighborhood Plan.
Commissioner Miller recused herself from the public hearing.
Staff Report
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman presented a brief report on the Normal Neighborhood Plan. He noted there have been a number of meetings on this plan over the last two years and most everyone is very familiar with the plan at this point. He clarified the plan’s components include a Comprehensive Plan map change, land use zoning, Transportation System Plan amendments, and code amendments. He explained this neighborhood will not develop all at once and individual proposals will come forward one by one over time. He added all the properties are subject to the City’s annexation requirements and requests for annexation go before both the Planning Commission and the City Council, and all are subject to the affordable housing requirements. Mr. Goldman explained the Normal Neighborhood Plan establishes a general guide for future zoning, neighborhood street layout, conservation areas, and housing concentrations, and provided a handout of suggested staff recommendations to ensure consistency within the framework document.
Public Input
Howard Miller/160 Normal/Stated there are too many unknowns and loose ends with this plan and questioned why the City was doing a plan at this time. He commented on the 2011 buildable lands inventory and stated the need for annexation is not there. Mr. Miller commented on the open space and wetlands and stated aggressive actions are being carried out on several parcels to intentionally destroy or drain designated wetlands, and asked the Planning Commission to be concerned for the current residents who reside here.
Dale Swire/133 Clay/Read aloud his written statement. [See Exhibit 2014-01, attached]
Bryce Anderson/2092 Creek/Stated he represents the Meadowbrook Park Homeowners Association and stated the property most likely to develop first is right across from Creek Drive and has the ability to be developed as high density and neighborhood serving commercial. Mr. Anderson requested the zoning for this area to be changed from NA-03 to NA-02 and stated the lack of curbs, gutters, sidewalks and bikepaths on both sides of East Main will leave the residents of this area with a traffic mess for years to come.
Jonathan Seidler/327 Meadow/Stated Creek Drive flooded recently due to the actions of one of the property owners in the plan area and commented that Creek Drive will bear the brunt of whatever develops on the other side. Mr. Seidler asked the City to pay attention to what is happening out there.
Ray Eddington/1760 East Main/Stated he represents Grace Point Church and read his written statement aloud. [See Exhibit 2014-02, attached]
John Coldwell/501 Carter/Also represents Grace Point Church and continued reading Exhibit 2014-02. Mr. Coldwell commented on the wetland on their property and stated they believe it is smaller than current estimates and expressed concern that they will have to pay the price for an open space that is wider than it needs to be. He stated the conservation designation takes away usable land and recommended the open space be based on the wetland delineations.
Sue DeMarinis/145 Normal/Questioned what the NA-02 zone underneath the open space designation means, and also asked whether the City has to compensate property owners for designating portions of their land as conservation areas. Ms. DeMarinis expressed concerns about the City establishing a local improvement district to pay for the necessary improvements. She stated she was a part of the Strawberry LID that was formed when a development above her went in, and stated she and her neighbors were taxed $4,100 and that was just for paving, and is very concerned about what the costs for this will be. Ms. DeMarinis also questioned how the plan will be impacted if owners develop under County standards or if changes to the properties occur prior to annexation.
Stuart Reid/2045 East Main/Stated he lives across from the Baptist church property and is an aquatic conservation biologist. Mr. Reid stated he thinks in terms of water and is happy to hear about the expansion of the open space around the creeks. He commented that when you look at historical photos you can see a whole series of riparian areas going across Ashland and warned once these areas are paved over you can never get those creeks back. Mr. Reid stated there is a substantial jog in Clay Creek at East Main that will need to be addressed and noted there are properties across the street that are dependent on wells and shallow surface water, and there are wetlands on the north side of East Main that are dependent on the subsurface flows.
Carol Block/355 Normal/Commented on Wetland 9 and stated one of the property owners is making an attempt to dry up this wetland. She stated someone is making trenches to divert the water away and there is no doubt this is being done to minimize the wetland to allow for higher density development. Ms. Block stated we should be nurturing these wetlands, not destroying them to build homes, and hopes the landowners will be held accountable. She added 20% of the Normal plan area is inhabited by people who have no intention of annexing or developing their land.
