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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session Minutes

Minutes
Monday, June 23, 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, Paul Shoemaker, David McFadden, Bill Mansfield, Norman Fincher and Alec Schwimmer. 
           
Staff:   Bianca Petrou, Kelly Akin, Alex Georgevitch, Praline McCormack, Carla Paladino, John Adam, and Kevin McConnell.
           
Subjects:         1. CP-13-047 Citizen Involvement Element Update.
 
                        2. DCA-13-090 Electronic Sign Code Revisions.
 
1. CP-13-047 Citizen Involvement Element Update.
Carla Paladino, Planner III, reported that the City Council passed Resolution No. 2013-74 in June 2013 authorizing an amendment to the Medford Code and Comprehensive Plan pertaining to citizen involvement and specifically the Citizen Involvement Element.  It is proposed that the Citizens’ Planning Advisory Committee be deleted from the element and from the Medford Code.  The Citizens’ Planning Advisory Committee was created back in the 1970s as part of the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan and implementation of Statewide Planning Goal 1: Citizen Involvement.  Over the years a number of different committees and commissions have been formed that have expanded how citizens participate and influence both the planning process and city government overall creating a change in the role and need for the Citizen Planning Advisory Committee.  The Citizen Planning Advisory Committee’s charge was to identify and project the community’s goals, needs and concerns into all phases of the land use planning process, while concurrently increasing the citizens’ understanding of community resources, resource limitations, and other process constraints.  The Citizens’ Planning Advisory Committee was further divided into four subcommittees representing major subject areas of community concern.  These subcommittees and their primary areas of concern are: 1) Housing; 2) Current Issues; 3) Regional Issues; and 4) Comprehensive Plan updates.  In response to the Statewide Planning Goal for citizen involvement, a special committee or an independent process must exist to develop, assist in implementing, and evaluate the citizen involvement program and to suggest new program approaches.  A citizen involvement program has existed in Medford for some time as the City of Medford Planning Commission.  The draft citizen involvement element presented is modeled from Lake Oswego’s element.  The major change is to remove the Citizen Planning Advisory Committee from the Comprehensive Plan and from the Medford Land Code.  The draft outlines the Statewide Planning Goal 1: Maintain a citizen involvement program that ensures the opportunity for citizens to be involved in all phases of the planning process; and the City of Medford Strategic Plan: Provide and promote various methods of communication to enhance opportunities for citizen education and interaction.   
 
Commissioner McFadden stated that he was the last Planning Commission representative on the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee.  In the last several years of its existence it had become more divisive without a goal.  The group wanted to talk more about economic development.  It is his opinion the draft is written well and the City can exist without the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee but there are still items in the City of Medford that needs to be discussed in an open forum.    
 
Commissioner Mansfield reviewed the material and it is all good.
  
John Adam, Senior Planner, reported that the Joint Transportation Subcommittee was originally formed as the citizen advisory committee for the last time the transportation system plan was updated and then just lingered on.  Without its specific purpose of working on the transportation system plan amendment and tackling those specific issues and making recommendations to the Planning Commission it gets listened to.  The targeted committees are doing a lot better.   
 
Vice Chair Tull stated that it gets listened to because people are selected to serve on such a committee because they have a stakeholder interest or experience working with that sort of issue in the City.  They have credibility as an advisory group.  He is sorry to see the Citizen Planning Advisory Committee experiment has not worked.  He thinks it will be missed.  We need some avenue that is explicitly there in order that people can bring their concerns to the City rather than the City reaching out to educate them and hoping they will respond positively.  
 
Kevin McConnell, Deputy City Attorney, asked if other cities in Oregon have something like the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee at this time?  Ms. Paladino replied that there are some.  Mr. McConnell reported from the legal perspective is that he heard some bad things come out of the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee.  One of the changes since the 1970s is that as a member of the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee even though one is not appointed they are technically a City official.  There were some disturbing things that were happening at those meetings.  Citizens on other City Boards and Commissions have training on how to conduct themselves in a public meeting.        
 
2. DCA-13-090 Electronic Sign Code Revisions.
Praline McCormack, Planner II, reported that City Council has three main concerns regarding electronic message signs.  The concerns are the rate of the messages and animation changes, the distances between signs and brightness controls.  Staff is working with the International Sign Association, a regional billboard company and a local sign company on this draft.  In addition, a draft will be sent out for comment to all sign companies that submitted sign permit applications since 2012.  The first section of the draft is changes to the “Clear View of Intersecting Streets” which staff is going to pull from the amendment because the proposed language does not comply with ASHTO standards and the City Engineering Department is not supportive of these changes.  The current language will be used.   
 
