Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23, 2014
Chair Richard Kaplan 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
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Tracy Peddicord
  Mike Morris
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the open house for the Plaza West Building located on Lithia Way and reminded the commissioners to refrain from ex parte if they attend.
Commissioner Mindlin noted the recent Planning Commissioners Journal article on permaculture and encouraged the commissioners to read it.
No one came forward to speak.
  1. RVTD Transportation Demand Management Presentation by Edem Gomez, TDM Planner.
TDM Planner Edem Gomez provided a short presentation that addressed the following topics:
  • Definition of TDM (Transportation Demand Management).  
  • RVTD’s bus pass programs, including U-pass and Fare Share.
  • RVTD’s yearly highlights.
  • RVTD’s Rideshare program.
  • RVTD’s Drive Less Connect program.
  • RVTD’s system map and available routes.
  • Trip planning and real time transit program. Mr. Gomez highlighted RVTD’s mobile app, which allows users to see in real time where on the route their bus is located, when the bus will arrive, and how far behind schedule it may be.
  • Statistics on Ashland’s downtown route stations, which are the most used stations in the valley.
  • TDM next steps.
  • The individualized market campaign for Southern Oregon University that is funded by ODOT.
  • RVTD’s bus rapid transit program.
Mr. Gomez concluded his presentation and commented briefly on land use and transit focus points. He explained density and infill support transit, and downtown Ashland’s high transit numbers validates this. He stated the mixed use developments in Ashland have increased transit activity, and noted the desire for riders to be able to have bus stops close to their final destinations.
Mr. Gomez was asked to comment on RVTD’s Saturday service. He explained this is currently funded through a grant and RVTD does not have the funds to keep it long term. He clarified transit is subsidized regardless of ridership levels, but added the high ridership numbers on Saturday makes a strong case for expanding weekend service.
  1. Discussion of Master Planning Approach.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar and Planning Manager Maria Harris provided a presentation on three of the City’s master planning efforts: 1) North Mountain Neighborhood, 2) Croman Mill District, and 3) the Normal Neighborhood Plan.
North Mountain Neighborhood
The North Mountain Neighborhood master planning began in 1994 and the plan was adopted in 1997. The area is approximately 75 acres in size and there were 9 separate property owners, with 8-9 existing residences nearby. The area lacked facilities, had very limited paved access, and most of the owners were interested in creating a plan. Ms. Harris noted the City was aware of the property owners’ interests in developing this area, and there was concern about a piecemeal approach versus a more coordinated effort. She stated what resulted was a master plan and noted it has been amended over time. Ms. Harris explained some of the funding started with a state grant and the key elements to this plan were a gridded system, creating neighborhood identity, and the dedication of the Bear Creek floodway and greenway as public park land. She added this was also the first time the City adopted a neighborhood business overlay.
Croman Mill District
The Croman Mill District master planning began in 2007 and the plan was adopted in 2010. The area was owned by 6 property owners, with the Croman Corp owning the majority at approximately 70 acres. Ms. Harris stated most of the participants were supportive and willing to go through the master planning process; and noted they were looking to get something going on this property which had been abandoned for a number of years. She stated this area had limited public facilities and infrastructure and there was a council goal to develop a plan. Ms. Harris stated this plan was also funded by a state grant and stated when a grant is received the City is obligated to work through the state’s process and work with a consultant from the state’s preapproved list. She added the City is currently speaking with the state about the ability to work with more local consultants. Ms. Harris cited the requirement for the City to have enough land to accommodate job growth for the next 20 years, and stated the Croman site was one of just two areas left in the City where the City could plan for future employment use. She noted there was pressure for this area to be used for residential development and an application came forward after the master plan was adopted to rezone a portion of the site, but the Planning Commission denied that application. Ms. Harris stated the key elements to this plan were industrial and office use lands, a neighborhood center, the preservation of natural features (Hamilton Creek, pond and wetlands), a central open space element, a main spine into the property, creating a unique identity for this area, and maintaining access to the railroad.
