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Planning Commission Study Session Minutes
Monday, February 24, 2014
The study session of the Medford Planning Commission was called to order at 12:00 p.m. in Room 151 of the Lausmann Annex on the above date with the following members and staff in attendance:
Commissioners: Michael Zarosinski, Robert Tull, Norman Fincher, Bill Christie, Alec Schwimmer, Patrick Miranda, David McFadden, Paul Shoemaker and Bill Mansfield.
Staff: Jim Huber, Bianca Petrou, Suzanne Myers, Kelly Akin, Kathy Helmer, Praline McCormack, Joe Slaughter and Lori Cooper.
Guest: Cathy de Wolfe, Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, Chair.
Subjects: 1. DCA-13-129 Historic Review Code Amendment.
2. DCA-14-011 Political Campaign Signs Code Amendment.
3. Schools in Commercial Zones Code Amendment.
4. Temporary/Portable Storage Containers Code Amendment.
Jim Huber, Planning Director, stated that there are four text amendments on today’s agenda but if time does not allow getting through all of them, staff can reschedule them for the March 10, 2014, Planning Commission study session.
Suzanne Myers, Principal Planner, reported that Kathy Helmer, Planner IV, has worked on the Historic Review Code Amendment. Also, Ms. Helmer is retiring beginning March 1, 2014. The Historic Review Code Amendment has been turned over to Praline McCormack, Planner II. Ms. Cathy de Wolfe, Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, Chair is present today.
1. DCA-13-129 Historic Review Code Amendment.
Praline McCormack, Planner II, reported that the amendment proposes to make specific site alterations in Historic Overlay Districts subject to Minor Historic Review allowing over the counter review and a $25 fee rather than the Standard Historic Review with a public hearing and a fee of $430. These specific alterations include: changes in roofing materials and exterior paint colors, changes in awning fabrics, and change of sign face/copy. The Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission feel these items do not have permanent land use impacts. In staff’s experience, some minor improvements do not occur because the $430 review fee can be prohibitive. From the perspective of the Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, new paint colors and new awning fabrics do not merit the time, effort and fee required for public notice and a public hearing.
Ms. Myers stated that staff had George Kramer, Historic Preservationist prepare a document that allowed the staff level review of changes in paint colors for residential. Approximately in 2009 that ordinance was approved by City Council. This amendment allows businesses as well as residential to use the paint pallet as well for awning fabrics. This amendment is expanding what is already in place.
Commissioner McFadden asked does this amendment affect the paint job on East Main with the multi-color front? Ms. Myers reported that is outside the Historic District.
2. DCA-14-011 Political Campaign Signs Code Amendment.
Ms. McCormack reported that currently, when someone wants to put up a political sign they have to submit a Temporary Sign Permit Application form along with a site plan. There is no fee for these temporary signs. Staff reviews the application to make sure it is not a duplicate application, that it complies with the temporary sign standards, and to make sure the sign is outside of the sign distance triangle.
Commissioner McFadden asked if these signs were limited to a certain size or for all political signs? Ms. McCormack stated that the zoning gives the size for a temporary sign that is usually approximately 32 square feet in commercial and industrial areas. She believes it is only 6 square feet for residential areas.
Ms. McCormack stated that staff proposes to make these types of signs exempt and to provide clear and objective standards for the placement of such signs. They have to be out of the clear view triangle, they cannot be on City property, they have to be placed behind the public sidewalk and not extend into the sidewalk and they can only be put up eight weeks before the election and be removed seven days after the election. Residential zoning districts can have a maximum of two signs without a permit. Each sign cannot exceed three square feet and a maximum height of three feet. In commercial and industrial zoning districts a maximum of one temporary political campaign sign per street frontage per business is permitted. No sign permit is required. There will be no more than four signs per street frontage. Each such sign cannot exceed 32 square feet and maximum height of six feet.
Commissioner Christie asked who is going to police this? Ms. McCormack replied that it is the responsibility of Code Enforcement if there are complaints. Code Enforcement would have standards to refer to. If a Temporary Political Campaign Sign does not comply with the provisions of the Code, the candidate shall remove and City employees are authorized to remove and dispose of any such sign.
Ms. McCormack inquired of the Commission if the proposal creates a problem with residential in particular. Several of the Commissioners replied that it certainly does.
Commissioner Fincher replied that it is actually both residential and commercial.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that any limitation is an unreasonable infringement on free speech. He can advocate for as many political candidates as he wishes. It is none of the City’s business as to the limit of signs he can put out on his lawn. He does not have a problem with the time. Eight weeks is fine.