Alma Rosa Alvarez/491 Normal/Expressed concern about the NA-03 designation and stated this is an enormous amount of density for this small section of land. Ms. Alvarez voiced concern with traffic, noting most people have two cars and drive to their destinations, and also voiced concern with the wetlands and flooding.
Lynn Ransford/1183 Village Square/Stated she lives in the Mill Pond area and traffic is already an issue on East Main at certain times of the day. Ms. Ransford questioned the safety for children and families going to the nearby schools and stated street improvements are necessary. She recommended a minimum of two new signals and widening East Main for left turn lanes. She also voiced concern that the residents will be responsible for paying for the improvements and asked the Commission to make sure the developers assume the costs.
Gail Patton/822 Michelle/Stated she works at Hunter Park and the park is very active. Ms. Patton stated she can’t imagine the extra congestion and noted this is a narrow area as it is. Ms. Patton commented that the water in the plan area will need to be properly diverted and believes the rural feel of this area should be honored.
Albert Pepe/321 Clay #21/Stated he lives in the Wingspread complex and really enjoys having a wetland in his backyard. Mr. Pepe voiced concern with development and the shrinkage of the wetlands and recommended this be looked at from an ecological perspective. He recommended any development be required to provide passive solar, rain catchment systems, and be properly oriented.
Tanya Way/293 Meadow/Stated she has two small children and there are a lot of other families in the neighborhood. Ms. Way expressed concern with there being no public parks in the area, and is concerned with increasing the density in this part of town.
Julie Matthews/2090 Creek/Commented on the hydrology and wildlife in the plan area. She also noted one of the property owners put a cap on one of the storm drains and now flooding and erosion is occurring.
Commission Discussion
Staff was asked to address some of the issues that came up during public testimony.
Mr. Goldman commented on the distinction between open space and wetlands. He stated the zone underlays the conservation areas and density can be transferred out of the conservation area onto the developable portion of the property. He added conservation areas cannot be developed, however there is an amendment process outlined in the code changes that would allow a property owner to reduce their conservation area to reflect a wetland that isn’t there. He stated the conservation areas in the plan include all know wetlands, floodplains, and buffers; and even if it is determined the wetlands don’t extend as far as we think, these would continue to be protected areas and noted this was one of the major policy decisions made by the Planning Commission. Staff was asked if there are elements in the plan that are not modifiable by a major or minor amendment process. Mr. Molnar stated there is very little that is so set in stone that it could not be changed in the future, however it would be very difficult for someone to reduce the concentration of housing; although the Council would always have the prerogative to change the projected densities.
Staff was asked to comment on the East Main Street improvements and how these would be handled. Mr. Goldman explained the most recent traffic impact analysis for this area shows that East Main will need bike paths, sidewalks and a center turn lane, and stated these will need to be done in concert with the development of this area. He stated the developer could either pay for these improvements themselves, or the City’s SDC committee could determine that a portion will be paid by the City. Another option is the advanced financing district, in which case the improvements would be done up front by the City and those who benefited from the improvements would be charged when they develop their property. Mr. Goldman added advanced financing districts normally span 10 years, but can be extended to 20 years with direction from the City Council. He stated establishing one of these districts should be done immediately preceding development of the area; If people do not annex during that 10 or 20 year period they would not be charged for improvements, and properties on the opposite side of East Main would also not be charged since they are outside the city limits. Mr. Molnar clarified the requirements for annexation and stated the area needs to be adjacent to city limits, the proposal must be consistent with the zoning and other aspects of the plan, it must meet the minimum requirements for public facility improvement, and must establish that there is less than a 5 year supply of vacant and redevelopable land in the proposed land use classification. He added annexation requests go before the Planning Commission and the City Council for approval, and the Council has a lot of discretion as whether to approve.
Staff clarified property owners can continue to develop their land under County standards and not annex if they choose.
