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Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes
Monday, September 12, 2016
The study session of the Medford Planning Commission was called to order at noon in the City Hall Medford Room 330 on the above date with the following members and staff in attendance:
Patrick Miranda, Chair
David McFadden, Vice Chair
Jim Huber, Planning Director
John Adam, Principal Planner
Kelly Akin, Principal Planner
Kevin McConnell, Deputy City Attorney
Kyle Kearns, Planner II
1. GF-16-046 Transitional Housing
Jim Huber, Planning Director stated that the term transitional housing actually refers to Tiny Houses. More than a year ago Rogue Retreat called Mr. Huber and wanted to discuss zoning issues and a village location of Tiny Houses. There have been informal meetings with staff, Fire Department, Public Works and Building Department. These are unusual. They do not fall into the Code per-say. Rogue Retreat is looking for a site and the City Council suggested a site the City could lease to them at Third and Front Streets. That fell through. Recently, the City Council initiated a code amendment to address site plan review considerations and appropriate zones for transitional housing villages. The City Council would like the Planning Commission to develop standards for their consideration.
John Adam, Principal Planner, introduced Kyle Kearns, Planner II. Mr. Kearns is in the long range division.
Statute ORS 446.265 indicates that the Council is authorized to site two such villages anywhere in the City. It does not have many restrictions except it has to have a yurt involved. The City Council would like to have a mechanism in place on how these would be laid out and where they would be allowed instead of invoking the statute.
Staff thought of how these would be classified. What is a similar existing use? A permanent emplacement that serves a population that is transitory with certain facilities in place for sanitation, food preparation and cleaning.
Where would the locations be? Camps and Recreational Vehicle Parks are allowed in the C-R and C-H zoning districts. Staff proposes allowing Transitional Housing Villages (THVs) in those districts and I-L.
The density capacity of a piece of land is difficult to gauge without investigating comparable uses. Lacking those, staff considered using the lot coverage limits of the zoning districts. Every structure under a roof has to fit within those coverage factors, including sanitary, cleaning and kitchen facilities.
The proposal on the 0.3-acre lot at North Front and East Third Streets included 14 units, which was based on the permitted density in the C-C district. The layout for that village included separation between each unit which is another design factor to consider. That would place a further limit of the number of units.
Commercial zoning districts usually do not have setbacks and landscaping. In this case, for the benefit of the people living there, they should have some setbacks, screening and buffering for their own privacy. Setbacks along street sides could use the zone standards or be set at 10 feet since this would be a residential use instead of a commercial or industrial use. In lieu of the masonry wall, a six-foot chain-link fence or a solid wooden fence could provide security.
There are a couple of options for gathering public input during review of THV proposals. One could be to make it an administrative review where Planning sends out notices to neighbors and invites them to comment before a decision is rendered. That is not advisable given the high profile on this topic and the likely unpopularity of such a proposal. The other is to hold a hearing before either the Planning Commission (as a conditional use permit application) or Site Plan and Architectural Commission (as a site plan review). Staff does not recommend using the conditional use permit option. If adequate development standards are in place, there should not be a reason to make a proposal go above and beyond in order to be approved.
Commissioner D’Alessandro asked what was the primary reason for not going through with the Third and Front Streets site? Mr. Huber stated the Code is not clear, the process and opposition.
Commissioner Mansfield asked if the Hope Village proposal was the one that was rejected? Mr. Adam replied yes.
Commissioner Mansfield stated whatever the City does on this is going to have cultural resistance. He would like for it to be planning issues.
Commissioner Foley asked what was the reason that Mr. Adam is not in favor of the conditional use permit process? Mr. Adam reported that adequate development standards such as locations, landscaping and other factors deemed necessary, should take care of most of the issues that might come up.
He is not sure from a cultural perspective a conditional use permit would change that.
Commissioner D’Alessandro stated that depending on either body it goes before, it could still be conditioned based on location, cultural opposition, etc. Mr. Adam agreed.