The Glare section of the Code stated that it prohibited flickering and flashing lights.  In the sign code electronic message signs are allowed to have flickering and flashing lights.  Those are in conflict with each other.  It currently refers to a maximum permitted illumination but there is no standard of what is the maximum illumination.  The proposed amendment would read: In all districts, any operation or activity producing glare shall be so conducted that direct or indirect light from the source shall not exceed a maximum night-time illumination of 0.3 footcandles above ambient light conditions when measured at an appropriate distance as specified in Subsection 5(c).  This does not apply to public street lighting.  Daytime brightness measurements do not take into account ambient light.  The current sign Code states that brightness shall dim in accordance with ambient light conditions.  The proposed Code would prohibit electronic message signs have flickering and flashing lights since they have been found to be distracting to drivers.
 
Change of face signs does not require a sign permit.  However, in Historic Districts it does require a Minor Historic Review (done administratively, over-the-counter). 
 
The Sign Code is organized by zoning district.  Revisions to each zoning district’s sign provisions to: 1) Specifically require electronic message signs have photocell technology; 2) Ensure all illuminated signs and electronic message signs comply with the Glare section; 3) Reduce height of electronic message signs that are ground signs within 50 feet of a traffic signal, or increase setback from such signal; and 4) Decrease size of electronic message signs in the following zoning districts: C-B, C-C, C-H, C-R, I-L, I-G and I-H.  
 
All text displayed on an electronic sign must be static for a minimum of five seconds.  This was changed from 2 seconds.  The continuous scrolling of text is prohibited.  This restriction shall not apply to animated images and images which move, or give the appearance of movement.  Flashing and blinking are prohibited. 
 
The electronic message signs shall have photocell technology to automatically adjust the brightness.
 
Signs in multiple-family residential districts shall be maximum size of 20 square feet and a maximum height of 5 feet if it is a ground sign.  If a wall sign, it shall not be higher than the building height.
 
Signs in Service Commercial and Professional Offices shall be a maximum height of 9 feet, 32 square feet per sign for maximum square footage and a minimum setback of 5 feet from any lot in residential zoning district or from a street right-of-way.  The maximum height of an electronic message sign located on a ground sign within 50 feet of a traffic signal shall be 8 feet.  The maximum height of the electronic message sign may increase one foot for an additional 12 feet in setback from the subject traffic signal.
 
Signs in Community Commercial and Heavy Commercial shall be a maximum height of 20 feet, maximum square footage of 150 square feet and shall not project into public right-of-way.  The proposed amendment would change the maximum height of an electronic message sign located on a ground sign within 50 feet of a traffic signal shall be eight feet, maximum square footage of 75 square feet and the maximum height of the electronic message sign may increase one foot for every 12 feet in additional setback from the subject traffic signal to the maximum height permitted for a ground sign in this zoning district.  The same language would apply to the Central Business Overlay zoning district.
 
Signs in Light Industrial, General Industrial and Heavy Industrial shall be a maximum height of 24 feet, maximum square footage of 200 square feet per sign and shall not project into public right-of-way.  The proposed amendment would have the language that the maximum height of an electronic message sign located on a ground sign within 50 feet of a traffic signal shall be eight feet with the maximum height of the electronic message sign may increase one foot for every 12 feet in additional setback from the subject traffic signal in the maximum height permitted for a ground sign in this zoning district and shall have a maximum square footage of 75 square feet.
 
Commissioner McFadden commented that the maximum square footage for an electronic message sign in Industrial zoning districts should be 100 square feet per sign.
 
Commissioner Fincher asked how easy is the brightness measurement for the foot candles?  Ms. McCormack stated that one would have to buy a luxmeter costing approximately two hundred dollars.  Commissioner Fincher asked if it would be the installer’s or the City’s duty to take these measurements?  Ms. McCormack reported that it is the owner’s responsibility to take the measurement and certify that they have taken the measurement and it complies with the City Code.  Code Enforcement will buy a meter in response to complaints.  
 
