Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Mtg

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

February 13, 2018
Chair Roger Pearce called the meeting to order at 7:01 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Troy Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Debbie Miller
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Senior Planner
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
  Dennis Slattery, absent
Community Development Director Bill Molnar announced the City Council would hear a staff update on the Croman Mill area during their Study Session March 5, 2018.  The legislative action and Comprehensive Plan amendment for 475 East Nevada were tentatively scheduled for the Council Meeting March 20, 2018.  At this time, there was nothing scheduled for the Planning Commission Study Session February 27, 2018.
Chair Pearce met with the Wildfire Lands Committee two weeks ago.  Senior Planner Brandon Goldman had revised the draft ordinance.  It could possibly go on the agenda for the Study Session February 27, 2018.
  1. Approval of Minutes
1.  January 9, 2018 Regular Meeting.
Commissioners Thompson/Mindlin m/s to approve the Consent Agenda.Voice Vote: all AYES.Motion passed 7-0.
  1.    Approval of Findings for PA-2017-02129, 475 East Nevada Street.
The Commission had no ex parte contacts regarding the matter.
Commissioners Dawkins/Thompson m/s to approve the Findings for PA-2017-02129, 475 East Nevada Street.Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
  1.    PLANNING ACTION: PA-2017-01911
      SUBJECT PROPERTY: 181 A Street
      OWNER/APPLICANT:  Jorge Yant   
      DESCRIPTION:   A continued public hearing from December 12, 2017 to review an application for a Conditional Use Permit for Marijuana Retail Sales in the existing building located at 181 A St. The applicant withdrew the previously proposed Marijuana Production (Indoor Grow) located at 185, 191 and 195 A St and as a result, the indoor grow is no longer a part of the application. COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION: Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP:  39 1E 09BA; TAX LOT #: 14600 & 14900.
Chair Pearce read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Mindlin, Brown, Norton, and Thompson declared no ex parte contact regarding the matter.Commissioner Miller and Chair Pearce had no ex parte contact and one site visit.Commissioner Dawkins had no ex parte contact, had an additional site visit, read the article in the newspaper and asked the City Attorney clarifying questions.
Staff Report
Planning Manager Maria Harris explained the planning action was a continuation of the public hearing that occurred December 12, 2017.The property was zoned E-1 except across Oak Street where it was zoned R-2.It was in the Historic District Overlay, the Detail Site Review Zone, and the Residential Overlay.The applicant withdrew the indoor marijuana production.At this time, the request was for a marijuana retail sales establishment and subject to the Marijuana Related Business Special Use Standards, Ashland Municipal Code (AMC), and the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) criteria in AMC  The retail sales area was 1,850 square feet (sq. ft.).
Issues identified at the Public Hearing December 12, 2017, included:
  • Traffic Generation:  Does the application demonstrate there is no greater adverse material effect on the livability of the impact area from proposed marijuana retail sales use compared to the target use of general office?
  • Performance of nearby intersections.
  • Daily traffic generation - not just the PM Peak Hour traffic.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle travel.
  • Residential Buffer:  Measurement of the required 200 feet from a residential zone to the marijuana retail sales establishment
  • Interior door.
The applicant submitted a revised application that consisted of the following:
  • Production (Indoor Grow) withdrawn from the application.
  • Revised Findings.
  • An Intersection evaluation of A Street/Oak Street/Van Ness Avenue suggested striping the center line on Oak Street, lighting the crosswalk and removing an existing driveway apron on the Oak Street frontage.
  • Letter from Mark Bartholomew regarding the measurement of the 200-foot buffer.
The Public Works Department Engineering Division reviewed the materials.The revised Findings indicated a 5% increase in traffic on A Street.They compared it to the traffic counts in 2003 when the building was used as the A Street Market Place and added 5% to that amount.It resulted in 200 more vehicles on A Street.Staff agreed with the Findings in the engineering study and supported the changes recommended by the engineer.
The City Attorney reviewed information submitted regarding the 200-foot buffer and agreed with the conclusions and reasoning in the letter. When they measure to the marijuana retail sales, they should measure from the residential zoning boundary to the use itself.He thought the definition of premises in the Special Use Standards regarding Marijuana Related Business reinforced the staff and the Planning Commission’s concern regarding the interior door.It did affect the measurement of the 200-foot buffer.
Outstanding Issues included:
Target Use Comparison:Does the application demonstrate there is no greater adverse material effect on the livability of the impact area from proposed marijuana retail sales use compared to the target use of general office?
  • Information regarding future impacts to pedestrian and bicycle travel was limited.