Normal Neighborhood Plan
The Normal Neighborhood Plan area is approximately 95 acres and is owned by 26 different property owners. Some property owners had no interest in annexing or developing their property or participating in the master planning process; but there was also a significant amount of land owned by individuals who wanted to develop it. Ms. Harris noted there was some development pressure for this area, and a pre-application conference occured. She noted that several times over the last decade the issue came up about whether there should be a planning process for this area, and after the RPS process and the City’s decision to not identify future growth areas outside the urban growth boundary, this area was identified by the City Council as a place to accommodate future residential demand and they adopted a Council goal to create a plan.
Ms. Harris explained tonight is an opportunity for informal discussion about the City’s master planning process and stated staff will need to report back to the Council and provide an assessment of this approach.
Commissioner Thompson asked if the City had criteria to determine when a neighborhood planning effort will happen, as opposed to letting the area develop in a piecemeal approach. Mr. Molnar stated there is no criteria codified in the land use code and stated these areas stood out because they were large areas with limited development, lacked infrastructure, and there was movement from property owners who wanted to develop. He added you can either let development occur within the existing zoning, or create a master plan which provides the opportunity to look at a broader set of issues, create an identify for the area, and allow the neighborhood to participate in the vision for the area.
Commissioner Miller asked if Oak Knoll, Quiet Village, or the Greenmeadows neighborhoods were master planned. Commissioner Dawkins stated No, and stated the developer was able to build out these areas. Mr. Molnar added these neighborhoods were master planned, but it was a private and not public process. He stated the owners owned much larger pieces of land and had the ability to design whole neighborhoods.
Commissioner Kaplan recommended they postpone this discussion until the City Council makes a decision on the Normal Neighborhood Plan. He stated the issues raised by the Council regarding the master planning process seem to focus on the Normal Plan and they should wait until Normal is done and see what went well and what didn’t work.
Staff was asked if there are any other areas in town susceptible to master planning. Mr. Molnar clarified there is nothing of the scale of the three plans identified. He stated transit corridors may be looked at next (such as Ashland St) as well as the Winburn Way corridor.
Commissioner Thompson commented on the difficulty of these plans. She stated when you invite all the different interests to the table and ask them to think about what they want and don’t want; points of disagreement arise and the City is forced to come down on the issues. She stated master plans for areas that already have some development will be a contentions and difficult process. She pointed to Normal and cited all the compromises that were made, and yet they still did not come to a plan that everyone supported.
Commissioner Kaplan stated he is still not clear on how they should proceed and stated this discussion will be limited until the Normal process is complete. He stated the Normal Plan has all of the elements – all of the things that went well, and all the things that went poorly.
Commissioner Thompson stated the rationale for embarking on a master plan needs to be clearly identified and the City Council needs to agree that this is the road they want to go down, and then establish some parameters.
Commissioner Mindlin stated there have been very good reasons for the master plans done so far, and stated the lack of involvement from the City Council on the front end is a major problem. She noted all the staff time and dollars spent creating these plans, and stated it is frustrating when the council members are not involved.
Councilor Morris agreed with Mindlin and stated the elected councilors for the most part don’t understand land use law and the Council that starts the process may not be the same Council as when it finishes. He agreed that the Council needs to provide better direction on what they expect to see for the master planning process and stated there is not a clear answer on how to do master plans.
Commissioner Kaplan commented that mid-course feedback from the City Council would be helpful so the Commission could adjust direction if needed.
Commissioner Dawkins voiced his concern with the state grants and stated the master planning can get totally out of hand. He gave his opinion that the property owners and staff should approach the City Council and ask for money to do a plan, and stated the money from the state does not compare to all the staff time costs for the City.
Commissioner Miller voiced her objection to the use of out of area consultants.
Comment was made that one benefit of out of the area consultants is a new pool of ideas. Additional suggestion was made to have a one year time limit on master planning.
Mr. Molnar thanked the Commission for their input and stated staff will begin to structure this into a format that they can build on. He added he will discuss with Commissioner Kaplan the next steps for this item.
Meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.
Submitted by, April Lucas
Administrative Supervisor


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