Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 24, 2015
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:
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
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Greg Lemhouse, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the March study session has been moved to March 31. He also provided a brief update on current issues including the Cityís master planning approach, the accessory travelerís accommodation ordinance, and an upcoming land use ordinance on marijuana.
Commissioner Brown stated the SDC Review Committee has completed its work.
Huelz Gutcheon/2253 Highway 99/Shared his vision for a structural wattage learning center in Ashland.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar stated both discussion topics tonight are highlighted in the Cityís Comprehensive Plan and have sections pertaining to them specifically. He stated wildfire hazards are discussed in the environmental resources chapter and has the overall goal of reducing the possibility for a devastating fire and includes specific, mandatory policy objectives such as fuel breaks, fire resistant plantings, roofing material, and connected street systems. Mr. Molnar went on to say the airport overlay is discussed in the transportation element and identifies the need to treat development in consideration of the unique operations of a municipal airport. In regards to the wildfire lands ordinance, he stated the City is looking into potentially expanding the scope and the standards that we currently apply to certain areas; and reversely loosening some of the requirements in the airport overlay for basic structures when placed consistent with the airport master plan.
Development Standards for Wildfire Lands Ordinance Amendments.
Senior Planner Brandon Goldman provided the background information and a summary of the potential ordinance amendments. He explained if the current boundary of designated wildfire lands were to be expanded, all properties not previously included would now fall under the same regulatory framework as those within the exiting wildfire lands area. Mr. Goldman stated all properties that require building permits for new construction would have to meet the fuel break standards, a fire prevention and control plan would be required with applications to partition or subdivide, and new or re-roofed structures could not use wooden shingles or other combustible roofing materials. Mr. Goldman relayed several discussion points for the commission to consider, including:
  • clarifying the applicability of primary and secondary fuel breaks,
  • establishing a size threshold for when the expansion of an existing building triggers implementation of the fuel break requirements,
  • establishing a fuel break prohibited plant list,
  • establishing a minimum clear distance between tree canopies and structures,
  • establishing a canopy spacing standard
  • limiting the storage of flammable materials or use of combustible landscaping materials in immediate proximity to a structure,
  • establishing a standard for a minimum vertical separation between understory vegetation and the lowest tree limbs within a treeís drip line,
  • establishing a requirement for the removal of dead or dying vegetation,
  • modification of the flag drive and parking lot screening standards to stipulate site obscuring hedges must be fire resistant, and
  • establishing a process to allow for modifications to the fire control and prevention plan and general fuel break requirements.
 Mr. Goldman concluded his presentation and explained staff will take the Planning Commissionís comments shared tonight to form a draft ordinance that will go to the Transportation and Conservation Commissions for comment. He added a public notice will be mailed to all properties within the City and the draft ordinance will return to the commission for a public hearing and recommendation to the City Council. Mr. Goldman noted Fire Department staff is present to answer any questions the commission may have.
Commission Comments & Questions
Staff was asked for clarification on the possible triggers that would require a change in landscaping; Mr. Goldman answered any addition greater that 100 sq.ft. in size is proposed. Comment was made questioning if 100 sq.ft. is the appropriate number, especially if the addition is not habitable space such as a deck addition. Fire Marshall Marguerrite Hickman explained how the standard is currently applied and stated if any addition occurs (including decks and living space), fuel reduction is required. However, they have discussed the possibility of giving the homeowner a timeframe to implement the reduction. She stated the goal is to make the entire community safer, but agreed with the need balance the financial impact on property owners. Opinion was given that the threshold should be set on the valuation of the improvement, not on the size of the additional square footage. Ms. Hickman clarified interior remodels are not applicable, only if the homeowner is expanding up or out. Mr. Molnar commented on the need for clear and objective standards and stated he would be concerned if land use approvals were required for all building permits.
Forestry Division Chief Chris Chambers addressed the commission and shared several potential scenarios. He stated they would like to avoid the removal of large trees, and noted they can be pruned to meet the standards. He also clarified they are not concerned with deciduous trees and stated smaller trees tend to pose more of a risk than larger trees. The commission asked for this to be clarified in the draft ordinance.
The Fire Department staff was asked to comment on whether all junipers are considered fire hazards. Firefighter Ashley Manning replied that the low growing variety is less of a hazard and it depends on where it is located in proximity to the house. The commission asked for this to be clarified in the draft ordinance.
Comment was made that many of the existing homes in town may not have additions or modifications for some time and questioned if these improvements should be mandated. Ms. Hickman clarified the City Council did not support a citywide vegetation ordinance and this is a different way to approach the issue and would bring compliance over time. Ms. Manning added there are current landowner grants, the Firewise program, and other programs in place to assist land owners with these improvements.
Commissioner Peddicord commented that there are a lot of slopes in town and noted the need to keep those stable. She also stated some oily plants are more deer resistant and highlighted the need to allow landscaping that works for these other aspects.
Mr. Goldman commented on flammable materials on adjoining properties and stated homeowners would only be responsible for their property. However, on smaller lots fuels reduction would likely be required for the entire property and those owners would not be able to have any of the plants on the prohibited list.
Comment was made that this is going to be a huge balancing act and this will be very challenging to implement when added to the other factors.
Mr. Goldman explained the intent for tonight was to bring this proposal to the commissionís attention and stated staff will do their best to address the concerns raised. He stated the proposal will be taken to the Transportation and Conservation Commissions for comment and when itís ready the draft ordinance will return to the Commission for a public hearing. Several commissioners commented that public education is going to be a very important component.
Airport Code Modifications
Associate Planner Derek Severson stated the proposed changes to the airport code would streamline the review process for most applications at the airport by: 1) providing a ministerial permit process for hobbyist hangars, 2) adding a parking ratio for hobbyist hangars, 3) changing the height limitations from the current 20 ft. maximum, 4) allow tree trimming for safety reasons without requiring permits, and 5) updating the master plan relative to locations and phasing of landscaping and parking improvements, and detailing acceptable hobbyist hangar locations and designs. Mr. Severson explained staff is seeking the commissionís input on this proposal and will take this to the Airport Commission for review before the formal adoption process begins.
Staff was asked to clarify what a hobbyist hangar is. Mr. Severson stated this is lacking a formal definition, but these are for personal use versus a commercial operation. Comment was made suggesting a clarification that these hangars will not contain office space. Mr. Molnar added the areas appropriate for these hangars will be identified in the master plan and the amendments could refer to a site plan where this type of expedited process would be allowed.
Mr. Molnar commented that there might be some disagreement with the Airport Commission in terms of parking and landscaping, and explained when dealing with public property the changes need to be consistent with how private property is dealt with. He added this may need to occur on a more campus wide approach and stated at certain thresholds landscaping and parking improvements would be needed.
Comment was made that tree removals should not be allowed without a permit, only tree trimmings. It was noted that someone might prefer to remove the tree entirely instead of addressing tree trimming year after year. Staff indicated this was a good point and stated they would be taking this proposal to the Tree Commission for input.
Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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