Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

April 8, 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
Melanie Mindlin
Tracy Peddicord
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Debbie Miller   Mike Morris, absent
Commissioner Kaplan provided an update on the Downtown Parking Management and Circulation Committee meeting. Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the Planning Commission’s annual retreat will be held on Saturday, May 10, 2014.
A.   Approval of Minutes.
       1.  February 25, 2014 Study Session.
       2.  March 11, 2014 Regular Meeting.
       3.  March 25, 2014 Study Session.
Commissioner Mindlin requested the recusal statement be removed from page 2 of the March 11, 2014 minutes.
Commissioners Thompson/Peddicord m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion Passed. [Commissioners Brown and Kaplan abstained from approval of March 25, 2014 minutes]
No one came forward to speak.
  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. [Continued from March 11, 2014 meeting; public hearing is closed]
Commissioner Mindlin shared her comments and questions regarding the Normal Neighborhood Plan:
  • Is the lack of curbs and gutters on the shared streets in order for water to run off into the natural areas? Mr. Goldman clarified this is one design option and stated the expectation is that shared streets adjacent to riparian areas will not have curbs.
  • What does it mean in include East Main Street as a planned roadway project? Mr. Goldman stated this will include the project in the City’s Transportation System Plan and allow systems development charges to be applied. Commissioner Mindlin recommended the Commission include an additional comment to the Council regarding the funding of the transportation improvements for this plan.
  • Why is cluster housing identified as a new housing type when this already exists elsewhere in the City, and why is the statement “…yet with a lower profile retaining the appearance of traditional single family homes” used in the staff report? Commissioner Mindlin commented that this statement might raise false expectations. Mr. Goldman clarified the proposed code amendment states “Pedestrian Oriented Cluster residential units are multiple dwellings grouped around common open space that promote a scale and character compatible with single family homes.” Mindlin suggested staff prepare a statement that clarifies the Commission’s intent.
  • Suggestion was made that the Commission’s recommendation to the City Council should emphasize that the purpose of the greenway and open space is to retain the neighborhood character and to preserve this contiguous piece of land, regardless of the individual wetland delineations.
  • Concern was expressed regarding the statement “The use of rear lane alleys helps to reduce the extent of paved alleys.” Mr. Goldman clarified this statement has already been flagged for removal. 
  • Recommendation was made for page 14 of the framework document to include language regarding open space and neighborhood character.
  • Recommendation was made to modify 18-3.13.040(2) to make it consistent with the framework document.
  • Recommendation was made to modify 18-3.13.060(A-3a) to include “where possible.” Mr. Goldman stated this correction is already included on the proposed amendment list.
  • Suggestion was made to include parking requirements for neighborhood serving commercial. Mr. Molnar clarified in the NN-03 zone ground floor commercial is permitted, and when a plan comes forward it will be evaluated to ensure sufficient on-street parking is available.
  • Suggestion was made to add a placeholder for future public transit stops on East Main Street.
  • Suggestion was made for the Commission to allow three stories in the NN-03 zone. Commissioner Mindlin noted the high level of density being required and stated increasing the height limit from 2.5 to 3 stories would provide more latitude and creativity to designers. The Commission discussed this idea and consensus was reached to allow up to 40 ft. (three stories) in the NN-03 zone with a conditional use permit.
Deliberations & Decision
Commissioner Dawkins strongly recommended this plan not move forward until East Main Street has been improved from Walker to Clay Street, and also requested a thorough clarification of how the railroad crossing improvements will be handled. He advocated that it would be irresponsible for the City to allow this level of density without first improving the transportation system. The Commission discussed Dawkins’ recommendation and several members questioned if this meant the full financing burden would be placed on the City. Comment was made that an advanced financing district is only good for 10 years and it would not make sense to form this now, but rather should occur when the first annexation application is approved. Dawkins clarified his position and stated the improvements don’t need to happen at this moment, but should be completed as soon as development begins. Commissioner Mindlin suggested a recommendation to the Council that financing plans for the East Main Street and railroad crossing improvements be in place prior to annexation or development. Dawkins restated his position for the transportation system improvements to occur when development begins.
