Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Electronic Planning Commission Regular Meeting

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

February 9, 2021
I.             CALL TO ORDER:
Chair Haywood Norton called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Commissioners Present:
Michael Dawkins
Alan Harper
Haywood Norton
Kerry KenCairn
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
Lisa Verner        

Staff Present:
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Senior Planner
April Lucas, Development Services Coordinator
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Community Development Director Bill Molnar issued the following announcements:
  • The February 23 Study Session will be a discussion on the draft code amendments to allow duplexes on residential lots that are currently suited for single family homes.
  • Public Hearings are scheduled for both the March 9 and April 13 meetings. Current land use applications include a subdivision at Mountain Meadows, Walker Elementary, the church at East Main and Fifth St., a mixed-use project at Water St. and Van Ness, and a small subdivision on Oak St.
  • Staff and the consultant were pleased with the input received at the Joint Meeting with the Housing & Human Services Commission. An action list has been compiled and staff will be breaking it down by resources and time.
A.  Approval of Minutes
      1. January 12, 2021 Regular Meeting.
Commissioners Pearce/Dawkins m/s to approve the minutes. Voice Vote: all AYES. Commissioner Verner abstained. Motion passed 6-0.
IV.          PUBLIC FORUM – None
A.  Approval of Findings for PA-T2-2020-00023, 196 & 200 Clear Creek Drive.
Ex Parte Contact
No ex parte contact was reported. 
Commissioners KenCairn/Thompson m/s to approve the Findings for PA-T2-2020-00023. Voice Vote: all AYES. Commissioner Verner abstained. Motion passed 6-0.
A.  PLANNING ACTION:  PA-T2-2020-00025
SUBJECT PROPERTY: Tax Lot #600 on the newly constructed Independent Way
APPLICANT/OWNER: Rogue Planning & Development Services/IPCO Development Corporation.
DESCRIPTION:  A request for Site Design Review approval for the construction of two new commercial/industrial buildings on Tax Lot #600 adjacent to Independent Way, the newly installed public street between Washington Street and Tolman Creek Road.  Both buildings would be part of the IPCO Development Corporation service building complex, and would share driveway accesses, parking areas and landscaped areas.    The first building is proposed to be 10,919 square feet and would be constructed adjacent to Independent Way.  The second proposed building would be 17,859 square feet and would be near the south property line.  The application includes a request for an Exception to the Site Development and Design Standards (AMC which call for a ten-foot wide landscape buffer between the building and the street.  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN DESIGNATION:  Employment; ZONING: E-1; ASSESSOR’S MAP #: 391E14BA; TAX LOT: 600.