Ms. McCormack asked if Commissioner Mansfield would like to see 12 to 15 political campaign signs in front of a business? Commissioner Mansfield stated that he does not like seeing them at all but is part of a free system.
Commissioner Miranda stated that as long as they do not block or impede foot traffic and as long as they are not cumbersome to the environment the City should not regulate. He is fine with governing the size but not quantity or anything like that.
Mr. Huber stated that these regulations are already on the books.
Kelly Akin, Principal Planner, reported that political campaign season is a real challenge for the Planning Department. Currently, there are certain signs that are exempted from permits. They include signs less than three square feet in commercial and industrial zones. They are not to exceed four per business frontage. Signs not exceeding six square feet in area and an overall height of six feet in the single family and multi-family zones and not to exceed two per parcel. Temporary signs are not permitted in every zone district. CS-P does not allow temporary signage. Signs in commercial and industrial zones are limited to 32 square feet. Staff does issue temporary sign permits. They do have certain candidates every year that are out policing for the City. So staff spends a lot of time with them and a lot of time with Code Enforcement. Staff also invests a lot of time to make sure they do not issue more than a single permit for a site or frontage. Staff is asking to get out of the permitting business for campaign signs because it uses a huge amount of staff time. There is no money attached to it.
Mr. Huber asked if there were any new regulations? Ms. McCormack stated that just changing the size of the residential from 6 square feet in area to 3 square feet in area and the height from six feet to 3 feet.
Commissioner Fincher asked how did this came about? Is it something that has been on the books for a long time? Ms. Akin replied that content is a real trick for signage. It came up because of the permitting process that does not have much value to the City. It is very labor intensive with very little return. Most of the candidates are good about removing their signs.
Commissioner McFadden commented that is a case for informing the people. Otherwise, they claim ignorance of the law.
Lori Cooper, Deputy City Attorney, stated that if everything was regulated equally, not political signs but temporary signs, and there is a rational basis for limiting the number of signs, aesthetics is a basis cities can regulate on.
Commissioner Mansfield replied his position is that it is indefensible legally and it is also poor policy.
Ms. Cooper stated that the number should be eliminated out of the residential zone requirements. It may be a little difficult to defend that limit and given that it is temporary it is really not a big deal.
Chair Zarosinski reported that what he is hearing is to clean up the code to match what is already going on, eliminating the permitting process and eliminating the sign limit in residential. The Commissioners concurred.
Ms. Myers stated that Joe Slaughter, Planner II, has the next two code amendments. The first one pertains to allowing schools in commercial zones
3. Schools in Commercial Zones Code Amendment.
Joe Slaughter, Planner II, reported that the schools in commercial zones came from a request from a charter school to locate on a commercially zoned piece of property. The dynamics of this particular school could possibly already be permitted in commercial zones but that may open them up to some risk in purchasing property. Staff took a look at the possibility of permitting, with a conditional use permit, charter schools on commercial zoned properties or in commercial districts. Staff took it a step further and looked at the possibility of any kind of schools to be located in commercial zoning districts with a conditional use permit which would be in line with what is already permitted in residential zoning districts with a conditional use permit.
Commissioner Schwimmer asked that right now that use is not permitted? Mr. Slaughter replied it is not. There is no ability to have a primary or secondary schools on commercially zoned properties.
Commissioner Miranda asked if there was some logic behind that restriction originally? Ms. Akin stated that traditionally schools are walking schools where they do not bus. Typically, one would see an elementary school in a neighborhood where children could walk. The school systems are changing. It may not be as viable or important as it used to be that they are sited in those types of areas.
Commissioner Schwimmer asked if there was any down side? Commissioner Christie stated the noise factor and the atmosphere. One could have anything in there. Putting a school in with it, who is going to restrict the noise factor coming out of a manufacturing plant or a trucking company? With a manufacturing plant or trucking company there and then a school comes in, immediately there is a noise factor and would want them shut down.
Commissioner Mansfield commented that when you move to a nuisance you have no complaint. Commissioner Christie replied that you should not.
Ms. McCormack stated that another consideration is that certain businesses or clinics may not be located within a certain distance of schools.
Ms. Akin commented that if the property itself is owned by a nonprofit they are removed from the tax roll.
Mr. Slaughter stated that to clarify, staff is looking to open up the commercial properties not the industrial properties.
Chair Zarosinski stated that he has a concern with certain commercial uses that are clearly incompatible and once the conditional use permit is permitted then that limits someone else and their ability to do business in a commercial area. Does that make schools incompatible?
Mr. Huber asked Mr. Slaughter to explain the Not Elsewhere Classified (NEC) in the SIC Code. There is a cluster of schools that are already permitted in commercial zones under the NEC subcategory.