Commissioners Thompson/Kaplan m/s to recommend Council’s adoption of the Normal Neighborhood Plan with the modifications proposed by staff in the April 8 Memo, and to include the modifications discussed by the Planning Commission tonight.  DISCUSSION: Mr. Goldman clarified the Commission’s modifications that will be included in the Council recommendation are: 1) Recommend amending page 14 of the framework document to incorporate language defining the open space as an important character element of the plan, 2) Recommend amending 18-3.13.040 to provide consistency with the definition and description of pedestrian oriented cluster housing, 3) Recommend amendment to, which is already included as a staff recommendation, 4) Recommend adding a placeholder for transit stops on East Main Street, 5) Recommend a conditional use permit process to allow properties in the NN-03 and NN-03-C zones to go up to three stories and 40 ft. in height, 6) Recommend that East Main Street (on the south side from Walker to Clay Street) be improved to arterial street standards in connection with annexation and development proposals, including an appropriate financing plan, and 7) Recommend that prior to annexation and development obtain a final determination that the railroad crossing can become a public crossing and for a financing plan for the improvements to be provided. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Brown, Peddicord, Kaplan, Thompson, and Mindlin, YES. Motion passed 6-0.
Commissioner Mindlin left the meeting. 
  1. Short Term Rentals on Owner Occupied Properties in Single Family Zoning Districts.
Mr. Molnar provided a brief re-cap from the March 11, 2014 Planning Commission meeting. He stated the Planning Commission held discussion on this issue and provided general direction that should the City Council approve an amendment to allow short term rentals in single family zoning districts, that it only apply to owner occupied units, to use the conditional use permit process for approval, and to allow one or two bedrooms within the footprint of the residence and accessed from the main entrance. Mr. Molnar stated the outstanding issues staff needs clarification on are: 1) would they allow bedrooms accessed from a private entrance to be used as short term rentals, 2) would they allow detached structures to be used as short term rentals, 3) does the Commission wish to set a maximum square footage or maximum occupancy that could be rented, and 4) should eligible properties be limited to those that are within 200 ft. of an arterial or major street?
Public Input
Annie Dunn/150 N Main/Stated she is the co-owner of the Ashland Hostel and wants the community to maintain its charm and integrity. Ms. Dunn provided a description of the hostel accommodations and disagreed with the public input shared at the last meeting that short term rentals were filling a niche not otherwise offered in Ashland. She noted they receive many inquiries about long term housing and stated there is a clear trend of an abundance of long term rentals in the winter months that quickly evaporate come spring.
Sidney Taylor/150 N Main/Stated she is the other co-owner of the Ashland Hostel and commented on the shortage of affordable long term housing in Ashland. Ms. Taylor stated their guests are thrilled with their rates and the accommodation types they offer, and stated the R-2 or R-3 zones would be a great place to start similar businesses. Ms. Taylor stated using the claim that there is a shortage of short term lodging in Ashland to justify a change in zoning laws makes no sense. She stated the R-1 districts are zoned residential and owners pay more for homes in these zones. She questioned why the City would sacrifice the integrity of Ashland’s R-1 zones and further exacerbate the shortage of long term rentals in the interest of those who want to turn a quick profit. Ms. Taylor stated the City should encourage those who have been operating short term rentals in the R-1 zone to instead offer what is already needed and legal in Ashland, long term housing.
Abby Hogge/1700 Parker/Read aloud written statement (See Exhibit 2014-01 attached).
Tom DuBois/690 S Mountain/Read aloud written statement (See Exhibit 2014-02 attached).
Abi Maghamfar/Stated he represents the Ashland Lodging Association, which represents 60% of the licensed, legally operating lodging businesses in Ashland. Mr. Maghamfar stated they are not in favor of establishing travelers accommodations in the R-1 zone and commented that the City needs to stay true to the purpose of the R-1 zone as defined in the municipal code and consider the impacts to the rental housing supply and prices. Mr. Maghamfar stated there is no unmet lodging demand in Ashland and the Chamber of Commerce’s latest statistics show an average occupancy of 50% year-round. He added the results of a three year study they conducted on home occupation businesses showed that while the ordinance allows up to eight visitors per day, the average was less than one visitor per day. 
Helen Orr/407 Clinton/Expressed concern that real estate values in the R-1 zone will be impacted and feels like she has been gypped. Ms. Orr stated single family residential neighborhoods will be impacted if the City allows this and fully disagrees with short term rentals in this zone. She added there is enough property in Ashland to support this use and it does not belong in the R-1 zone.
John Baxter/831 Liberty/Stated he has lived in Ashland for 34 years and owns a long term rental in town and until recently operated a HOST type unit. Mr. Baxter encouraged the Commission to allow short term rentals in the R-1 zone and shared his experience with long term renters. He stated long term renters have no stake in their neighborhoods, and commented that his short term renters generated no complaints and property owners have a built in incentive to ensure that the operation of their guest suite does not bother the neighbors.
Deliberations & Decision
Mr. Molnar noted the areas that staff needs clarification on and the commissioners took turns sharing their comments.
