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Planning Commission Study Session Minutes
Monday, June 09, 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, Paul Shoemaker, David McFadden, Bill Christie, Robert Tull, Patrick Miranda, Bill Mansfield, Norman Fincher and Alec Schwimmer.
Staff: Jim Huber, Bianca Petrou, Kelly Akin, John Adam, Joe Slaughter and Lori Cooper.
Subjects: 1. DCA-14-028 Temporary/Portable Storage Containers Code Amendment.
2. Update on Urban Growth Boundary Amendment Process.
1. DCA-14-028 Temporary/Portable Storage Containers Code Amendment.
Jim Huber, Planning Director, stated that Joe Slaughter, Planner II, will discuss the Temporary/Portable Storage Containers Code Amendment.
Joe Slaughter, Planner II, stated that at the last study session the Planning Commission requested that staff present several versions of the proposed Code amendment for further consideration. The Commission wanted to see the following modifications: 1) remove the requirement for screening; 2) add appearance and condition requirements; and 3) limit the Temporary Portable Storage Container Permit to trailers only.
The proposed Code amendment for Portable Storage Containers would still have the setback requirements; whenever possible, portable storage containers should be screened from view form public rights-of-way and neighboring properties by placing the containers out of view behind existing structures and/or by placing the containers out of view behind existing landscaping; must be in good repair with little or no visible graffiti; and effort should be made to acquire portable storage containers of similar color to existing structure on the property and of similar color to each other.
Significant changes would have to be made to the Code in order to relate to trailers only.
Commissioner Miranda asked if trailers meant sea train containers? Mr. Slaughter replied no. The Commission discussed at their last to eliminate containers that are placed on the ground. The discussion is regarding tractor trailers.
Commissioner Fincher suggested instead of the wording …with little or no visible graffiti put …no visible graffiti. Commissioner Christie stated that by City Code graffiti is required to be covered.
Chair Zarosinski asked if there were more comments regarding tractor trailer only? He does not see a compelling reason to limit to only tractor trailers.
Commissioner Miranda stated that he would endorse sea trains because they are generally portable and mobile. They are more widely used and more available rather than a registered tractor trailer. Chair Zarosinski replied that the feedback that the Commission received from the industry was contrary to Commissioner Miranda’s statement.
Commissioner Christie reported that the problem one has with a sea train is that the retailer has no control of the color. With a tractor trailer they are normally from a company and have no graffiti.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that with no criticism intended to staff that the language in Exhibit A of “whenever possible an effort should be made” is totally unenforceable from a legal standpoint.
Chair Zarosinski reported that he wanted feedback on whether to just go with tractor trailer only or leave it as portable containers.
Commissioner Fincher replied that he preferred to have them both in the Code. Otherwise, later on the Commission would have to do this all over again.
Commissioner Shoemaker asked if there was any indication that tractor trailers are more for retail and freight and sea trains more for construction and remodel? Would a sea train parked on a lot be more in line with a remodel or construction project? Is that more acceptable? Is the Commission trying to make retail and commercial establishments look more pleasant so the focus would be more on tractor trailers? Chair Zarosinski replied not for him.
Commissioner Christie stated that sea trains for construction is a different subject. It has nothing to do with the proposed Code amendment. It is handled in another place.
Vice Chair Tull stated that he is concerned that the Commission not compromise the timeline that they agreed to. The containers cannot be there past 90 days. Mr. Huber replied that there is a 30 day extension making it 120 days. Vice Chair Tull stated that applies whether it is a trailer or container and that is important that the containers not be set on the ground and becoming a permanent fixture for the business. The other concern he has is that it ought to be made clear that one cannot place these containers on parking spaces that are required by Code to have. Chair Zarosinski replied that is in the proposed Code amendment.
Commissioner McFadden asked if the City was going to track individual units so that they do not stay more than the 120 days? Commissioner Christie commented that would be from the initial permit period. A retailer only gets one permit per year.
Chair Zarosinski asked if the consensus of the Commission was to go with Exhibit A which is tractor trailers and sea trains?
Commissioner Christie stated that sea train containers are extremely difficult to move and it takes a long period of time to get them picked up. Two to three trailers are picked up a day and hauled out. He says no to sea trains.
Commissioner McFadden asked if trailers are more likely to have names of advertising on the side of them? Commissioner Christie responded that there is no advertising but they do have the name of the company that leases or rents the trailer.
Chair Zarosinski asked if there was a tie-back to signage. Mr. Slaughter replied that the last time that concern was raised screening was in place. Kelly Akin, Principal Planner replied that it was addressed in the sign code. A vehicle not used as a static display cannot be there for more than two days in any location. It has to be unpainted. Mr. Huber asked that even the logo since we are content neutral that would be considered a sign? Ms. Akin replied that is correct.
Chair Zarosinski asked if it would be incorrect to state logos and advertising are subject to the sign code provisions? Lori Cooper, Deputy City Attorney, replied that anything on trailers would be subject to the sign code.
