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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

APRIL 11, 2017
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
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor
Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
None   Dennis Slattery, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar made the following announcements: 1) the Planning Commission’s Annual Retreat will be held on Saturday, June 10, 2) there will be a Missing Middle Housing presentation on April 13 in Medford, and 3) the City Council reversed the Planning Commission’s decision and approved the Rogue Credit Union application.
  1. Approval of Minutes.
  1. February 28, 2017 Special Meeting.
  2. March 14, 2017 Regular Meeting.
Commissioners Miller/Brown m/s approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
Huelz Gutcheon/2253 Hwy 99/Commented on climate change and global warming and encouraged the use of solar panels.
  1. Adoption of Findings for PA-2017-00016, 474 Russell.
Commissioners Dawkins/Pearce m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2017-00016, 474 Russell. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
  1. PLANNING ACTION:  PA-2017-00200  
SUBJECT PROPERTY: 165 Water Street (corner of Van Ness & Water Streets)
OWNER/APPLICANT: Magnolia Investment Group, LLC/Gil Livni
DESCRIPTION: A request for Site Design Review approval to construct a 42,841 square foot, three-story, mixed-use building consisting of commercial tenant space on the ground floor, 26 hotel units on the second floor, and ten residential condominiums on the third floor for the vacant property located at 165 Water Street, at the corner of Van Ness and Water Streets, in the Skidmore Academy Historic District.  The application includes requests for a Conditional Use Permit to allow hotel/motel use; an Exception to Street Standards; a Physical & Environmental Constraints Review Permit for the development of floodplain and severe constraints lands; and a Tree Removal Permit to remove seven trees.  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 04CC; TAX LOT #: 2000.
Commissioner Mindlin read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Thompson, Norton, and Pearce declared site visits. Commissioner Norton stated he was approached by a homeowner while conducting his visit and was asked whether three stories were allowed and if the alleyway was going to line up with the dirt road.
Staff Report
Senior Planner Derek Severson explained this is an initial evidentiary hearing for the project at 165 Water Street to provide the commission the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the project and identify any areas of concern before the request comes back for deliberation/decision at the May 9 meeting. Mr. Severson stated the proposal is for a 42,821 sq.ft, three-story, mixed use building consisting of commercial tenant space on the ground floor, 26 hotel units on the second floor, and 10 residential units on the third floor. The request also includes a conditional use permit for the hotel/motel use, an exception to the Street Standards, a Physical and Environmental Constraints permit for the development of floodplain and severe constraints lands, and a Tree Removal permit to remove 7 trees on the site. Mr. Severson displayed the vicinity map, floodplain map, slope map, parking plan, site plan, elevations, tree removal plan, landscape plan, and perspective drawings. He also presented the Historic Commission and Tree Commission recommendations.
Mr. Severson explained staff has two primary concerns regarding the proposal: 1) the integration of required public plaza space into the project, and 2) the off-street parking requirements. Regarding the public plaza space, Mr. Severson stated staff is concerned that significant portions of the plaza space are at the rear of the building, adjacent to the parking, and tucked away from the public realm. And for the off street parking component, Mr. Severson explained the application incudes parking calculations showing 63 off-street parking spaces are needed, however the proposal shows 43 parking spaces will be located in the basement and surface parking lot. The remaining 20 spaces would be addressed through a combination of parking management strategies equating to a 32% reduction in required parking, including: 1) 10 on-street parking spaces, 2) 1 parking space credit for 6 motorcycles spaces in the basement, 3) 6 parking space credits for 32 bicycle spaces, and 4) a 4 parking space reduction through a mixed use credit. Mr. Severson explained the reductions in the required off-street parking are discretionary on the part of the Planning Commission and depend on whether the commission believes the credits will result in a meaningful reduction in actual parking demand without having a negative impact on the surrounding streetscape and broader neighborhood. He added in staff’s preliminary assessment, it seems questionable that additional motorcycle and bicycle parking will result in a reduction in motor vehicle parking demand and requested the commission provide direction on this element.
Applicant’s Presentation
Amy Gunter/Rogue Planning & Development, Dave Evans/David Grimes Architects, Gil Livni/Magnolia Investment Group/Ms. Gunter explained this project has been in the works for a number of years and the property is zoned E-1 (Employment) with a residential overlay. Ms. Gunter stated the Ashland modified floodplain goes 30 ft. onto the property, however there is no evidence water breached the curbline during the last major flooding event, and there have been additional improvements made upstream since that time to ensure no impacts to this area. She explained their proposal is for a 3-story mixed-use building and stated the site improvements will benefit the surrounding area. Ms. Gunter reviewed the project details and noted the design has gone through a number of changes in working with the city’s Historic Commission. She displayed images of the proposed plaza space and commented on the green design elements, including solar panels on the roof and a “green roof” with access for residences and guests of the hotel. Ms. Gunter commented on the two issues raised by staff. In regards to parking, she stated their parking analysis shows a peak demand of 44 spaces and their proposal exceeds this. She added the requested 32% credit is permitted in the code under section and stated there is a low parking demand in this area. Ms. Gunter addressed the plaza areas and stated the project is required to provide 4,284 sq.ft. of public plaza space. The proposal includes functional plaza areas on three sides of the structure and the areas will have awnings, sitting areas, a water feature, tables, chairs, benches, and an outdoor eating area. She displayed perspective illustrations of the lawn area and stated the cover will encourage year round use.
