Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

JULY 11, 2017
Chair Roger Pearce 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
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
Troy J. Brown, Jr.
Lynn Thompson
  Dennis Slattery, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar stated the Study Session on July 25 will include a discussion of draft policies for the Housing Element. He also noted the Downtown Parking Strategy will be discussed by the City Council at their August 1st meeting.
  1. Approval of Minutes.
  1. June 13, 2017 Regular Meeting.
  2. June 27, 2017 Study Session.
Commissioners Norton/Dawkins m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0. [Commissioner Miller abstained from approval of June 13, 2017 minutes.]
No one came forward to speak.
  1. Adoption of Findings for PA-2017-00615, 361 South Mountain Ave.
No ex parte contact was reported.
Commissioners Dawkins/Mindlin m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2017-00615, 361 South Mountain Ave. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 5-0.
  1. PLANNING ACTION:  PA-2017-01059                                                 
SUBJECT PROPERTY:  1068 East Main Street                  
OWNER:  Marcel Verzeano Trust (Paulena E.C. Verzeano, trustee)
DESCRIPTION: A request for Outline Plan and Site Design Review approvals for a 29-unit, 28-lot Performance Standards Option subdivision for the property located at 1068 East Main Street and the vacant parcel directly to the east.  The proposal includes the partial demolition and relocation of the existing house on site and a Tree Removal Permit to remove 14 of the site’s 25 trees. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: High Density, Multi-Family Residential; ZONING: R-3/Pedestrian Places Overlay; ASSESSOR’S MAP: 39 1E 09AD; TAX LOT #: 6800 and 6801.
Commissioner Pearce read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Norton, Dawkins, Pearce, and Mindlin declared site visits. No ex parte contact was reported.
Staff Report
Senior Planner Derek Severson explained the subject property is two parcels at the corner of East Main Street and North Mountain Ave, and is 1.79 acres in size. He stated the site is primarily an open field, but there is an existing house and several large stature trees that surround it. He explained the proposal is to move the front of the house forward and maintain a large front yard, and demolish the back portion of the structure which is dilapidated. Mr. Severson displayed the site plan, landscape plan, tree removal and protection plan, solar cross sections, and shadow study. He listed the Tree Commission recommendations and explained staff has identified four primary issues for discussion: 1) Open space and recreation area, 2) Crime prevention and defensible space, 3) Pedestrian access and circulation, and 4) Building orientation and sense of entry.
Open Space and Recreation Area: Mr. Severson explained the project is required to provide 25% landscaping, with a 5% open space requirement, and an 8% open space/recreation area requirement. He stated staff is concerned that the landscaping treatment may limit the recreational use of the open space and have proposed a condition of approval that states: “The Final Plan shall include a revised plan to demonstrate that the open and recreation space requirements are met illustrating all areas to be counted towards open and recreation space and their dimension and treatment.  Landscaped areas counted toward recreation space need to be surfaced for recreational use and not include thoroughfares for pedestrian circulation, and individual patio, porch or deck areas need to have a minimum dimension of six feet in depth and eight feet in width exclusive of circulation routes, door swing areas, etc. to accommodate recreational use. Areas containing above-ground utility infrastructure such as transformers, vaults and cabinets are not to be included as open/recreational space.  Common area and open space improvements (i.e. landscaping and irrigation, etc.) shall be installed or bonded for in accordance with the procedures in the Subdivision chapter prior to signature of Final Survey Plat.” Mr. Severson noted the applicants have handed out a revised open space plan, however staff has not had time to review it.
Crime Prevention/Defensible Space: Mr. Severson stated there is a concern there are vulnerable areas of the development. He explained the ground floor of the units are largely dedicated to garage space with very few windows. Additionally there are limited windows facing the open space area. Mr. Severson stated staff has proposed a condition of approval that states: “The Final Plan shall include a revised treatment for units along the internal circulation route and adjacent to open spaces reflecting additional windows providing for greater surveillance of the open space and circulation areas.”
Pedestrian Access & Circulation: Mr. Severson explained staff is recommending the internal circulation be improved by adding a walkway through the site to East Main Street. He stated staff has proposed a condition of approval to address this which states: “The Final Plan shall include identification of a public pedestrian access easement from Mountain to East Main over the site’s driveway system.”
Building Orientation: Mr. Severson stated staff is recommending a condition addressing the unit located at the entry to the development that states: “The Final Plan shall include a revised treatment for the unit at the project entry on Mountain Avenue (Unit 21E, Lot 27) which includes a strong orientation/entry oriented to Mountain Avenue.”
Mr. Severson concluded his presentation and noted the commission may also want to consider increasing the side yard setback in order to provide a larger buffer to the adjacent high school football field. He stated the setback is identified as 6 ft, however a minimum 10 ft. setback might be more appropriate. Mr. Severson noted the new submittals handed out tonight and stated the commission could review and issue a decision tonight, or continue the hearing to another meeting if they feel they need more time.
Questions of Staff
Staff was asked whether one driveway entry into the development was sufficient. Mr. Severson explained the requirement is based on average vehicle trips and the proposed development does not trigger the requirement for an additional driveway.
Staff was asked whether there is a patio space requirement. Mr. Severson clarified there is no such requirement in the code, however there is a recreation area requirement and decks, porches, and patios are counted towards that.