Mr. Slaughter reported that NEC is not the primary or secondary schools. It would be beauty schools, trade schools, etc. They can target the same age group as high school but by their nature, the kinds of classes and education they provide they are not elsewhere classified. Those types are permitted on commercial property. The school staff is looking at is primarily an online distance charter school. The building would be used as the administrative offices for the school but they would also have orientations, teacher education and meetings with students and families. There would be some traditional schooling that would occur but that would be the smaller part of it. There might be some ability to already permit this particular use in the zone but again that could end up just like the LUBA appeal that happened with the methadone clinic. It could be challenged because there is no actual process for staff to say this is the approval. They could buy the building, move in then be challenged later on whether or not they could be there. It opens them up to some risk obviously.
Commissioner Miranda stated that he is not a big fan of blanket exclusions or blanket exceptions. If you make them too general or too broad, then you limit them. He is opposed to keeping anything in place that actually says no straight up. It should be reviewed and looked at and consideration should be given. From what he is hearing that is not even a possibility.
Commissioner Shoemaker mentioned Hedrick Middle School on East Jackson. It transitions from commercial right into residential. He believes there is a grocery store that shares a fence with the field at Hedrick.
Commissioner McFadden commented that the store is across the street and the school was there first.
Chair Zarosinski asked if any of the Commissioners had an objection of this coming forward to the Planning Commission? Several Commissioners commented no.
Commissioner McFadden stated that he is concerned about planning for future residential and commercial land. Does the inclusion of multi acreage properties change any of the planning issues? He does not think so and does not see a downside on this code amendment.
Ms. Myers commented that in a sense Commissioner McFadden is right that in the buildable lands and the land allocated for housing does accommodate the public uses and one of them is public schools. She does not think all future public schools are likely to end up in commercial zones.
4. Temporary/Portable Storage Containers Code Amendment.
Joe Slaughter, Planner II, reported that he does not think that the Commissioners received the second version of the possible code amendment that was meant to be sent out. The Commission received the smaller scale version and not the larger scale version. Mr. Slaughter distributed the larger scale version. Mr. Slaughter reported that the use of portable storage containers in commercial zones has been a reoccurring issue for the past several years, appearing each year around the holiday season. These have been dealt with in the past as a temporary use. It has been determined that they were not a permitted temporary use because they are not listed in the temporary use section of the Code. There are several options. The definition of portable storage containers is a portable, weather-resistant receptacle designed and used for the storage or shipment of household goods, wares, building materials or merchandise. “Portable Storage Containers” shall include all shipping containers, cargo containers, tractor trailers (with or without wheels), and other like items not intended to be placed on a permanent foundation. Staff developed the following options for how to permit the use of portable storage containers:
• Option 1: Leave the current Code language, allowing these storage containers to be placed only as a permanent or reoccurring use subject to Site Plan and Architectural Commission approval.
• Option 2: Allow portable storage containers in C-R, C-H, I-L, I-G and I-H zones while limiting the duration, number and location of the containers. Allow a relatively small number of containers (e.g., 5) for a relatively short period of time (e.g., 90 days) without requiring the containers to be screened.
• Option 3: Allow portable storage containers in C-R, C-H, I-L, I-G and I-H zones while limiting the duration, number and location of the containers. Allow a larger number of containers (e.g., 20) for a larger period of time (e.g., 120 days) but require the containers to be screened.
Staff recommends a code amendment to Section 10.840 to allow for the placement of a small number of portable storage containers, for a limited duration, in C-R, C-H, I-L, I-G, and I-H zones with a new Temporary Portable Storage Permit. Staff also recommends that the use of portable storage containers for large scale storage, whether it occurs as a permanent, or reoccurring use should be reviewed like other non-temporary uses, i.e., using Section 10.337 (Uses Permitted in Commercial and Industrial Zoning Districts) and following the procedures in place for such reviews.
Commissioner McFadden asked what was the agreement made between Wal-Mart and the City regarding truck trailers and/or storage containers? Mr. Huber replied that the agreement was to pursue a permanent solution. Last season from September through January there was no agreement. Staff informed Wal-Mart that these containers were not permitted and without fixing the Code. The agreement was to pursue a text amendment.
Chair Zarosinski stated that every big box retailer has receiving docks that trucks are coming in and out of. This is nothing brand new. What is lacking in the Code or what is it that these people are unable to do currently that we have seemed to manage with in the past? Mr. Slaughter replied the trailers that are turning over periodically are being dropped off, unloaded and picked up later is not the issue. The issue comes from trailers that are left on site for an extended period of time. A good example is that Wal-Mart wants to have 20 shipping containers stored up to four months that they use for their layaway program.