Mr. Goldman clarified there are no on-street parking requirements for shared streets. He also clarified that in order to construct an accessory residential unit property owners must apply for a conditional use permit and noted only 200 of the City’s 8,000 lots have taken advantage of this provision.
Staff was asked what would happen if they decide not to proceed. Mr. Molnar stated it is not an option to not forward this to the City Council, however the Council could decide to table the plan. He stated if the plan is not adopted this area would defer back to the current Comprehensive Plan designation and annexations would be evaluated on a case by case basis. A wetland delineation would be required, however if the wetland is smaller than currently shown the property owner would be allowed to reduce the size of the natural area based on the delineation. It was pointed out that Normal Avenue is currently shown as a major avenue running from north to south, and the ability to secure wetland/openspace connectivity would be lost. Comment was made that there is the possibility for development whether or not the plan is adopted.
Commissioner Mindlin stated she would like to discuss several elements of the plan, but noted there are a number of people here tonight to speak to the next agenda item and stated she would be willing to table her questions until the next meeting.
Commissioner Mindlin closed the public hearing at 9:13 pm and clarified the Commission will not be taking public testimony when this item comes back for deliberations.
  1. Short Term Rentals on Owner Occupied Properties in Single Family Zoning Districts.
Commissioner Mindlin left the meeting. 
Commissioner Dawkins recommended the Commission deliberate on this topic before they take public input and stated the key questions are:
  1. Should vacation rentals be allowed in the R-1 zone?
  2. Should there be strong language that CC&R’s are honored and override City code?
  3. Does the structure need to be a primary residence and do the owners need to live on site?
  4. Are renters allowed to sublet the property?
  5. What types of accommodations will they allow?
  6. Do they want to set a limit of the maximum number of rooms or square footage could be rented?
  7. Is a conditional use permit appropriate?
  8. Should eligible properties be limited to those that are within 200 ft of an arterial or major street?
Mr. Molnar clarified in November 2013 the City Council voted to allow short-term vacation rentals in the R-2 and R-3 zones with certain stipulations. At that time they asked the Planning Commission to discuss the issue of rentals in the R-1 zone and if they determine this is reasonable, what types of restrictions would they place on this type of use.  
Commissioner Kaplan suggested they remove the 200 ft boundary requirement in the R-2 and R-3 zones and not allow this use in the R-1 zone until they have had some time to see how this is working out. Commissioner Miller agreed with removing the 200 ft. boundary and stated in reviewing the materials she is not inclined to allow this use in the R-1 zone at this point. She noted if people need additional income there is still the opportunity for long term rentals. Commissioner Thompson stated she is interested in hearing the debate and stated she is inclined to at least evaluate this and craft some rules that would minimize the adverse impacts in the R-1 zones. Commissioner Peddicord voiced support for leaving the integrity of the R-1 zone as it is, but noted they allow home based businesses in the single family zone and questioned if it is within their purview to say what types of businesses are appropriate. Mr. Molnar stated if the majority of the Commission thinks this should not be allowed in the R-1 zone, the Council will want to know why the Commission feels this would have an increased adverse impact on the neighborhood when compared to the other uses that are already allowed.  
The Commission reviewed the discussion questions. Support was given to limiting this use to property owners and not allowing renters to do this, and for the homes to be owner occupied. The Commission discussed the accommodation types and support was voiced to consider one or two bedroom suites located within the residence that are accessed from the main entrance; however there was no clear direction on whether to include suites within the footprint of the residence that are accessed from a separate exterior entrance, or separate detached structures located on the property. In terms of the approval procedures, support was voiced for using the conditional use permit process.
Public Input
James Orr/207 Clinton/Voiced his support for the letter included in the packet materials from the Riverwalk Homeowners Association. Mr. Orr stated their CC&Rss zoning regulations change they will move to update their CC&Rs but does not feel this should be necessary. He voiced concern about including vacation rentals as a home occupation and stated the rules regarding parking would need to be changed.
James Hawes/431 Courtney/Stated he operated a short term rental before he knew this was not permitted and stated all the concerns being discussed are contrary to his experiences. Mr. Hawes stated he is now renting for only 30 day periods but this has virtually eliminated his business. He noted most people want an independent living area including a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, and can’t foresee owners renting just a single bedroom in their home.