Alex Georgevitch, City Traffic Manager, asked if that applies to existing signs?  Ms. McCormack replied that is one of the questions she has for the Commission is how do they want to institute or implement this Code change?  They can either say that going forward every new sign has to comply with these changes or that existing signs have to comply with what they can comply with since they cannot change height or size but they can change brightness and rate of change.  Mr. Georgevitch recommended that an annual certification because it is easy to take a measurement then maintenance is done and it turns the brightness up or the photocell goes out.   
 
Mr. Adam reported that staff had discussed including some way to mitigate existing oversized electronic message signs.  He does not know if Ms. McCormack has included that in her draft but he want to inform the Commission in case they see it in a future draft.   
 
Vice Chair Tull stated that staff has not addressed an issue that concerns him.  It came to him as he was going through the intersection of Highland and Barnett.  The Commission had a heavy discussion regarding the sign at People’s Bank.  That sign has become a community advertising sign.  People’s Bank does show up once in a while but the rest of the advertising on it have to do with surgeries, back pain, at least six items that cycle through.  The portion of the advertising that is for People’s Bank, he feels very confident, is within the perimeters that have been defined.  He doubts that all of the other advertisers are trying to meet these standards, particularly those that involve animation.  All of a sudden it is bright and it moves and eventually words show up.  Whose responsibility is it to assure the City that anything that shows up on the sign that they have asked to be permitted, meet these standards?  Ms. McCormack reported that it is up to the owner of the sign to comply with the standards for the sign.  Vice Chair Tull stated that People’s Bank needs to get some sort of an agreement with the back surgery people and the others that these sign standards will be met by their portion of what shows up on the electronic message sign.  Ms. McCormack stated that the messages are electronically programmed by the owner.  It is not up to the individual advertisers.  
 
Commissioner McFadden commented that the City cannot regulate what the sign states.  Vice Chair Tull stated that he is ready to accept that but each of the advertisers that purchase or rents a place a People’s Bank electronic message sign need to be held to the same level of accountability regarding animation, flashing and brightness and he does not think that is happening. 
 
Chair Zarosinski stated that he is not clear on how the distinction of animation versus flashing is met.    
 
Vice Chair Tull reported that they need to keep in mind the difference between information and demanding attention. 
 
Mr. Georgevitch stated that the concern Public Works has when these electronic message signs flash or have certain light colors to them they can be confused for emergency vehicles. 
 
Ms. McCormack commented that she is hearing that the Commission wants to regulate the rate of animation change in addition to text change. 
 
Vice Chair Tull stated that he has noticed that People’s Bank has information that they said was the reason why they wanted to have the electronic message sign and then all of a sudden there is something up there is the beginning of an animation.  It does not convey any information. It simply grabs ones attention and then it melts into something that states who put it up there and would like you call a certain number. It is not flashing or blinking it is simply all of a sudden there is animation on the screen instead of information about interest rates.  Ms. McCormack commented that sounded like a serial message.  It changes screens and that could also be regulated.  Other cities have prohibited serial messages.  
 
Bianca Petrou, Assistant Planning Director, stated that is sounds like Vice Chair Tull is talking about that it comes on fast and the only thing she can think of as a regulation would be that it had to fade in and fade out. 
 
Vice Chair Tull commented that he is not sure that any of it is violating anything.  He is talking about images that does not do anything more than force one to pay attention streaming.  It is dangerous with the amount of traffic moving through that intersection to have the message changing every twenty seconds or whatever it may be and some of those messages being introduced in a startling way.   
 
The Planning staff’s next step is to revise this draft, run it by the sign people that staff is working with and then send it out for comments. 
 
Vice Chair Tull stated that there needs to be something that talks about busts of projection.  It may only be there five seconds but it is the intensity of its introduction.  Ms. McCormack commented about changing the rate of change.  Currently, the Code reads two seconds.   
 
 
Commissioner Schwimmer commented that the rate of change and intensity of light are really the only objective standard that staff is going to be able to utilize to address Vice Chair Tull’s concerns.   
 
Vice Chair Tull stated that it makes a difference whether one is talking about a sign beside a highway or a busy street.  A sign like the People’s Bank that is at one of the City’s busiest intersections where there are people that come to a stop for a minute or minute and a half is dangerous. 
 
Chair Zarosinski reported that he will not be available for the Planning Commission meeting on July 10, 2014.
 
 
The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.
 
Submitted by:
Terri L. Rozzana, Recording Secretary
 
 Minute

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