Commissioner Miranda stated that this is storage that they are using on property that they own, lease or manage and the City is regulating what they can do on their property. Is this from a visual aesthetics perspective? The City does not want to see a bunch of ugly sea trains there? Or is it for some type of other business driven reason?
Chair Zarosinski reported that he sees it as aesthetics.
Commissioner McFadden commented that it appears to be mitigation of aesthetics according to the memorandum.
Chair Zarosinski replied that there is mitigation of aesthetics. At a point in time if they want to put a storage facility on there then it should go through the Site Plan and Architectural Commission to make sure it looks right. He is concerned about turning commercial areas into mini freight distribution centers.
Commissioner Miranda asked if it is in the function of that businesses scope to do that. Mr. Huber responded then when the building was being built why not provide for that on site and make it subject to all the other architectural standards.
Commissioner Schwimmer asked if the City was going to give Wal-Mart what they need, which is the trailers during the holiday season? If the City does that are they going to require some kind of screening and figure out a way to screen 20 trailers that are ugly and a blight on the community. That is what this is about.
Ms. Myers reported that staff looked at something that could be comparable, which are allowed in some commercial zones, something like a mini storage facility that also has outdoor storage for recreational vehicles. That goes through the Site Plan and Architectural Commission. The Site Plan and Architectural Commission looks at the outdoor storage area and then finds the applicable way to deal with it, whether it be screened within walls or whatever. It would be the same that we would be looking at here. If it was part of their operation it would go through the Site Plan and Architectural Commission in a similar manner.
Chair Zarosinski asked is there anything in the Code that people can start dropping containers on commercial property today during operation? Ms. Akin replied that the temporary section is interesting because if it does not say you can then you cannot.
Commissioner Christie commented that he does not agree with the screening. If the containers are going to be there for 90 days, they get in they get out. Start screening them they become a permanent structure.
Ms. Myers asked if 5 was too many or the 90 days too long. Chair Zarosinski stated that the 90 days is too much and the 5 containers are too many.
Commissioner Christie stated that if the criteria presented is used you definitely have a permanent structure around the containers. This is making it difficult so one cannot bring in containers economically. If you do not want containers then just say no containers.
Mr. Huber reported that part of the issue the City struggles with is that the containers are not permanent but they are permanently reoccurring.
Vice Chair Tull asked if there was a difference between the freight management, delivery and shipping that goes on day by day and is essential to the operation over against storage; having three trailers on site because that is where all of the holiday season display material gets put out of the way when it is not needed and so on. Do we handle this through a permitting process that differentiates between delivery services and storage and it costs money to have trailers on site that are basically storage units?
Mr. Huber stated that is Option 2 has five or fewer for 90 days is permitted. Another option is 20 containers for four months and they go through the Site Plan and Architectural Commission.
Chair Zarosinski reported that to be responsive to the request is to take another look at the numbers and duration and time. He does not have a problem with a couple of weeks and being screened properly.
Mr. Slaughter stated that it sounds like the Commission is comfortable with the larger number and duration being treated like a permanent structure and using the existing Code and the processes in place to review those. No one is pushing for a temporary use that allows for 20 containers for 120 days. Chair Zarosinski stated that is correct.
Bianca Petrou, Assistant Planning Director, stated that the Commission has had two public hearings on the Internal Study Areas. March 13, 2014, the Planning Commission will have staff’s recommendation based on those hearings. On March 10, 2014 the Planning Commission has a study session. Since the Commission will have their agenda packet for the March 13, 2014, Planning Commission meeting and staff’s recommendation will be included in that packet, would it be helpful to have that study session available to discuss staff’s recommendation. The Commissioners unanimously agreed.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that he hopes staff is not trying to smooth things over. That is not the function of the Planning Department. Ms. Petrou replied no. Staff is trying to accommodate the need for high density for the next twenty years. Staff proposed a lot more than needed. Commissioner Mansfield commented that he thinks staff has another goal. It is the reverse of social engineering as one of the testifiers testified. There is more involved. There are social economic issues involved over and above just getting more density. He agrees with the fact that it is a necessity. Ms. Petrou replied that it has to be spread around the City.
Vice Chair Tull stated that they could come to the end of this hearing process and consideration of what staff reports and then as a Planning Commission say never mind, we are not ready as a City to tackle this. Ms. Petrou replied that the City Council wants to see the urban growth boundary expansion and this process needs to be done first.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.
Terri L. Rozzana, Recording Secretary