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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session Minutes

Monday, February 23, 2015

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:
David McFadden, Alec Schwimmer, Patrick Miranda, Mark McKechnie,  Bill Mansfield, Jared Pulver, Tim D’Alessandro,
Kelly Akin, John Adam, Joe Slaughter, Bianca Petrou.
Subject:  1.  Density Training.
Kelly Akin, Principal Planner, presented a PowerPoint presentation regarding density.  Density is a way to calculate the number of dwelling units per gross acre.  This applies to single-family and multi-family dwellings.  There is not an equivalent calculation for commercial and industrial lands.         
The reason it is important is that it is a way to measure the efficiency use of residential land.  The statewide planning program is intended to limit sprawl.  We are forced to grow in the urban growth boundary and protect the agricultural and forestry land.  It is also needed to calculate the future land needs.  The General Land Use Plan map has density ranges that are associated with each of the residential categories.  Those are used to locate where to put infrastructure.  What is the capacity needed for water and sewer and what the transportation needs are.  The transit district will use that information to calculate their future routes.  Also, the proximity of service and employment land.    
Ms. Akin showed the General Land Use Plan map and the Zoning map.  The General Land Use Plan (GLUP) map is an element of the Medford Comprehensive Plan.  The Zoning map is implemented by the Medford Land Development Code.  They work in conjunction.  The GLUP map is the master plan for the City and how the City will grow in the land use designations.  It was adopted by the City Council based on various elements of the Comprehensive Plan such as the economic element and the housing element which tells how much land is needed.  It reflects the values of our community.  There are a lot of single-family dwellings that abut commercial and industrial land.  The GLUP map is not intended to be parcel specific.  The Comprehensive Plan tells that the zoning district boundaries further help refine the GLUP boundaries.       
There are three residential GLUP classifications.  There are eight residential zoning districts.  They work together as shown below.   
How to calculate density is addressed in the Medford Land Development Code Section 10.708.  It states to use gross area to calculate density that includes ½ of the abutting rights-of-way.  It also states to round conventionally on the minimum and down on maximum. 
There are exceptions.  It is required to use the MFR-30 zone densities in commercial district except in Neighborhood Commercial.  There is no density requirement with mixed use buildings.  A mixed use building is office commercial on the bottom and residential above. Congregate living facilities are units that do not have a kitchen.  They calculate out as 0.7 units.  Parcels under one gross acre may reduce their minimum by one unit.     
Non-development areas are areas that can be removed from the gross density calculation at the discretion of the developer.  Examples are reserve acreage which is unique to Medford.  It is an area set aside for future development.  Over-sized residential lots can also be removed from the gross calculation.  These are properties that are under-developed.  They have a single family dwelling on them.  These can exceed the maximum lot area under this section.  Storm water detention and storm water treatment facilities can also be removed from the density calculation.  If there are more than five acres it has to be treated above ground.  Finally, natural unbuildable areas such as wetlands, riparian corridors and topography can also be removed from the density calculation.     
Ms. Akin showed slides of what density calculations look like for single-family and triplex dwellings. The reason that staff uses gross versus net is an equity issue.   
Commissioner Mansfield asked what is the number that the City is striving for in density?  Ms. Akin replied that they do but John Adam, Senior Planner, will talk about that.  It is related to the Regional Problem Solving. 
Commissioner Pulver stated that there were a number of exceptions that were discussed with the submissions presented at the last meeting.  Is it not allowed for the Planning Commission or the City Council to consider if an exception went below or above allowed density?  Ms. Akin replied that an applicant can request an exception for density.  It is in Article 5 of the Medford Land Development Code.  It is a separate application process.  The applicant would have to meet the exception criteria.   
Mr. Adam reported that the Regional Plan was adopted in 2012. The result is that there is a new chapter, the Regional Plan Element, in the Comprehensive Plan.  One of the benefits that came out of the regional planning process is that the City received urban reserves; we are one of the few places in the State that has them.  The City is able to choose land from the 4400-acre urban reserve and bring into the urban growth boundary over the next fifty years.  The current urban growth boundary is 18,000 acres.  One of the ways to use the land more efficiently is by committing to a certain density target within the first twenty years of the plan and a higher target in the next thirty years of the plan.  Medford’s obligation is 6.6 units per gross acre.
The Housing Element states that the expected gross density over the next 20 years is 6.3 units per acres, but Joe Slaughter, Planner IV, in running through the acreage allocations for the urban growth boundary amendment, determined that the actual density would be 6.9 units per acre.  The City went through the process of shifting some of the density into the existing boundary by changing the GLUP designations on 500 acres throughout the City (the ISA/PAL project).  Some of that was changed from industrial to commercial and some from low-density residential to medium- or high-density designation. By shifting some of the higher density into the City it has now become harder to meet the 6.6-units-per-acre requirement because the projected density is now more diluted on the outside. However, staff has developed a methodology to meet the density obligation. It will require a master plan that shows how the requirement is met in every area that comes into the City after the boundary is amended. He said that Mr. Slaughter will explain this in more detail when the Commission goes through the UGB adoption process.
Mr. Adam addressed Commissioner Mansfield’s earlier question about the City of Ashland’s density target. They do not have a Regional Plan obligation because they have no urban reserve; whatever their target is was by their own choice. Some of the Regional Plan cities elected to go higher than Medford.  Central Point went with 6.9 units per acre—their experience with Twin Creeks, a dense, mixed-use neighborhood, was positive, and they believe they can have more of that Medford, on the other hand, found 6.3 units per acre acceptable.
