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Agenda & Minutes

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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes

Monday, May 14, 2018

The study session of the Medford Planning Commission was called to order at 12:00 p.m. in the Lausmann Annex Room 151-157 on the above date with the following members and staff in attendance:
Commissioners Present
Patrick Miranda, Chair
David McFadden, Vice Chair
David Culbertson
Joe Foley
Bill Mansfield
E. J. McManus
Jared Pulver
Commissioners Absent
Mark McKechnie, Excused Absence       
Alex Poythress, Excused Absence
Staff Present
Kelly Akin, Assistant Planning Director
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Seth Adams, Planner III
20.1        DCA-17-111 Senate Bill 1051 Code Amendments
Seth Adams, Planner III, reported that staff is asking the Planning Commission for direction on the following:
1)            Identify any additional changes to be made to the proposal
2)            Should this amendment include interim design standards?
Senate Bill 1051 (SB 1051) was signed into law on August 15, 2017.  The objective of the bill is to increase the supply of housing in the state by:
•             Removing barriers to development at the local level (ORS 227.175)
•             Expediting permitting for affordable housing projects (ORS 227.178)
•             Increasing options for the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) (ORS197.312)
•             Allowing religious organizations to build affordable housing on their property within residential zones (ORS 227.500)
ORS 227.178 requires cities to take final action on land use applications within 120 days of the application being deemed complete.
Under SB 1051 an application qualifies for final action within 100 days if:
•             The application is for development of a multifamily residential building containing five or more residential units within the urban growth boundary;
•             At least 50 percent of the residential units included in the development will be sold or rented as affordable housing*; and
•             The development is subject to a covenant that restricts the owner and each successive owner of the development or a residential unit within the development from selling or renting any affordable residential unit as housing that is not affordable housing* for a period of 60 years from the date of the certificate of occupancy.
*Affordable housing is defined in SB 1051 as being “…housing that is affordable to household with incomes equal to or less than 60 percent of the median family income for the county in which the development is built or for the state, whichever is greater.”
Applications for multifamily residential projects are reviewed and acted upon by the Site Plan and Architectural Commission (SPAC), and decisions rendered by SPAC are appealable to the City Council.  In order to ensure that the 100 day final action timeline can be met, staff is proposing to amend Section 10.051(A) of the Medford Land Development Code to state that SPAC actions shall be considered final when they involve residential development projects that meet the criteria for final action within 100 days, and that any appeal of such actions shall be made directly to the State Land Board of Appeals (LUBA).
SB 1051 amended ORS 227.175 to state that:
                “A City may not deny an application for a housing development located within the urban growth boundary if the development complies with clear and objective standards, including but not limited to clear and objective design standards contained in the city comprehensive plan or land use regulations.”
Presently, there are no design standards.  For now, clear and objective standards would be height, density, setbacks, etc.
Currently, SPAC approval criteria in the Code is not clear and objective. It states that the proposed development is compatible with uses and development that exist on adjacent land.  That criteria is not in conformance with the provisions of SB 1051.  Staff is proposing to amend that section stating that the compatibility criterion will only apply to commercial and industrial development.  All residential development projects shall be approved if the comply with the applicable city ordinances, or if SPAC has approved an exception.
In addition, SB 1051 further states that a city may not reduce the height or density of an application for development projects if:
•             The density and/or height applied for is at the authorized levels under the land use regulations; and
•             At least 75 percent of the floor area applied for is reserved for housing.
Staff is proposing to amend Section 10.291 of the Medford Land Development Code to explicitly prohibit reductions in density and/or height on mixed-use development projects meeting the above criteria.
Commissioner Pulver asked, if the proposed development is at or below the City’s allowable height could SPAC deny it or require them to reduce it?  He thinks if the City tried that and it was within permitted height it would be appealed and the City would lose.  Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney, stated that theoretically it is possible that the City could find it was not compatible with the surrounding area even though it met all objective criteria. 
Commissioner Mansfield presumes housing authority, some churches and nonprofits will be interested in SB 1051.  Will the profit making industry be interested in doing any of these projects?  Commissioner Culbertson stated that he doubts it.  When developing a project they are not in it for charity.  He does not think it impacts regular residential real estate at all.  It is carving out a specific sector.
Commissioner Pulver stated that affordable housing is an issue no matter where you fit in the spectrum.  Everyone recognizes there is an issue.  There are a lot of different things being discussed like in Seattle taxing the rich to pay for the poor concept to fund affordable housing.  If this lessens that potential future of burden they could care less.  It is the ones that it directly impacts that are going to be more concerned.   
Commissioner Culbertson thinks legislature missed the mark.  They had three different bills that focused on rent controls.  Anyone who owned over four rental units and wanted to have a no cause eviction on a tenant there was a breakdown on how much the owner had to pay the tenant to leave.  Even if they were on a month to month tenancy and they received thirty day notice.  Those all failed.  SB 1051 was their only win.  It misses the mark because it is not increasing housing.  That is where the problem is.  If you have increased housing and available places for people housing rents will lower.  Landlords want their places filled.  As long as there is a point five vacancy rate housing prices are going to continue to rise as far as rental.      