  • Transportation capacity and development of adjacent properties as envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan. 
There was a certain amount of capacity in the transportation system.  Every review for a conditional use looked at how much transportation each use would take.  Marijuana retail sales generated more traffic and parking requirements than other uses.  This retail use was under 2,000 square feet and would produce more trips than a 20,000 sq. ft. building used as general office. 
  • Traffic Information
  • Daily traffic.
  • Nearby intersections.
  • Incorporation of the remainder of the building.
  • Residential Buffer  
  • Does the interior door shown on site plan provide access to and from the portion of the larger building that is closer than 200 feet to the residential zone?
The residential zoning line ran down the middle of Oak Street.It was 230 feet from that zoning line to the interior of the building where the retail use was located.The definition of premises basically stated everything needed for the business, including the bathrooms, had to be located in the area being measured for the use.Accessing the interior door to the common area and entry to the building on the Oak Street side was close to the residential if measured from Oak Street.
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Dawkins wanted to know if the bathroom in the common area was the only one accessible to the dispensary.  Ms. Harris thought the applicant could answer where the restroom that served the retail area was located.  If the bathroom was within the 200-foot buffer, they would not comply with the requirement.
Ms. Harris clarified in the Detailed Site Review general office was the target use for a conditional use in the E-1 zone.
When the decision maker went through the review process, they would use general office at half the size of the property. 
Staff recommended adding a condition to close the interior door and meet all building code requirements if there were issues with the 200-foot buffer.
Ms. Harris explained they had received the applicant’s engineering report just hours before the meeting.  The submittal did not change the issues staff had with the application.  The issues were operational, vehicle traffic, and adjacent property development.  The Planning Commission could consider whether it was appropriate to utilize some of the valuable transportation system capacity for a small store generating relatively high traffic when other uses in the area would develop in the future. 
There were 43 parking spaces in the lot and the applicant needed twelve for the proposed retail use.  The remaining parking spaces covered parking requirements for general office use but not permitted uses.   The parking requirement was six spaces.  The applicant had doubled the amount.  Business owners and the property owner would work out possible parking issues in the future as businesses developed in the building.
The last sentence in the definition of premises for marijuana use in Methodology for Measuring Separation Requirements read, “For the purpose of this section, premises is all public and private enclosed areas within a building at the location that are used in the business operation, including offices, kitchens, rest rooms and storerooms.”
Ms. Harris clarified the City used level of service to measure street capacity.  Staff addressed the level of service for A Street, Van Ness Avenue, and Oak Street. They were the most heavily impacted intersections.  It was a challenge to determine the material adverse effect.  The focus on operational measurements of transportation systems could be narrow in scope.  The transportation element and the implementing policies and land use ordinance applied to all forms of travel.  Engineering information tended to focus on vehicle travel and was not a good mechanism for bicycle and pedestrian travel.
Applicant’s Presentation  
Jay Harland/CSA Planning, LTD/4497 Brownridge Terrace/Medford, OR/The applicant would comply if the Planning Commission concluded the interior door needed to be closed to meet the 200-foot buffer. There were existing bathrooms in the building closer to the retail area and not restricted to the 200-foot buffer.  The trip generation would be higher than the specialty retail based on the International Transportation Engineers (ITE) Manual.   
He explained the Sandow Engineering submittal stated the intersections volumes were well within the range typical for these types of intersections.There was no unusual queuing or blocking issues for this type of queuing.The math substantiating the statement was included in the submittal.The area was at a level of service B until 2028. There was adequate capacity from a throughput standpoint for the area. Kelly Sandow, the traffic engineer went out to the site and watched vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic January 16, 2018.She spotted several soft improvements to the system.One was adding stripping to Oak Street and Van Ness Avenue.Another would install better lighting for the crosswalk at A Street and Oak Street.The third suggestion would replace the curb cut with a landscaped planter strip to keep people from cutting to the other side of Van Ness Avenue.Through the approval of the project, the street improvements would benefit the transportation system.
Questions of the Applicant
Mr. Harland confirmed the applicant was not proposing any type of production at the site.  The current lease was only for the dispensary and not cultivation.  There were no plans to lease for production.  The applicant had no intention to add production after the retail approval. 
There was a bathroom located near the retail site.  It was not uncommon for tenants to share restroom facilities.