Applicant’s Presentation
Mark Knox and Laz Ayala/Mr. Knox noted their desire to save the existing house, maintain the streetscape appearance and save as many of the trees as possible. He stated this is a great plan and they hope the community will like it as well. He stated their proposal provides workforce housing for Ashland and is an improvement over the Pedestrian Places plan which would have eliminated the house and all of the trees and not provided any recreational or open space. Mr. Knox noted the new submittal handed out tonight and explained the two changes are to eliminate the through-path and convert it to grass, and to add either a bocce ball court or a small dog park area to the upper left corner of the site. Mr. Knox raised issue with the condition to provide a path through the old house site. He noted they went to great lengths to save the house and maintain the iconic setback and streetscape feel and asked the commission to not require a path in that location. He added there is already a path between the house and Unit 1 out to East Main Street. Regarding increasing the setback along the back property line, Mr. Knox stated this is a side yard and they purposely did not orient the units towards this space. He noted they have had multiple discussions with the high school and the intent is for that area to be accessible to faculty so that they can maintain the retaining wall, have access to the field lights, and be able to retrieve balls that come over the fence. He stated there is no room to increase the setback and this requirement would kill the project. Mr. Knox commented on the defensible space issue and clarified there are windows that look down on the open spaces and they do not believe modifications are needed.  
Public Testimony
Dara Crockett/162 Fifth/ Ms. Crockett stated she appreciates the applicant’s efforts to accommodate tree and historic preservation on the site. She voiced her support for preserving the Douglas Fir that was on removal list and reconfiguring the sidewalk to preserve two additional trees. Regarding the two smaller trees located near the house, Ms. Crockett recommended those be offered to the public to be removed and relocated rather than just torn down.
Rick Harris/190 Oak, #1/Mr. Harris voiced his support for the proposal and noted he represents the owner of the property. He provided some history of the site and stated this is the best opportunity to preserve the historic house. Mr. Harris noted some of the trees have had significant damage over the years and it may not be possible to retain them. He commented on staff’s recommended pathway and stated the plan already has direct access out to East Main Street. He stated the extra pathway would be bad for whomever lives in the house and people would use it to cut over to the high school. Mr. Harris stated the applicants provide good, quality, workforce housing and they should be allowed this opportunity.
Monika Neri/985 Applegate, Jacksonville/Ms. Neri voiced her support for the project. She stated the trees were not planted with high density in mind and maintaining them would restrict ideal development of the site. Ms. Neri stated there is a housing crisis in Ashland and anything that can be done to provide more units is a good thing. She commented that the proposed 6 ft. side yard setback is appropriate and to ask for more would just be wasted space.
Willow Denon/132 Sixth/Ms. Denon stated this is a very trustworthy development and she trusts him fully. Regarding the trees, she commented that they have not been well maintained and they could be brought back to health with the right treatment. She spoke regarding the Almond tree and asked that it be preserved.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Mark Knox and Laz Ayala/Agreed with the comment made that a 6 ft. setback is appropriate. Mr. Knox stated a larger sideyard would have a significant impact on their proposal and is not needed because it is a football field next door. Mr. Ayala stated they have put a lot of effort into this design, including preserving the house and saving as many of the trees as they could. He stated the designed living spaces will be livable and attractive but also affordable and sustainable. He added with the average unit size under 1,000 sq.ft, the units will be under the median house price for this market. Mr. Ayala stated their proposal adds 32 new trees to the site and stated the conditions to require an additional four feet to the setback and an additional walkway would destroy the livability of the house and would kill this project. He expressed his desire that the commission makes a decision tonight that is mindful of the big picture and the needs of this community.
Deliberations & Decision
Commissioner Dawkins stated he is not in favor of increasing the sideyard setback or requiring an additional walkway. Commissioner Miller commented on the tree removals and stated she would be happy if they could keep the removals to only 10. Commissioner Pearce agreed with Dawkins regarding the pedestrian easement and stated there is reasonable access through the development and this is not needed. He stated he is not concerned with crime prevention and commented there will be lots of people in a small area with plenty of windows to keep an eye on things. He stated he does not support increasing the sideyard setback and recommended they remove that condition. Commission Pearce stated he likes the decks and porches proposed but questioned if the applicant has met the recreational space requirement. The commission discussed the definitions for open space and recreational space and whether the required 8% should be common areas.
Commissioners Mindlin/Dawkins m/s to approve PA-2017-01059 with the following changes: 1) eliminate condition 6a which requires additional windows for greater surveillance of the open space and circulation areas, 2) revise condition 6c to state individual patio areas will not be calculated towards the open space requirement, and 3) eliminate condition 6f which requires a pedestrian easement from Mountain to East Main. DISCUSSION: Commissioner Miller expressed concern about the design of the units. Commissioner Norton recommended the applicant have the option to do either a bocce call court or dog park area. Commissioner Mindlin agreed and stated the southwest corner could be any recreational space. Regarding the tree issues, it was clarified the motion accepts the Tree Commission’s recommendations. Mr. Severson noted the request is for outline plan approval and the applicant’s will still have to come back for final plan approval. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Dawkins, Miller, Mindlin, Norton, and Pearce, YES. Motion passed 5-0.
Meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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