Vice Chair Tull stated that he does not think it is unusual for a large retail company to have two or three loading bays and only use two of them and the third one becomes a storage place. If there is a timeline on how long a trailer should be there does there need to be consideration for extra and unused loading bays as a place to put storage units? Commissioner Christie replied that he does not recall anybody other than the freight transfer company that would have that many loading bays that they park trailers in. His guess that the most anybody is going to have is three or four. They are expensive and they take up a lot of space that is retail space.
Commissioner Schwimmer stated that Wal-Mart has six. Their trucks are being accessed for their lay away program and sales associates are going out and retrieving the merchandise. Wal-Mart does not want sales associates out in the receiving bays so they want separate areas.
Vice Chair Tull reported that he recalls the Commission having concerns several years ago about retail outlets using the leftover loading docks as a storage space for pallets and could it become a storage place for containers and trailers. If that is less likely then he withdraws his concern.
John Adam, Senior Planner, asked Vice Chair Tull if his concern was based on appearance or not? Vice Chair Tull replied that is probably as less visible than if they are parked out on the property somewhere. But if our concern is that they are using trailers or containers on a periodic basis does that include loading docks that are now being used for storage contemporary or otherwise?
Vice Chair Tull stated that there were specific agreements that came out of Site Plan and Architectural review for the south Wal-Mart and they went away entirely through the influence of the City Manager’s office. Wal-Mart ended up doing exactly what Site Plan and Architectural Commission said they should not do in terms of having trailers on-site in large numbers and no timeline. That sort of specification was written into the site plan approval.
Chair Zarosinski reported that the Commission discussed trailers and sea trains, language to tie this back to the sign code, general subjective appearance criteria something more specific. Chair Zarosinski asked if any Commissioners would like to elaborate on that?
Commissioner Mansfield stated that he did not have any improvements but when dealing with attractiveness that is a subjective subject and that is not one that law has any business being involved in. Courts do not deal with attractiveness. That is a matter of our artistic taste or lack, thereof.
Chair Zarosinski reported that he is comfortable saying no visible damage, rust or graffiti. Commissioner Mansfield stated that is subjective. Chair Zarosinski asked what about saying there are subjective criteria and please try to match the building. Commissioner Mansfield replied that the Commission has heard him before about color. He does not think color is the Commission’s business. Commissioner Christie stated that he does not think it is enforceable. Mr. Slaughter reported that it was not written to be enforceable.
Mr. Slaughter reported that this entire item is becoming really complicated to review and issue permits. There has not been any discussion on the fee. It is becoming unusable for the end user.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that he supported Mr. Slaughter’s position. Tax payers and consumers are paying for this regulation. He knows everyone is working to make the City prettier but he thinks the Commission is going too far. He does not see anything pretty about box stores. He thinks the Commission is spending way too much time and money trying to regulate this costing our tax payers more money than we should be.
Commissioner Christie stated regarding tractor trailers that the Oregon Department of Transportation mandates certain signage on them. They are going to have some sort of signage on them no matter what.
Vice Chair Tull reported that this whole matter, if he is not mistaken, was initiated by the request of a major retailer. It went to the City Council and then asked that the Planning Commission pay attention to it and bring back a recommendation to the City Council. Mr. Huber reported that Wal-Mart came to staff in the fall a couple of years in a row and essentially staff did not have any tools to say they could do this. Somehow it got into the Strategic Plan and that is how it got to the City Council. The City Council adopted the Strategic Plan. It is one of the action items that address this issue.
Mr. Adam stated that the essential problem staff is running into is that if it sits there for two or more days it is a sign. That is the problem. No matter what it is and if it is a logo no matter what it says and the markings that the Oregon Department of Transportation requires is not a concern for staff. In order to cure this, the sign has to be covered or the sign code needs to be changed to allow this.
Ms. Akin commented that the way this is written there are very few sites this will be used on because most sites are developed to their full potential. Parking drives design. Often the building is designed to fit the amount of required parking. Most sites have their required parking and if any very little extra area. They cannot put it in required parking or yards so she does not think there is going to be very many sites that one would actually be able to see the containers. The sign question is minor.
Mr. Huber reported that the screening did not scare off staff. This is a new thing that does not exist. The public is the one that will have to look at these, so call it temporary or permanent call screening temporary or permanent, staff thought it was a fair issue to hide the containers.
Vice Chair Tull stated that if a retailer needs to come to the City and apply for permission to place storage units, wheeled or not, on their property for short term do they need to apply at the same time for an exception to the sign code so that staff does not have to worry about what is on the side of the trailer if it is going to be there for six weeks. Ms. Cooper replied that exceptions are not allowed for signage.