Chair Miranda asked if one of the goals is to help design the layout of how they will work? Where the pads and utilities will go or is it more to the generalities of how many units with so much frontage and buffering? Mr. Adam stated it is more to the generalities. Consider issues like livability. Does there need to be minimum separation between units? There needs to be some privacy within that village.
Chair Miranda asked if these are physical structures? Mr. Adam reported that the ones being proposed have a small porch. The overall dimension is 8’ x 14’ including a 4 foot porch.
Commissioner Pulver stated that he is struggling with the issue in general. It is hard to classify it as residential or commercial. If they are residential the housing code is in place. How does one regulate transitional housing and fall into what the Planning Commission creates? Can these stand alone, or do they have to be affiliated with a community based organization that can ensure the people coming in are getting help, become contributing members of our society and not cycling back from here to Eugene and back six months later? There are a lot of issues even from an operational standpoint.
Mr. Adam reported that if the City is involved in leasing the property that should be part of the contract between the City and the entity that is doing the project. Working in transitional programs to get out of it is something that does not belong in the zoning code.
Commissioner Foley commented that is assuming the City is leasing the property but that may not always be the case. Who is going to maintain the village? These can all be heard at the Planning Commission or Site Plan and Architectural Commission level but they are all going to end up at City Council as an appeal. It is important to have in place a contract with the organization managing the village. The City is relying on that organization to see that it functions as it is supposed to function.
Mr. Adam asked for clarification on Commissioner Foley’s comment. Is it making sure that it stays clean, presentable, and does not become a nuisance or is it the social program aspect of it? Commissioner Foley stated that he is talking about two pieces of it: 1) That it stays clean, neat and does not become an eye sore; 2) It does not become something that it is not. For example, it is set up as transitional housing and the organization goes away, the group decides to form something themselves. There is a permanent fixture that is in place that is just for the residents that live there. Commissioner Foley does not think that is the intent of the text amendment.
Vice Chair McFadden commented that in his opinion, one of the differences is what is the nature of temporary versus permanent? These transitional housing do not comply with any of the Building code. There is no electricity or sanitation. It is a good idea that this type of housing is needed. It is worth a try. He would feel more permanent about it if it was in a standard building but that is not the proposal. It is not what City Council has put forward to the Planning Commission to consider.
Commissioner D’Alessandro stated that Mr. Adam’s preference is to not go through the conditional use permit process. He is hearing that there are conditions of approval. Has anyone done preliminary research to identify what other cities are doing? What are their conditions of approval? Are they working with the agencies to determine length of stay? Would staff define how they would apply those conditions? Mr. Adam reported there has been some preliminary research. If the Planning Commission wants to go in that direction and make it a standing condition then staff can research what other cities have done.
Commissioner McKechnie has done two transitional housing villages in Klamath for the Housing Authority. They were bigger structures than what is being discussed today. He is now doing a 10-unit village for homeless veterans. A few years ago he did one that was 8 units for a homeless center. Those units were approximately 600 square feet. It is managed by the Housing Authority. They have had great success with both villages.
Commissioner McKechnie stated that the way the Code is setup he would rather it not be a conditional use permit process. If it comes as a conditional use permit process it gets passed by the Site Plan and Architectural Commission. He is opposed to that. If it is a conditional use permit process then there is the question of whether or not it is permitted to be there. If it goes to the Site Plan and Architectural Commission it has passed that hurdle but there are other concerns such as density, landscaping, layout and location. That gives it a legitimacy that one would not get with a conditional use permit process.
Vice Chair McFadden asked if the projects that Commissioner McKechnie worked on in Klamath are a true fully equipped tiny home? Commissioner McKechnie stated they are fully equipped with kitchen and bathroom. There was state money involved and the State has a code that limits the size; it has to be at least 600 square feet.
Commissioner McKechnie asked if transitional housing would be appropriate in MFR-20 and MFR-30?
Kevin McConnell, Deputy City Attorney, responded to Commissioner McKechnie’ s question stating that looking at the Code, transitional housing should go in residential or some commercial areas. The State statute calls for those areas to be closer to grocery stores and public transit. There are a lot of issues. One of the issues is the location for transitional housing. If the City wants to put these in an industrial area it would have to be a zone text amendment.