Savana Rose/497 Park Ridge/Stated times are changing and travelers have difference preferences now. Ms. Rose stated she lives in a three level home and has an extra bedroom that she rents out to typically a couple or single woman with one vehicle. She stated her guests are vetted very well and she feels comfortable with them in her home with her and her son. She stated the neighbors were completely unaware that this was happening and stated many other home based businesses have many more visitors and vehicle trips. She stated she is willing to pay for a business license and the lodging tax and stated allowing this use would benefit the City and serve a niche that is not being fulfilling by current accommodations.
Corrine Lombardi/1685 Old Hwy 99/Stated she owns travelers accommodations in the E-1 zone and stated there are unintended consequences to changing the uses in zones, and this should not be done without understanding what the long term effects will be. Ms. Lombardi stated accessory residential units were built for low income rentals and this change would impact the number of rentals available. She stated there is a trust the City has established with its citizens and business owners and requested they maintain the current zoning that has been carefully thought out.
Tom Howard/2190 Siskiyou/Stated he is the owner of Oak Hill Bed & Breakfast and they have annual inspections conducted, pay the lodging taxes, and have a business license. Mr. Howard stated those of them who have followed the rules and opened businesses in the appropriate zones are being placed at a disadvantage to the people who are operating illegally, and stated R-1 is not a zone where businesses should be operating. He noted this could impact the availability of long term rentals and stated there is no shortage of a variety of lodging types for our tourists and stated he is not in favor of travel accommodations in the R-1 zone.
Val Bachmayer/172 Skidmore/Stated she did a lot of research and purchased her property because it was in an R-3 zone and did so because she wants to start a business. She noted the conditional use permit includes a $1,000 fee and requires the fire marshal’s approval, and questioned allowing this in other zones where you can’t walk to downtown. She voiced concern with changing the playing field and stated people rely on the zoning to protect them.
Dolly Travers/426 Clinton/Stated the purpose of the R-1 zone is to stabilize, protect, promote, and encourage a suitable environmental for family life. Ms. Travers questioned the impact of unintended consequences and stated this proposal is not in line with Ashland’s values, standards, or land use policies. She added changing the R-1 zone is not the right direction to keep Ashland sustainable in the future.
Jordan Parker/137 N Main/Stated the affordable housing plans in 1990 and 2002 emphasized the permitting of accessory residential units in single family zones as one of the main strategies to promote affordable housing. Mr. Parker stated over the last 20 years a large number of these units have been constructed and to allow these units to be short term rentals undermines the original intent of these dwellings. He stated more than 2/3 of the rentals listed on and are cottages, studios, homes and apartments and are exactly the types of dwellings that should stay in the long term housing stock. Mr. Parker stated if accessory residential units are allowed to become short term rentals in the R-1 zone there will be too many conversions of long term to short term rentals, some accessory residential units will be constructed solely for short term occupations, and reducing the availability of long term rentals will drive up the costs of rent for Ashland residents.
Catherine Moore/473 Maple/Stated she has owned property in Ashland before, but currently rents and stated since the rise of VRBO and AirBnB the number of rentals has greatly diminished and she has found it difficult to find affordable housing. Ms. Moore commented on several occasions she has been told a rental is available for only a portion of the year and that she would need to move out either during the summer months or during the winter holiday.
Barbara Hetland/985 E Main/s story many times. Ms. Hetland stated when she sold houses in the R-1 zone people had certain expectations and to take that away for the benefit of a few individuals is wrong. She stated this should go to a public vote and stated to compare this to home occupations is ridiculous.
Commissioner Dawkins announced the meeting has come to an end and those who did not get the opportunity to speak will have another opportunity to do so when this issue comes back before them. It was noted the several commissioners will be absent from the March Study Session and Dawkins announced this item will come back at either the regular meeting or study session in April, and speakers will be given two minutes to testify.

  1. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.
Postponed to future agenda.
Meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.


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