Commissioner Schwimmer stated that before this issue came before the Planning Commission there was no code in effect. It was brought before the Planning Commission because Wal-Mart was doing something because they needed to do it. Now the Planning Commission is addressed to enact a code to make it permissible by code section. If the Planning Commission does nothing where does that leave them? In October Wal-Mart is going to want to do it again. If the Planning Commission does nothing and there is no code the City is in a position of deciding are they going to let Wal-Mart do it again having previously allowed it. Now it is incumbent on the City to decide are they going to let them do it again without a code provision. If the Planning Commission votes no and nothing is done there is no code section it is then upon the City to decide how to deal with this issue come October with no code section to guide them. Jo Ellen Stodola, Wal-Mart Manager for Southern Oregon is very concerned on how the stores look. She is not going to let unsightly things at her stores. There will be no trailers with graffiti. If the Planning Commission makes this amendment too restrictive it will not happen. Let’s come up with a code that is clean, clear and limit it to 90 days with a 30 day extension. There is a sign code in place in case it needs to be used if necessary. Have a permit so that there is a review process.
Mr. Slaughter reported that he is not sure the sign part of this amendment should be ignored. Mr. Huber reported that staff would work on it. Chair Zarosinski replied that the sign code needs to be addressed. Mr. Huber stated that he does not think this is overly restrictive for the reason that a parking space is required, a setback is a setback, a safe drive aisle, building codes and fire codes are already on the books.
Commissioner Christie stated that the Commission needs to look at enforcing this amendment. Is this going to be enforceable?
Mr. Adam asked the Commission if they want to see the result of this proposed Code amendment in another study session or a public hearing. Chair Zarosinski replied that he is ready for it to go to a public hearing. The other Commissioners concurred.
2. Update on Urban Growth Boundary Amendment Process.
John Adam, Senior Planner, gave an update on the Urban Growth Boundary Amendment process. Staff toyed with the idea of dragging all their numbers to the year 2034 as the planned year. Without changing the premis in the Housing Element or the Economic Element staff could move the projections forward. In doing that one has to bring their Buildable Land Inventory from 2007 to the beginning of this year. The block of population has to be taken into consideration. It is a different block of population from 2014 to 2034 in the projections. Staff has decided to go to 2028 for the future year. The next item staff is working on is the expansion proposal to present in an open house to property owners within the urban reserve. Staff is planning to do that in mid-summer of this year. Another item that is going to influence the expansion proposal is staff has yet to change the housing mix. This is the 65/35 ratio of low density to high density housing that is in the Housing Element. The mix has to be changed in order to conform to the Regional Plan obligation because the City stated they would have a certain density in the next twenty-five years. The mix has to become more like 64/36 or 63/37. It does not require much of a change. It will reduce the amount of land slightly for the need of residential.
Commissioner Mansfield asked if there was a rule against exceeding the Plan? Mr. Adam replied that is correct. In the subsequent twenty-five years there will be a higher obligation. It would be better to poise for that future.
Vice Chair Tull asked how is the proposal that staff wishes to put before the open house being prepared in terms of what properties will be in the proposal and what properties will not? Mr. Adam reported that during a traffic analysis using four different scenarios staff found out that something is more spread out around the City has the least impact on transportation, whereas if you concentrated on one quarter of the City it has bad consequences. The scenario of spreading it around seems the best in terms of transportation. All the other facilities providers, water and sewer, indicated development could go in those areas that would not be a problem. Differentiating factors like those do not really exist. Staff went with what makes good sense based on what the land uses are supposed to be according to the Regional Plan for a particular urban reserve sub-area. What makes sense of an area for expansion or growth based on what is next door in a particular area. It is a little bit of art.
Vice Chair Tull stated that staff has defined additional acres that could be brought into the urban growth boundary in the expansion. There are properties that are small that could develop very quickly with low income housing. There are large candidate properties relative to the whole number of acres that can be accommodated. If a large property is brought in it blocks ten other properties that might develop over the next twenty years. How was this sort of equation of balance worked out? Mr. Adam replied that presumes staff has the equation of balance in their heads when they were doing it. They went by blocks of land not looking at an equitable distribution of large to small. When they encountered a boundary the decision was does staff go a little bit further in this case to take the next small lot or leave the one next door if it was large. It depends where one is in the perforated City. On the west and southwest side of the City they are relatively small properties along with small chunks of urban reserve. It was simple to make the decision that all that comes in because they do not comprise of very much. On the east side there are much larger pieces. They equity played itself out.
Chair Zarosinski asked what was the timeline? Mr. Adam replied that staff is planning on an open house in mid-summer 2014. Then turn it into a proposal to bring to the Planning Commission in the fall. By the end of the year maybe get a recommendation to take to the City Council. After the City Council approves this then staff needs to work on getting a Transportation System Plan together that conforms to the new boundary. The County will have to approve this as well.
Commissioner Miranda asked what impact or influence is the 549C tenure plan going to have on this process? Mr. Adam responded that the School District came and talked with the Planning Department last week about amending their Facilities Plan because some people that are interested in getting in have started giving offers in the urban reserves.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.
Terri L. Rozzana, Recording Secretary