Commissioner Miller expressed concerns the traffic analysis was inadequate.  She thought First Street and Pioneer Street should have been included.  The peak traffic for the Ashland Food Coop occurred between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.  It was a one-way street with people exiting on A Street.  Mr. Harland responded the traffic engineer observed traffic in that location and did not encounter anything that could cause capacity issues.  Commissioner Miller noted the study occurred in January, the quietest month in town.  It would be more accurate if the study happened on a spring day.  Commissioner Mindlin wanted to know if they had reviewed other studies of the area.  Specifically, studies that included all modes of transportation during other seasons.  Community Development Director Bill Molnar added the Public Works Department had explained it was not uncommon to evaluate traffic studies this time of year.  Pedestrian and bicycle traffic were also issues.   
Public Testimony
Brian Comnes/Ashland/Reiterated Commissioner Miller’s account of traffic.  He walked or drove through the project area daily.  Where A Street, Oak Street, and Van Ness Avenue connected was confusing.  He had personally witnessed near accidents with vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.  Where First Street came out to A Street, the tight “S” turn on A Street made it difficult to see.  Any increase in traffic due to the retail establishment in that area would increase safety risk.  The rafting company frequently blocked half the street.  It was not a desirable place to increase traffic.  He expressed concern about the potential of people ingesting the products they just purchased then driving away impaired.  He was opposed to the project and suggested the Commission oppose it as well.
Robin Popin/Ashland/Was baffled to be there.  She lived in the Railroad District and described the area.
The Plexis building was a historic building and the area caused traffic issues.She thought that cannabis dispensaries had to be on major thoroughfares in Ashland, not small streets.She did not consider A Street a thoroughfare.The traffic was bad.It was a residential community that co-existed with commercial property.The marijuana dispensary did not belong in the neighborhood.She would be profoundly disappointed to have purchased her property if this project went through.
Applicant’s Rebuttal
Mr. Harland addressed traffic generation and explained the actual retail use generated less than one trip per minute.
Ms. Harris shared the number of PM Peak Hour for specialty retail was 5 trips per 1,000 square feet.General office PM Peak Hour was 1.49 per 1,000 square feet.Mr. Harland added trip generation for marijuana retail was higher.
Deliberations & Decision
Ms. Harris confirmed Clear Creek Drive was zoned for E-1 and not in a historical district.  The building for the project was a historic building but the applicants were not making any changes to the exterior.
The Commission discussed how using the bathroom in the hallway would change the 200-foot buffer to the residential area on Oak Street.  The applicant could access bathrooms located behind the retail site.  The Commission could also place a condition on the application to permanently close the interior door.  There were multiple entrances for fire exits. 
There was a concern whether the Oak Street door would be used as an entry.  At this point, without using the hallway bathroom, the applicant complied with the 200-foot requirement.
A Street was not a major street but the Comprehensive Plan allowed marijuana retail on a neighborhood collector through a conditional use permit.  The Commission voted to include A Street for potential marijuana retail because the street was commercial in nature. 
Commissioner Mindlin did not think the applicant met the burden of proof that there was no adverse material effect based on the traffic.  The proposed project would generate six times more traffic during peak hour than the specialty retail rate.  There was no analysis done regarding pedestrian and bicycle traffic.  The study in January did not exhibit a coherent picture of traffic impact later in the year.  The Commission majority agreed the applicant had not met the burden of proof for traffic. 
Commissioner Dawkins disagreed and thought because this was marijuana based, it was being singled out. Current traffic issues were generated by the Ashland Food Coop and Ace Hardware.  In that case, no other retail uses should be allowed in that area due to the increase in traffic.  Commissioner Brown commented when the Ashland Food Coop opened at that location, no one had understood the traffic impact.  Traffic was also not addressed when Ace Hardware was developed.  They could not continue allowing high traffic uses in the area just because two other high traffic uses were there.  Additionally, the code based the traffic for that particular building on general office use.   
Commissioner Norton thought the issues could have been mitigated or addressed better.  Commissioner Thompson noted when the proposed use was compared to the general office use it did show material difference and impact.  The other uses allowed had an effect of five per 1,000 square feet.  The proposed use was 28 per 1,000, five and a half times the impact.  The Commission had to take the congestion in the area and the difficulty navigating the street seriously.
Chair Pearce observed the city engineer did not have a problem with the traffic report.  He was not sure there was an adverse material effect here.  However, the lack of information on traffic impacts made it hard to make a decision.  The traffic report did not take into consideration bicycle and pedestrian traffic in May or June.  He did not think the applicant had provided the Commission with the quality of information needed for an approval. 
Commissioners Miller/Brown m/s to deny the application for PA-2017-01911.  Roll Call Vote:  Commissioners Miller, Pearce, Mindlin, Brown, Norton, and Thompson, YES, Commissioner Dawkins, NO.  Motion passed 6-1.
Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Submitted by,
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

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