Chair Norton read aloud the rules for electronic public hearings.
Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Verner, Pearce, Dawkins, and Norton conducted site visits. Norton stated that during his visit he observed the landscaping buffers at the other buildings along Washington and Jefferson. No ex parte contact was reported. 
Staff Report
Senior Planner Derek Severson presented the staff report and explained the request is for site design review to construct two new commercial/industrial buildings along the newly constructed Independent Way for IPCO Development. Staff’s presentation outlined the details of the request:
  • Both buildings will be part of the IPCO Development Corporation service building complex and will share driveway accesses, parking areas, and landscaped areas.
  • Building 6 is proposed at 10,919 sq.ft. adjacent to Independent Way; Building 5 is proposed at 17,859 sq.ft. and will be located behind Building 6 near the south property line.
  • The application includes a request for an exception to the Site Development and Design Standards which call for a 10 ft. wide landscape buffer between the building and the street.
Mr. Severson reviewed the site layout, elevations, grading plan, landscaping plan, and tree protection plan. He also spoke to the purchase agreement, letter of intent, and deed of dedication. Mr. Severson explained the land use code requires that landscape buffers be at least 10 ft. in width. The applicants are requesting to have the 7 ft. parkrow credited towards this requirement and will install a 3 ft. buffer area. The application asserts that:
1)  Crediting the parkrow toward the landscaping was a stipulation of the purchase agreement letter of intent.
2)  Not providing the buffer accommodates a more direct sidewalk connection entry.
3)  More landscaping may encourage loitering.
4)  The property has abundant landscaping with the riparian corridor and parking lot landscaping.
5)  The exception will not harm livability as the property is outside the residential overlay.
6)  The building will make a positive contribution to the streetscape.
7)  The exception allows site planning to accommodate parking and circulation for large trucks, accommodates future intensification of use, and provides for a single floor-level design while addressing grade changes behind the sidewalk and seeking consistent site grades for E-1 uses.
Mr. Severson stated staff does not believe the application has successfully demonstrated that the 10 ft. buffer can be eliminated.  He explained the purchase agreement and letter of intent recognized that the proposal would be subject to planning approval and that the city “may be required to make land use and or building code decisions affecting development of the subject right-of-way and related property according to local and state laws” and that “the Parties therefore acknowledge that the Buyer cannot and does not promise or guarantee any particular planning or building code decision or result as part of or as a condition of achieving the purposes of this letter of intent.” Mr. Severson stated neither the site grades or intended use demonstrate that the full buffer width cannot be accommodated across the two acre site, and there is not a clear demonstration that the exception would be consistent with the stated purpose to “enhance the environment to encourage alternative modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, and transit” and to “require high quality development that makes a positive contribution to the streetscape and maintains a sense of place that is distinctly Ashland.”
Mr. Severson stated staff is supportive of the proposal minus the exception request.
Questions of Staff
  • Is the applicant proposing to place the building right at the back of the sidewalk?
Staff clarified the applicants are proposing a 3 ft. landscape buffer which would be located on the private property. It was noted that the applicants believed that the parkrow would be credited towards their buffer requirement.
Applicant’s Presentation
Amy Gunter, Rogue Planning & Development Services/Stated the subject property is zoned employment and is surrounded by commercial and industrial zoned property. Ms. Gunter explained the installation of Independent Way was not done at the request of the property owners and was sought by the City of Ashland. The City held negotiations with the property owner to purchase the land and install the road and it was their understanding that the building area was intended to be right behind the sidewalk. Ms. Gunter shared photos depicting the grade change behind the sidewalk.
Ms. Gunter explained the IPCO service buildings are interconnected and stated the site accommodates heavy vehicular traffic through the property. She shared the building elevations and reviewed the proposed building design. Ms. Gunter stated the property owners reject the Planning Division’s assessment of the 2012 negotiations and stated the owners wanted a narrow driveway rather than a public street through the property. She stated they understand the benefit of having a roadway installed and are grateful for the improvements but have concerns about the landscape buffer and it was their understanding that this was incorporated into the right of way improvements. She stated the proposed 3 ft. buffer results in a 10 ft. landscape area and greatly softens the building. Ms. Gunter noted the importance of functional buildings in this employment zone and explained the building was pushed forward in order for the site to be functional for large trucks. She noted there is no parking permitted along the building frontage and stated the 3 ft. buffer adequately addresses the pedestrian environment requirement. Ms. Gunter requested the Commission apply the discretion permitted under the land use code and consider the negotiation agreements reached between the property owners and the former Public Works director.   
Russ Batzer/Batzer Construction/Explained they have followed the guidelines of their customer who believed they had negotiated in good faith with the City and had reached an agreement. Mr. Batzer stated they have designed the site for the highest and best use of the property and stated altering the proposal to incorporate a wider landscape buffer would reduce the value of the development significantly. He stated the proposed warehouses are much needed in the city and the property owners are providing the financial backing. He added it is painful they are in this situation when they negotiated in good faith with the city but nobody who made the deal on the city’s behalf is still there.
Gary Caperna/Project Architect/Stated this area does not connect to any residential areas and with careful plant selections they believe the proposed 3 ft. strip will result in a very pleasant pedestrian experience.
Questions of the Applicant
Comment was made that it is difficult to see a basis for granting the exception but acknowledged the applicants concerns about the cost to the project. The applicants were asked if it is possible to shift the parking area back. Ms. Gunter and Mr. Caperna explained that the parking area has already been constricted as much as possible. They may be able to get another 18 inches but anymore than that and they will lose an entire row of parking and they would no longer meet the parking requirements and needed drive aisle width. They also noted conflicts with loading bays and truck maneuvering.
The applicants were asked whether it is possible to shift Building 5 to the south to meet the landscape buffer requirement. Ms. Gunter explained that Building 5 is already nearly abutting the property line; and Mr. Caperna stated there are utility easements and a substantial amount of underground power that the city recently installed. He stated there is also a property line that runs between the two buildings and stated they have pushed it as tight as they possibly can.
Comment was made that the proposed findings indicate 29 parking spaces are needed, but the applicants are proposing 40 to service the building on the adjacent property. The applicants were asked why they are proposing more spaces than the code requires. Ms. Gunter cited the recent Clear Creek proposal where the Commission expressed concern with not providing enough parking, so they have proposed more than the requirement. She added the extra parking is needed to keep the existing IPCO buildings functional. Mr. Caperna added that this area is becoming more desirable and they did not want to under-park the future tenants. Mr. Batzer added that the existing buildings are already under-parked and reducing the parking to be right at the minimum standards would stress these new buildings.
Ms. Gunter clarified that the site plan includes the existing parking and they are being counted because they are on this property. Comment was made questioning if the applicants have an easement for the parking as this could create issues in the future. Ms. Gunter stated the property owner owns both lots and they cannot grant themselves an easement. Mr. Severson concurred and stated the land use code allows this to be treated as a single property for the purpose of land use decisions.
Mr. Caperna stated the tenants and uses for the proposed building have not yet been determined. He stated they have used conservative and reasonable numbers to determine what the needed parking will be.
Public Testimony – None
Chair Norton closed the public hearing and the record at 8:12 p.m.
Mr. Molnar noted that the applicants just submitted a request for the record to remain open.
Commissioners Harper/Pearce m/s to reopen the public hearing. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
Ms. Gunter addressed the Commission and formally requested that the record be left open.
Chair Norton closed the public hearing at 8:26 p.m. and announced the record will be left open until February 16, 2021.
Deliberation and Decision
Deliberations and Decision will be held at the February 23, 2021 Planning Commission meeting.
The commissioners shared their initial comments regarding the proposal. Comment was made that it is unfortunate the property owner did not understand they would be subject to current land use requirements, but it is difficult to find that the exception is merited. Support was voiced for this assessment however it was clarified that the Commission will withhold judgement pending review of new materials submitted into the record. 
Meeting adjourned at 8:35 p.m.
Submitted by,
April Lucas, Development Services Coordinator

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