Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Electronic Planning Commission Study Session

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

November 23, 2021

I.              CALL TO ORDER:
Chair Haywood Norton called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.


Commissioners Present:                   Staff Present:
Michael Dawkins                                             Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Haywood Norton                                             Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Roger Pearce                                                  Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Lisa Verner                                                      Derek Severson, Senior Planner
Kerry KenCairn                                                April Lucas, Development Services Coordinator
                                                                        Michael Sullivan, Administrative Assistant

Absent Members:                           Council Liaison:
Lynn Thompson                                              Paula Hyatt

Community Development Director Bill Molnar made the following announcements:

  • At the January 7, 2021 City Council meeting a public hearing will be held to discuss the Annexation Code Amendments and the Planning Commission Annual Update will be provided to the Council.
  • The agenda for the December 14, 2021 Planning Commission meeting includes: adoption of the AT&T findings; a request to vacate a section of street right-of-way on Otis St.; a public hearing for 233 Granite; and a public hearing on legislative amendments to increase housing in E-1 and C-1 zoned land.
  • A pre-application conference with the potential buyers of the Croman Mill site was held to discuss potential modifications to the Croman Mill Area Plan. A second conference is anticipated. Any changes to the Area Plan would require a legislative amendment with a recommendation for approval by the Planning Commission and the final decision made by the City Council.


      A.   Code Amendments for Housing in Employment Zones.

Planning Manager Maria Harris provided a recap of the last meeting. She shared that the Commission discussed maximum Floor Area Ratios (FARs) and how that impacted sites that might do underground parking, as well as potentially allowing new buildings to be 100% residential on the ground floor within C-1 and E-1 zones except in the Downtown Designs Standard Overlay. Ms. Harris outlined that after further examination of Statewide Planning Goal 9, which requires cities to provide an adequate land supply for economic and employment growth, as well as consulting with the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), it was concluded that allowing 100% residential on the ground floor constituted a significant change and could not be made without first making updates to the city’s Economic Opportunity Analysis (EOA). As a result, staff has put forward three options for the Commission’s consideration: 1) move forward with the current draft ordinance which allows for 65% residential housing on the ground (an increase from the current 35% maximum), 2) consider 100% residential on the ground floor and update the EOA as part of the upcoming Housing Production Strategy, or 3) consider recommending both approaches by making moderate changes now and looking at the more substantial changes in the future. Ms. Harris provided a brief presentation outlining the language currently included in draft ordinance (see Attachment #1).

Commissioner Verner asked whether it would be feasible to reduce the amount of E-1 and C-1 zoned land and rezone it to Residential, but Ms. Harris stated this would still constitute a significant change and thus require an update to the EOA. Chair Norton expressed his opinion that such a change would go beyond the direction given to the Commission by the City Council and should instead be considered as part of the Housing Production Strategy. Commissioner Pearce concurred and expressed concern that if 100% Residential was allowed in E-1 and C-1 zones they may never revert to commercial use.

Senior Planner Brandon Goldman provided a presentation addressing alternative Floor Area Ratios for multi-story buildings, including illustrations on what that might look like. He also provided the FARs of existing businesses within Ashland as examples (see Attachment #2). In order to preserve opportunities for underground parking and encourage full development of properties, Mr. Goldman explained the Commission could consider increasing the maximum FAR from what was presented in the draft ordinance, or alternatively eliminate the maximum FAR in recognition that the other existing standards effectively restrict the maximum size of buildings. 

Ms. Harris concluded staff’s presentation and stated staff has tentatively scheduled the public hearing for December 14, 2021 should the Commission indicate they want to move forward with the current version of the draft ordinance.

Commissioner KenCairn inquired if removing the FAR from buildings that provide underground parking was viable, to which Mr. Goldman replied that true underground parking would not be included in the buildings FAR calculation.

Commissioner Pearce pointed out that because of the high cost of underground parking that Ashland would be unlikely to see any such development for quite some time, and that one solution could be to remove the limitation on the number of dwellings allowed within a building as well as the maximum FAR. He also mentioned that other cities he has reviewed have exemptions from FAR requirements, such as for mechanical equipment and bicycle parking.

Upon a request for clarification from Chair Norton, Ms. Harris explained the Commission could consider eliminating the maximum FAR that was presented in the draft code because the existing height restrictions and lot coverage limitations dictate the size of building that can be achieved in the C-1 and E-1 zones. Commissioner Pearce and Commissioner Verner both agreed that removing the maximum FAR and leaving the potential for future underground parking was the best course of action.

Public Testimony:
Amy Gunter/Rogue Planning & Development/Ms. Gunter stated now is the time to make changes to the housing and employment zones that will have a meaningful, substantive impact on the present restrictions, and shared her suggested modifications. (See Attachment #3).


Chair Norton thanked Ms. Gunter for her testimony and voiced his support for these changes to be considered as part of the Housing Production Strategy. Commissioner Pearce agreed with Ms. Gunter that significant changes should be considered to the city’s parking restrictions to free up more area for development. He added her recommendations are very relevant and should be considered as part of the Housing Production Strategy.

Commissioner Verner questioned whether new buildings that were allowed to be 65% residential on the ground floor would be built to a commercial standard for potential commercial use in the future. Ms. Harris responded that this is not currently included in the draft ordinance and while the Commission could consider a requirement for the ground floor to be built commercial ready; such a requirement would be more restrictive than what is currently required and may go beyond the original scope of this project. Commissioner Norton voiced support for allowing the property owner to decide whether to make it commercial ready and to not include this as a requirement. Commissioner KenCairn concurred and stated she does not support doing anything that makes it more restrictive.

Mr. Goldman provided additional information on the upcoming Housing Production Strategy. He explained it is a one-year process and at the conclusion they will have a document that is ready for public hearings. The Planning Commission and the City Council will both hold hearings for adoption. During the course of that year, an ad hoc advisory group will be convened and staff will come back to the Commission for a couple volunteers. He added a public outreach plan will also be developed and is likely to include open houses and virtual opportunities for public participation.

Meeting adjourned at 8:07 p.m.


Submitted by,
Michael Sullivan, Administrative Assistant


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