Commissioner McKechnie stated that elderly congregate housing is sort of the same thing. At the opposite end of the scale are low income mobile home parks.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that Heather Everett in the audience apparently speaks for Rogue Retreat. She indicated that she would be willing to comment and to answer questions. She may provide insight for the Planning Commission.
Ms. Everett stated that she is on the Planning Committee for Hope Village.
Commissioner McKechnie asked what is the minimum size to make it work? What is the maximum size before it gets unruly? Ms. Everett stated that she has had extensive discussions with the creators of Opportunity Village in Eugene. On their one acre they have 30 units and said it is very manageable as well as community dining and a community center. Those units could be occupied by a couple or individual. There could be up to 40 people but 30 units. That is how Rogue Retreat designed their site plan for Third and Front Streets. It was less than a half-acre so they took out half the units. She also visited Nightingale Health Sanctuary in Eugene. They were told they could have 15 tent platforms per sight. They put them on each side of a fence of each other and have thirty in total. They said it was very manageable. Thirty per acre seems to be the standard in the business.
Today, a proposal letter will be given to City Council on the day they asked the Planning Commission to review the ORS and how that may fit it into the Chapter 10 Land Use. They also tasked their staff to do a feasibility study out at the City service center on North Columbus. There is a triangle piece that is approximately a quarter of an acre across from the parking lot that Rogue Retreat will in lieu of anything else take.
She has heard talk about temporary and permanent. A temporary site would be a one year lease with the City with the potential to renew up to three years. The City is planning on doing a Columbus bypass to Sage in three to five years. She would hate to see a lot of restrictions based on landscaping or permanent utilities (water and sewer) for a site Rogue Retreat does not own; for a site temporary in nature by the means of the lease. Their hope is to someday own their own property. Then it would be more permanent fixtures.
As far as sanitation, all of the shared community areas according to the ORS will have to be inspected by the Jackson County Health Department. They have a kitchen trailer approximately 23 feet in length. They are looking for a restroom trailer. If it is a temporary site they are not going to put the finances into getting water and sewer. They will have a pumper truck pump the restroom facilities. They will also have portable water run-ons.
Ms. Everett asked the Planning Commission to keep in mind the timeline and if the property is purchased or leased, what kind of restrictions go with that.
Commissioner McKechnie asked if the two places in Eugene were on leased land or owned land? Ms. Everett stated that Opportunity Village is on City property. It was their public utility area that they were going to construct a parking lot. With it being successful they continue to renew the lease every year. Nightingale Health Sanctuary is portable and it moves. There is another organization, Community Supported Shelter that uses 10 platforms and Conestoga huts. They have approximately four to five camps in Eugene that move a lot based on where the City has available City space.
Case management is Rogue Retreat’s primary product. It is their commitment. They do not want to be just landlords. They want to help people restore their lives. There will be oversight from the organization.
Commissioner Foley asked if there was a different attraction to each of the different housing units that Rogue Retreat has to attract different clientele? Ms. Everett stated that with the apartments their goal is to get everyone off their waiting list. There are different programs. Their waiting list is approximately a year and a half long. One of their concerns is what do people do while they wait? How do they help those living on the streets, in businesses doorways, at the Greenway? Every organization has a waiting list. Admission is harder and harder to get into because of their strict rules.
Commissioner McKechnie asked if the people on Rogue Retreat’s waiting list qualified for the Housing Authority of Jackson County’s waiting list? Ms. Everett stated that some of them do but it is a four year wait. One of Rogue Retreat’s housing programs is in partnership with the Housing Authority of Jackson County. Twenty three units in their program are owned by the Housing Authority of Jackson County. It is only for the people in Rogue Retreat’s program. With that program one has to meet the strict definition of chronically homeless according to the Federal definition.
Commissioner McKechnie suggested that discussions take place with Sam Barnum in the Building Department regarding building code issues. Mr. Adam reported they have started discussions.