Commissioner Pulver asked, would this carve out a market rate housing project?  Mr. Adams replied yes.  The way SB 1051 is now if it is housing and it meets adopted standards then it cannot be denied.  It carves out provisions for mixed-use developments that further restricts SPAC’s ability to alter the plans.  Staff did not see that SB 1051 would have material impact on Medford.
Commissioner Pulver stated that for market rate he is an advocate for some level of design standards that could be imposed.  He likes density and mixed-use projects but they do not fit everywhere. 
Vice Chair McFadden asked, if there are discretionary conditions created then not only the fast track affordable housing projects use them but the non-fast trackers can use the same discretionary conditions and not be reviewed by SPAC on other issues?  Kelly Akin, Assistant Planning Director, reported that SB 1051 broadened the definition of needed housing to everything.  If it is a place somebody can live then it is needed housing and only clear and objective criteria can be applied.  It can be any type of housing.  When talking about design standards, this is important because it will not only apply to affordable housing, it applies cross the board.  The design standards that staff will be proposing will apply to market rate as well. 
Vice Chair McFadden asked, if staff has until July 1, 2018, to put the design standards in place?  Senate Bill 1051 takes effect July 1, 2018.  
Commissioner Mansfield asked, is that heavy to put design standards at the zoning level?  He thought that was what SPAC did.  Ms. Akin stated that the Planning Commission is looking at it because it is going to be a text amendment.  Staff has a study session setup with SPAC on Friday, May 18, 2018, at which this subject will be discussed. 
Staff has already started work on design guidelines and will be working with a consultant this year to create clear and objective design standards.
Commissioner Culbertson asked, if an application comes in and they request an exception, does SPAC have the authority to deny the application because the criteria is not met without the exception?  Is Senate Bill 1051 saying SPAC cannot overlook and exception and have to agree?  Carla Paladino, Principal Planner, thinks no. Commissioner Culbertson asked, if the applicant needs an exception to an application then SPAC can still deny it if it is not appropriate, and it would not be violating SB 1051?  That is Mr. Adams understanding. 
Does the Planning Commission have comments on the text amendment?  Should this amendment include interim design standards?  In theory staff could create basic, clear and objective design standards so there is no window of time where no standards are in place. 
Commissioner Mansfield asked, what is staff’s feeling on that?  What is staff’s recommendation?  Ms. Paladino reported that since they have a technical assistance grant from the State and are working on hiring a consultant, that staff would like to focus on the ones that will be permanent. 
Vice Chair McFadden commented that there are no design standards.  Without an interim design standard staff has no technical side to make decisions. 
Chair Miranda stated that SPAC has the discretionary authority to review a design and deem it inappropriate.  Commissioner Foley reported they cannot do that now.  If there are no clear and objective standards that cannot be done.  Ms. Paladino stated that there are no clear and objective standards now.  There is a criterion that states compatible but that staff can no longer apply it. 
Commissioner Mansfield asked, what are the arguments against if the Planning Commission thinks they should not include interim design standards?  Ms. Paladino reported that if the interim design standards were put into place now then SPAC has guidelines. 
Ms. Akin stated that it is a question of community value.  What do you want your City to look like?  That is the base question.  The City has bulk standards now but they do not have any design standards.  It is rare for SPAC to make architectural adjustments. 
Commissioner Mansfield reported that it is a philosophic question whether government has any business dictating taste to the cities. 
Chair Miranda stated that this work is being done under a grant.  What impact does the time and money invested in making interim design standards have on the final design standards?  Ms. Paladino reported there would be some overlap.  Staff would work on the interim standards and get them ready as quickly as possible to get them in the books.  Then they would move along on the regular design standards. 
Vice Chair McFadden is concerned that in the meantime there would be people who will take advantage of SB 1051 without the design standards.  He is hoping that the City of Medford gets at least equal to what they get now.  He is concerned with the 60 year affordability covenant in SB 1051.
Commissioner Culbertson reported that the 60 years is permanent with a deed restriction.  Ms. Akin stated that it would sunset.  Language would be written into the restriction that it would sunset after the period of time.  As Commissioner Culbertson understands it if it is instituted as a 60 year deed restriction it cannot be removed until after the 60 years.                
Mr. Mitton stated that another mechanism might be a declaratory judgment action by a tenant or perspective tenant.  It would be on the radar even though there is no administration routinely monitoring it. 
Commissioner Pulver believes it is better to have some protection.  It is better than none.  Design standard codes are difficult to write.  It may take longer that what they are thinking to get the final standards in play.  The longer it takes the longer the City is exposed. 
Commissioner Foley commented that there are basic things that can be put in addressing Vice Chair McFadden’s concerns like paving, parking, buffering, real basic things that are already dealt with a little. 
Commissioner Pulver stated that there could be clear and objective standards that required change of material or the building face that would break up the box look. 
Ms. Paladino reported that lighting, paving, bicycle parking, etc. will still apply.  They are talking about the actual look of the building such as materials, roof lines, those kinds of details.
Commissioner McManus asked, what is the timeframe for the interim design standards?  Mr. Adams stated that they have a study session with the Site Plan and Architectural Commission on Friday, May 18, 2018.  On June 14, 2018 it would go to Planning Commission for their recommendation and City Council for adoption on July 19, 2018. 
Chair Miranda suggested a draft interim design standards for a Planning Commission study session in June.
Ms. Paladino stated a draft interim design standards for a Planning Commission study session in June, public hearing in July and to the City Council in August. 
Commissioner Pulver asked, does the City have a consultant?  Ms. Paladino reported they have not hired them yet.  They have proposals in.               
30.          Adjournment
The meeting was adjourned at 12:48 p.m.
Submitted by:
Terri L. Rozzana
Recording Secretary

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