Questions of the Applicant
Commissioners Dawkins stated their plaza area looks very similar to other examples in the city, but asked how they came up with using 32 bicycle spaces instead of providing vehicle parking spaces. Ms. Gunter stated Ashland is a Bicycle City and many of the residents will have bicycles. She added this is a strategy permissible in the code, it is  not a variance or exception, and the parking demand analysis justifies the request.
Project Architect Dave Evans clarified the green roof will have some open areas for people to use, however this area will not be accessible to the general public.
Commissioner Brown asked how they imagine the plaza areas being used, and stated it appears there is no access by the general public to the area in the corner. Ms. Gunter commented that once people visit the site they will know that it is there. She added the Plaza West building’s public space is fenced off, however theirs is not blocked off in anyway.
Commissioner Pearce questioned what design issues drew them to put the largest plaza space in the rear of the building. Mr. Grimes stated this was a tough site to design, and explained this is a better area, with nicer views and will be a much more comfortable space for people to use with access to the sun, shelter from the wind, and shade through the use of overhangs.
Mr. Livni clarified the underground parking area will be used by the residents and commercial space tenants and will have a security gate.
Commissioner Thompson commented that the packet materials indicate there was a fee issue and asked if this has been resolved. Ms. Gunter stated this has not been worked out yet and Mr. Severson noted there is a condition or approval that will clarify the building valuation based on code methodology.
Public Testimony
Jim North/85 Central/Voiced his concerns regarding parking. Mr. North stated both Water Street and Central Avenue fill up and there are also campers parked along the street. He added the majority of the time the public parking lot on Water Street is also full. He stated this proposal provides 34 parking spaces for the hotel and commercial space and can’t fathom how this would work. Mr. North stated another concern is the placement of the stairs and transformer at the back of the alley which aligns with his driveway. Lastly, Mr. North requested the plaza spaces be well lit to deter against it becoming a transient hangout space at night, which was a problem on the nearby properties.
Eric Bonetti/2552 Old Mill/Stated he is the owner of the adjacent parcel and noted the public right of way that runs across this area. Mr. Bonetti stated the back plaza space will be visible because of this connectivity and voiced his support for the project. He stated this will uplift the area and will bring more control and more eyes to this area of town which has been underutilized. Mr. Bonetti commented on aesthetics and stated the applicants have done a really good job and is proud this is a homegrown project.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Ms. Gunter stated they will provide additional information from the traffic engineer to clarify any questions about peak demand and usage. She noted this area is located in an enterprise zone and the financing and tax relief eligibility is an indication that this type of development is exactly what the Rogue Valley and State of Oregon desires. She stated there are numerous standards that apply to this project but they have requested very few exceptions and zero variances. Ms. Gunter stated the proposal addresses several of the comprehensive goals of the city and noted the economic development aspects of the project.
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Norton asked if the applicant could make adjustments to the proposal before the next meeting. Mr. Molnar clarified slight adjustments could be made but staff does not anticipate any major changes and stated there are a lot of good elements about the project.
Commissioner Brown asked if there are requirements for loading/unloading or bus parking for the hotel and staff stated “No”. Brown stated it would be helpful to know if the 20 basement parking spaces with card key access were taken into account in the parking study.
Commissioner Miller asked how staff felt about the proposed parking reduction. Mr. Molnar stated staff has some reservations about the parking. He explained there is some spillage from downtown in areas and staff gets uneasy when you go over the 20% mark. He added with the requested 32% reduction there is concern that long term this will impact the area.
Commissioner Pearce commented that the staff report states parking credits depend on whether they will result in a meaningful reduction in actual parking demand and he does see this anywhere in the code. Mr. Severson clarified it is discretionary for the commission to grant credits and it is not listed as a requirement in the code. Pearce expressed caution in how they apply this.  
Commissioner Mindlin stated it appears all the entrances are being claimed as plaza space and questioned if this has been done before. Staff clarified ingress/egress to a building is generally not designated as public plaza space.
Commissioner Brown questioned which 4 of the 6 public plaza elements are being used.
Commissioner Thompson stated the property has some severe constraints and can understand how it might be difficult to get parking and public space and still develop the rest of the property. She noted her involvement on the Downtown Parking Committee and stated this project does not need to solve the city’s parking problem but it should not contribute to it. Regarding the plaza space, she asked what discretionary authority they have given the constraints of the property and commented that the area in the back may deter vagrants.  
Commissioner Dawkins commented that his personal experience with this street is that it is always full during the summer months and when you add employment to this area it will increase that demand. He stated he was also on the Downtown Parking committee and has a big concern about the parking. Dawkins questioned taking away car spaces to add more bicycle parking and stated adding more bike parking than required seems like a way to get around the vehicle parking requirement.
With there being no more questions of staff, Commissioner Mindlin announced the public hearing will be continued to the May 9, 2017 Planning Commission meeting.
Meeting adjourned at 9:05 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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