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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session Minutes

Monday, October 13, 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, Patrick Miranda, Robert Tull, Bill Mansfield, Norman Fincher, Alec Schwimmer and David McFadden.
Staff:  Jim Huber, Bianca Petrou, Kelly Akin, Kevin McConnell, John Adam and Joe Slaughter
Guests:  Mike Montero, Raul Woerner, Megan LaNeir and Robert Tracy
Subject:    1.   UGB update.
Joe Slaughter, Planner IV, gave an update Urban Growth Boundary amendment process.  This process will fall into two parts.  The first part will be staff going to City Council for a study session next.  The second part will be staff seeking direction regarding the Proposed Amendment Locations (PALs) formerly known as the Internal Study Areas (ISAs) and their timing and coordination with the External Study Area (ESAs).  Originally, the City Council requested that both the ISAs and ESAs be presented to them at one time along with the Planning Commission’s recommendation.  There have been several requests from property owners in the PAL areas that Council will take action on prior to the ESAs.      
The Urban Growth Boundary is intended to provide a 20-year land supply for the City.  The City’s urban growth boundary was adopted in 1990.  There is not a 20-year land supply in the current urban growth boundary.  Oregon Revised Statue gives three ways to meet the need: 1) Increasing the developable capacity within the urban growth boundary; 2) Expanding the urban growth boundary; or 3) A combination of the two.  Staff recommended the combination approach to the City Council at the July 11, 2013 study session and they concurred.  Phase 1 was the Proposed Amendment Locations formerly known as the Internal Study Areas.  Now staff is in Phase 2 reviewing the External Study Areas. 
This process has been going on for a long time.  Many elements in the Comprehensive Plan have been updated in order to prepare for this work.  This is all the foundation work that needed to be done before adjusting the urban growth boundary.  The Population Element was adopted in November 2007, the Buildable Lands Inventory was adopted in February 2008, the Economic Element was adopted in December 2008, the Housing Element was adopted in December 2010, the Regional Plan Element was adopted in August 2012, and the ISA’s (PALs) recommendation from the Planning Commission was completed in April 2014. The land need before the PALs are 986 acres for residential land and 709 acres for employment, for a total of 1,705 acres.  After the PALs, assuming they are adopted by City Council as recommended by the Planning Commission, residential land need goes up slightly to 1,005 acres and employment land goes down to 635 acres for a total land need of 1,640 acres.        
Commissioner Mansfield asked how many residences per acre are in the urban residential?  Mr. Slaughter replied approximately 4.8 residences.  The zones that are allowed in the urban residential General Land Use Plan map are: SFR-02, SFR-04, SFR-6 and SFR-10. 
Chair Zarosinski asked what was the goal for units per acre?  Mr. Slaughter replied 6.6 units per acre.
Vice Chair Tull stated that significant portions of the urban growth boundary expansion that was adopted in 1990 have not yet been developed, the Southeast Plan particularly.  How has that undeveloped portion of the last amendment calculated into what the City needs now?  Mr. Slaughter replied that it is included in the Buildable Lands Inventory.     
Mr. Slaughter reported that staff is looking outside the urban growth boundary at what is called the urban reserve.  The urban reserve was created through the Regional Problem Solving process and adopted into the Regional Plan Element of the Comprehensive Plan.  It is meant to provide a 50-year land supply for the City of Medford.  It includes 4,410 acres of buildable and non-buildable land.  There are also 1,877 acres of the urban reserve that are specifically for Prescott and Chrissy parks.  
A coarse filter process, which consisted of using proximity and parcel size, was applied to the 4,400 acres to get closer to the 1,640 acres for growth over the next twenty years.  Ranking the urban reserve was also done using additional factors of water, sewer and transportation. 
The next steps will be a study session with the City Council, and open house involving property owners from the urban reserve areas, staff will formulate their recommendation, Planning Commission public hearing(s) with a recommendation from the Planning Commission to the City Council, and then the public hearings with City Council will take place.
Commissioner Fincher asked what was staff’s goal as far as timeline?  Bianca Petrou, Assistant Planning Director replied that staff is planning for the Open House on Tuesday, October 28, 2014,  Planning Commission hearings in February 2015, and City Council public hearings after that.     
Commissioner Miranda asked if there was a deadline for the adoption of this amendment?  Ms. Petrou replied that it is supposed to be completed within ten years of having the Population Element done.  The Population Element was done in November 2007, which makes November 2017 the deadline.
Vice Chair Tull stated that the Planning Commission worked very hard two or three years ago to try to build into the Comprehensive Plan some goals that needed to be met particularly regarding residential development and meeting the commitments made under the Regional Plan.  Much of that had to do with increasing density so that there could be more population with less land.  To what extent has that planning process that is built into the Comprehensive Plan affected how these properties have been evaluated?  Mr. Slaughter replied that the process is the result of the materials Mr. Tull referred to.   