Mr. McConnell stated that if this proposal goes through, it is subject to the Recreation and Parks Specialty Code that goes into the regulations that the Oregon Health Authority has. Oregon Health Authority may adopt rules necessary for administration of these types of facilities, including but not limited to, rules concerning construction, operation and use of tourist facilities that are necessary to protect the health and welfare of persons using these facilities. These rules shall pertain but not be restricted to water supply, final sewage disposal, surface drainage maintenance, insect and river control, garbage disposal designation and maintenance of camping space and the cleanliness of the premises. There are State regulations for these types of facilities. That is not to say there could not be City regulations attached to this. The big things have been thought about at the State level when legislature passed the statute.
To summarize, staff will review the land use for campgrounds and RV facilities and mirror that with possibly adding it to the industrial zones. Commissioner McKechnie suggested putting it in the multifamily zones. There was discussion of whether it should be a conditional use permit process or should the use be permitted outright as a land use going before the Site Plan and Architectural Commission. All the building codes and issues are “murky” at this point.
Commissioner McKechnie commented that he was thinking of transitional housing as permanent structures. It is clear from the law that they are thinking of these as camp trailers or a mobile home.
Mr. Adam stated that he was thinking of these as permanent, like a campground that might have certain facilities like, bathrooms and showers. The Recreation and Parks Specialty Code on campgrounds or recreational parks could cover that aspect. The outstanding question is how to treat the units; whether they are tents or built structures suggested by Rogue Retreat.
Mr. Huber stated that the people that come and go are transitional. From a land use perspective it is a permanent use. The campground and RV parks are the closest that staff came up with because people come and go all the time but the use remains. The goal for the people in transitional housing is that they get into permanent housing or transition their lives.
Commissioner Pulver asked how does one ensure that it is transitional and not permanent housing? Mr. Huber reported the project will demonstrate a comprehensive plan to transition residents to traditional housing. Mr. Huber does not think that is appropriate for land use.
Chair Miranda asked if that would be dictated by the program using the land? He is semi-familiar with Access. They have transitional housing. The tenants are there for several weeks/months then move on to the next iteration. It is his opinion that the program would define the time frame they use the structures. The structures are not going to leave.
Commissioner Pulver commented that is a program associated with Access. What if it was not? What if a group of individuals has the means or receives a donation and someone sets up 12 units and the tenants stay there forever?
Mr. McConnell stated that would probably violate the State law and it would violate the purposes.
Commissioner Pulver reported that there is no requirement that one has to move their mobile home in an RV park. In theory, they come and go. Some stay there for years.
Mr. McConnell stated that State law allows for two parcels within a municipality in the urban growth boundary for transitional housing only. If someone came in and did what Commissioner Pulver is concerned with it would be a violation of State law and the City could have them removed.
Commissioner Pulver requested creating a code that allows for this. Homebuilders are vehemently opposed to the transitional housing concept because it is circumventing the residential City Building code. It is creating residences for people that are not in mind of what is intended.
Commissioner McKechnie reported that in this case they are wrong. These are really tiny permanent houses. Think of them as an odd shaped RV that can move or is temporary. Given a choice, the organizations would probably not do this but would put together an RV park for themselves. That would ultimately be cheaper and less hassle politically.
Commissioner Pulver suggested size limitation and density. He would like to see this come before the Planning Commission again in another study session.
Ms. Everett stated that in the homeless services industry the terms emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent housing are set by HUD. By definition emergency shelter is up to 30 days. Transitional housing is 31 days to two years. Permanent housing is no time.
Mr. Huber commented to treat these as any other land use. There are checks and balances within the City, such as a business license. It is routed through different City departments for approval. The Planning Department would check the zoning.
Mr. Adam stated that he understood that the objective from City Council was that this would be a means of having more than two.
Mr. McConnell reported that he is unsure they could have more than two. There may be a preemption issue. He would have to research that more. The Statute states that campgrounds established for providing transitional housing accommodations shall not be allowed on more than two parcels in a municipality.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:09 p.m.
Terri L. Rozzana