Commissioner Dawkins stated he is not in favor of allowing anything other than single bedrooms that do not have kitchen facilities, as noted these types of rooms are not likely to become long term rentals. He added the house needs to be owner occupied and is fine with either the main entrance or a separate entrance for the rental. He also stated he does not believe the City Council will allow accessory residential units (ARUs) to be short term rentals and commented on the history of accessory units and how they were intended for long term rentals.
Commissioner Thompson stated she is not certain the impact of short term rentals is inconsistent with residential zoning, but is worried about protecting existing businesses in town. She stated under certain circumstances she is comfortable with allowing short term rentals as a permitted use. She stated she is not concerned about kitchen facilities or allowing more than one bedroom, but agrees that ARUs should not be allowed to operate as short term rentals. Thompson also voiced her support for utilizing the conditional use permit approval process.
Commissioner Kaplan stated one bedroom in a hosted home is not much different than having a relative visit and the fact that these short term rentals will be hosted and are limited in size makes a difference for him.
Commissioner Brown agreed with one bedrooms and supports setting a size limit. He stated he is not in favor of allowing short term rentals in the single family zone, but if the Council decides to pursue this he believes they have set appropriate parameters to control it. Brown also commented on the 200 ft. rule and stated he sees no reason to change this requirement.
The Commission held discussion on the 200 ft rule. Comments were made that the R-1 zone is not the place to revisit this issue, and that this issue is controversial enough as it is and they should not entertain removing this requirement. Comments regarding encouraging guests to walk and not drive were also shared. General consensus was reached to limit these rentals to those that are within 200 ft. of an arterial or major street.
Staff asked for clarification about whether the Commission would support the rental of accessory residential units that are within the buildings footprint (such as a basement within a home). Commissioner Thompson stated she would support this and cautioned them about getting overly complex. She added she does not feel compelled to set a limit on the number of bedroom or a size limit, or define the entrance type. Commissioner Brown disagreed and stated the amendment should be as clear and specific as possible so that it is workable and enforceable. Commissioner Peddicord suggested a maximum occupancy and stated establishing an allowable number of people and gets more to the impacts on the neighborhood. Mr. Molnar stated staff would pull together the Commission’s input and bring back a final recommendation for their approval.
Commissioner Mindlin rejoined the meeting.
  1. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.
Mr. Molnar explained on April 1, 2014 the City Council passed first reading of an ordinance that would place a limited moratorium until May 2015 on marijuana dispensaries. He stated the state legislature allowed this so that communities would have time to adjust their zoning codes and clarified the City’s moratorium will prohibit dispensaries on E-1 lots that are within 100 ft. of residential zoning districts and all lots in the C-1-D zone (downtown commercial overlay).
Commissioner Thompson noted she researched how other cities have handled this issue and recommended Ashland limit the number of dispensaries in the City, not allow marijuana to be smoked or consumed on the premises, to curtail business hours, to not allow dispensaries in temporary or portable structures, and require trash dumpsters to be enclosed.
Commissioner Mindlin recommended they treat dispensaries like a pharmacy, rather than a club, café, or liquor store. She added her opinion is that dispensaries should not be located within 100 ft. of a residence.
Commissioner Dawkins stated he would prefer to see dispensaries located in high traffic areas, and disagreed with the city administrator that these should be prohibited downtown.
Public Input
Carol Kim/422 Rogue Place/Read aloud written statement (See Exhibit 2014-03 attached).
William Clary/460 Williamson/Stated buffer zones should be based on traffic flow and suggested a requirement for dispensaries to be placed on main arterial streets or in areas that can handle high levels of traffic.
Deliberations & Decision
Mr. Molnar clarified if the Commission wants to encouraged dispensaries in certain areas, they could make the approval process less rigorous in those locations.
Suggestion was made to limit dispensaries to C-1 zones that front arterials, or at least make it easier to be located in these areas, and to not go against the city administrator’s direction regarding the C-1-D zone. The Commission discussed whether dispensaries were an appropriate use in the downtown, including whether or not this poses traffic concerns, and whether this puts tourists’ opinions before residents’ needs. A straw poll vote was taken on whether dispensaries should be allowed in the downtown area and the majority felt this should not be permitted.
Comment was made that if the City only allows these in the C-1 zone, and with the state’s 1,000 ft. from a school law and 1,000 ft. from another dispensary, this would be self limiting.
The Commission discussed buffer zones for parks, public libraries and residences and no support was expressed for establishing these. Comment was made that limiting hours of operation was preferable to setting buffers and suggestion was made for 7 am to 7 pm.
Commissioner Dawkins suggested the City allow dispensaries in the railroad district along A Street. The group discussed this but there was not a majority to move this forward.
Mr. Molnar clarified this issue will be reviewed again at the April Study Session.
Meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor


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