Vice Chair Tull asked how has staff evaluated the available acreage relative to what it would contribute to meeting the goals of the Housing Element?  It is his opinion that there are some properties in the planning that are not going to help the City very much in terms of meeting the residential development goals that have been established in the Comprehensive Plan.  There are others that are ready to develop and would make a difference if they were brought in.  Mr. Slaughter replied that if they are steep slopes they are counted as unbuildable and do not count towards the acres.  Other than that staff is confident as an aggregate the areas can meet the density requirements.   
Vice Chair asked how does staff deal with Centennial Golf Course property which, were it developed as it has been conceived over the years as a large-home, minimal-density kind of property, to devote several hundreds of acres to that kind of development and at the same time having a developer stating that he is able to provide a more residential development than Centennial Golf Course on 125 acres?  Mr. Slaughter replied that the golf course presents problems beyond the size of the lots, houses and fairways unless staff can get them in an open space assessment then they are going to have to count them toward the residential land meeting the need because it is developable according to everything that staff knows.   
John Adam, Senior Planner, reported that staff is not always privy to property owners’ intentions.  Staff is trying to look at this as objectively as possible.  When they come to the Planning Commission hearing and the City Council and make testimony it is out of staff’s hands.  Staff will be giving recommendation based objectively, as best as they can determine, that these areas make sense. 
Ms. Petrou stated that prior to annexation a developer may have to show how they will meet the 6.6 density.  It may be a matter of adopting a master plan like the Southeast Plan without the commercial center.  
Chair Zarosinski asked if he heard correctly that a property would not be annexed if it did not meet the 6.6 density.  Mr. Slaughter replied that is not the only thing staff will be looking at.  Staff has not fully worked out the mechanism for that. 
Commissioner Mansfield asked three questions:  1) How did staff arrive at the 6.6 density figure; 2) How does that compare with Ashland’s density figure; and 3) What happens if it does not make it?  Mr. Adam reported that the 6.6 was kind of handed to them.  It was negotiated by all the municipalities during the Regional Problem Solving process.  Ashland’s obligation is slightly more because they do not have an urban reserve.  Both the County and LCDC will be checking that we meet our obligation. 
Ms. Petrou commented on educating people on the importance of density; that was the conversation that happened when adopting the Housing Element.  That was when it was determined how many apartments, duplexes, single-family residential and group housing.  That information is what staff is using now to determine what the land need is to accommodate those housing types for the next twenty years.  It cannot be increased now.  
Commissioner Mansfield stated that he does not think it is a one-shot deal.  He thinks it is a continuing obligation of the professional staff to continue to educate the Planning Commissioners, City Council members, and the public about the importance of it.  
Chair Zarosinski reported that it has been a while since he has read the Housing Element.  He does not recall it having a density goal in mind.  Mr. Adam stated that the City was not aiming for a goal.  In all the calculations it turned out to be approximately 6.3 units per acre.   
Mr. Slaughter stated that the Regional Plan came after both the economic study and the housing study.  Those are what staff are relying on for determining the land need.  The Regional Problem Solving plan helped with the urban reserves.  It also added some additional requirements on the land being brought in.  The need cannot be changed based off the requirements.  The studies would have to be changed.   
Commissioner Miranda asked with the differences that were shown earlier is staff still meeting the standards that have been set?  Mr. Slaughter replied yes.  It does not change the overall number for residential.   
Vice Chair Tull stated that one can get focused on these numbers if one has to but there are at least two fundamental issues that staff and the Planning Commission have been living and struggling with for over a decade.  One is how can Medford plan its future so that it infringes as little as possible on the economically important agricultural land that supports it?  Secondly, how can we plan for the growth we know must come without it significantly changing the character of the City?  Those issues are what the Planning Commission struggled with on the Housing Element.  There were people that stated they did not want a more densely planned City.  There were others that said if they make a decision not to increase the proportion of housing that is high density then they are deciding to use more of the land around us to meet the needs.    
Commissioner Miranda stated that there is a thin line between want and need.  They may not want this but for the City to thrive, grow and progress this is the need.  That is something the population as a whole may not want to face but they need to face.
Vice Chair Tull stated that we are working within a system of land use planning that has been adopted for the State of Oregon that makes it almost unique in the way it does that, which is built on the premise that we will keep our urban areas as efficient and compact as possible.  We will preserve the integrity of our agricultural and resource land at all costs.  The City is working within that context and there are people watching the City who are committed to making sure those goals are met on and into a future beyond when we are here.  
Commissioner Miranda supported that notion and referred back to Commissioner Mansfield’s statement of education.  Making sure that those that are involved in the process and those that are impacted by the process, but are not necessarily involved, understand the process or at least understand the goals of the process.  
Vice Chair Tull commented that the Planning Commission has some important decisions to make in the next six months or year.  We should not lose sight of the goals and standards that have led us to this point. 
Commissioner Miranda agreed. 
The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.
Submitted by:
Terri L. Rozzana, Recording Secretary


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