Commissioner Mansfield introduced the political aspects of this.  Based on the two public hearings that the Planning Commission had last winter dealing with this subject, there were a lot of citizens, mostly from the east side, that do not agree with the idea of compact development.  He agrees with the planners in striving for a higher overall density.  The Commission will have that political battle with this amendment. 
Mr. Adam recounted the hearings that took place in February and March of last year for the ISAs. The process that the Planning Commission went through in making those selections, was demonstrated to be thoughtful and thorough. And so when the matter came before City Council in December, there were, instead of 50 to 60 angry letters, only four or five in the agenda packet. The Council got through it in one evening and the project was not appealed.  Even though the ISA project undercut the density obligation because it diluted what can be put outside the current boundary, the City is still getting the benefit of higher-density neighborhoods closer to services, transit, and facilities that already exist.  It is already showing benefits.
Ms. Akin asked what the second 20-year obligation was?  Mr. Adam reported that it is 7.6 units per acre.  
Commissioner Pulver asked if the 6.6 units per acre will be met by area, by project, or is measured City wide. Mr. Adam reported that there is a conceptual plan map for the urban reserve.  The map shows the ultimate boundary, uses, and higher-order streets (arterials and collectors). That is the basis for master planning. Joe Slaughter, Planner IV, pointed out that the master planning process would be a Comprehensive Plan amendment.  Staff does not expect that small single properties would pursue that individually.  It makes sense for collectives to work together to plan larger areas.  Staff has spoken to many groups already working in that manner.
Commissioner Mansfield reported that two or three months ago the Board of County Commissioners enacted a resolution in conjunction with irrigation districts and other agricultural interests that were opposed to the intrusion by cities into agricultural areas.  He believes this is related to City’s density issue.  
Commissioner D’Alessandro asked what would happen if an owner of a large area comes to the hearing wanting inclusion but does not have a master plan. How will they ensure that the density obligation will be met? Adam replied that the only decision before the Commission and City Council is which areas make sense to bring in; the adoption of master plans is not part of the UGB amendment.  Those will follow right afterward. Mr. Slaughter added that master plans will be required prior to annexation.  
Commissioner Pulver said he understands that it is staff’s contention that it is going to be economically inefficient for one- and two-lot master plans to happen because of the costs involved, unless the one lot is very large.  Mr. Slaughter affirmed, adding that people who own the smaller pieces of land are not necessarily interested in developing it themselves. 
Chair McFadden stated that there was a lot of controversy with the developing of the Southeast Plan commercial area.  It was an area set aside that was annexed into the City.  It had a lot of individual property owners, some of whom wanted to develop and others who did not.  To be able to develop they have to master plan it. 
Someone asked how it was possible to accomplish the commitment of 7.6 units per acre in the future if the first commitment is lower. Mr. Adam responded that perhaps density can be transferred from inside, or there may be opportunities to redevelop sites to a higher density, or bring property in at higher density.   
Bianca Petrou, Assistant Planning Director, commented that by the next Planning Commission study session the Planning Commissioners will have received the staff report and findings for the urban growth boundary amendment.  It will be sent out Thursday, March 5, 2015.  The March 9, 2015, Planning Commission study session will be reserved for questions the Commissioners may have and to ensure that they are familiar with the information before the public hearing on Thursday, March 12, 2015.  Also, if any Commissioner has questions before then to contact staff.         
Commissioner D’Alessandro said he assumes the way in which staff included certain areas and discounted others will be in the staff report.  Ms. Petrou confirmed this. She added that staff’s recommendation was based on objective criteria, but there is room for subjective findings, such as those relating to the so-called ESEE findings (economic, social, energy, and environmental impacts).  The Planning Commission will hear testimony relating to those factors. Balancing the testimony and the staff analysis the Commission will develop a recommendation that will differ from staff’s recommendation.
Commissioner D’Alessandro asked if this amendment was time sensitive.  Ms. Petrou reported that staff would like to get it done as soon as possible because the data is getting old.  All the information that goes into expanding the urban growth boundary is one package: the Housing Element, Economic Element, and Population Element.  The Population and Economic elements were acknowledged by DLCD.  The Housing Element could be challenged.  Staff feels they have justified the land need. 
Commissioner Pulver stated that a party approached him about urban reserve and one of the comments they made was that maybe one of the calculations regarding slope lands may be challenged.  They were speculating that we may get pushed back from the state saying that the amount of residential land that is being brought in is too high because things had been excluded.  Mr. Slaughter stated that the recommended area that staff has shown contains 402 acres of land classifiable as “unbuildable”.  One hundred forty or more of that are undeveloped areas.  One hundred and twenty acres is for Centennial golf course.  There are additional lands—such as wetlands, riparian corridors, and steep slopes—that are classified as “unbuildable” lands.  That number could be challenged.  Another category that could be challenged are the 426 acres of “public and semi-public lands” (parks, schools, government facilities) from the Housing Element.  The “unbuildable” and the “public and semi-public lands” are being treated as two separate categories.  There is an argument that we need to show some overlap between the two.  Staff is evaluating this argument.      
The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.
Submitted by:
Terri L. Rozzana, Recording Secretary


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