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Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes
Monday, March 25, 2019
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:
Mark McKechnie, Chair
Joe Foley, Vice Chair
E. J. McManus
Patrick Miranda, Excused Absence
Jeff Thomas, Excused Absence
Matt Brinkley, Planning Director
Kelly Evans, Assistant Planning Director
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Seth Adams, Planner III
20.1 DCA-18-144 Cottage Housing Code Amendment
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner reported that Seth Adams will present the Cottage Housing development. Staff would like to get feedback from the Planning Commission on what standards would work. Staff will also get developers opinions on whether this is a product that they will do.
Commissioner McFadden commented that the staff report states nobody has done it yet. Ms. Paladino stated that there are old ones. The code does not allow cottage housing.
Seth Adams, Planner III reported staff was directed by the City Council to begin working on the various recommendations of the Housing Advisory Committee. Among the Committee’s recommendations, amending the Land Development Code to allow for the development of cottage housing was considered to be a high priority item.
Cottage housing developments are generally defined as a development of small, detached, single-family dwelling units that are clustered around a central outdoor common space within a coordinated site plan.
Cottage housing is typically built as infill development, and while the coordinated design plan and smaller unit sizes allow for densities that are higher than the typical single-family neighborhood, their impacts (both real and perceived) are minimized because of their smaller overall bulk and scale.
Ashland Planning Commission approved a cottage housing development several weeks ago. They adopted their cottage housing code in December of 2017. The site is approximately 0.7 acres. Units range from 733 to 799 square feet. Six of the units are duplexes. There is one parking space per unit per Ashland’s code.
Commissioner Mansfield, in reading the Tidings there was a lot of neighborhood opposition. Does staff expect that here? Mr. Adams agreed there was a lot of opposition recorded in the Tidings. Mountain View Drive is a narrow street. There were concerns of people already parking on the street with it being narrow and emergency vehicle access. That neighborhood is already impacted with on-street parking and they were concerned about the overflow. At this point no one knows about Medford.
Chair McKechnie stated that the one difference between Ashland and Medford is that Ashland allows part of the on-street parking as meeting parking requirements for development. Medford has to have 100% off-street parking.
The purpose and intent is:
Provide housing types that are responsive to changing household sizes and demographics.
Encourage affordability, innovation, and variety in housing design and site development.
Support growth management through the efficient use of urban residential land.
Ensure compatibility with surrounding uses.
The proposed code amendment would allow for cottage housing developments within the SFR-4, SFR-6, SFR-10, MFR-15, and MFR-20 zones. The minimum lot size would be 10,000 square feet, and assuming all of the development standards are adhered to, a cottage housing development would have the ability to reach a maximum of 2 times the maximum density permitted in the underlying zoning district. A cottage housing development would be required to have a minimum of 4 cottages and a maximum of 12. Larger developments would be permitted, but units would need to be clustered in groups of 4 to 12 cottages.
Cottage housing development projects meeting all of the development standards would be reviewed by the Planning Director as a Type II land use action. Type II is publically noticed and a notification sign on the property that it is proposed for review. If a developer wanted to deviate from the standards it would be a Type III land use action reviewed by the Site Plan and Architectural Commission with public notice and public hearing.
All of the development standards are open for discussion, staff is especially interested in hearing the Commission’s questions and comments on the following topics:
Permitted densities – Some communities that have cottage housing code allow for a density bonus. Staff has proposed 2 times the maximum density of the underlying zoning district.
Chair McKechnie likes the idea of 2 times the minimum density. Is SFR-4 four to six units or 2 to 4 units? Ms. Paladino reported it is 2.5 up to 4.
Chair McKechnie stated some of that has to do with the lot size. Doesn’t staff have a 60% maximum lot coverage? Mr. Adams replied that is the base coverage allowance but there could be an increase in that too.
Commissioner McFadden asked, is that with or without parking? Mr. Adams reported everything is with the required parking on site.
Matt Brinkley, Planning Director stated the coverage does not include impervious surface from parking. It is just the buildings.
Chair McKechnie stated that it may not be critical at the SFR-4 level but the higher density zones should allow 2 times the maximum density.
Vice Chair Foley thinks it needs something like that to entice people to want to do it, otherwise, why take it on? There is no real advantage if no incentive.
Commissioner Pulver is not in favor of that. Maybe 1.25% of the allowed maximum. The zoning district needs to be protected. There will be all sorts of objections if there were 10 units per acre in an SFR-4 zoning district.
Commissioner Pulver suggested this not be a permitted use in SFR-4 and SFR-6 zones.
Commissioner Mansfield respectfully disagrees. He believes it should be pushed to the fullest. His question to the industry is does free enterprise have any interest in any of these projects? Commissioner Culbertson replied possibly. Commissioner Pulver stated that the Housing Advisory Committee pushed it on the basis of affordability. Which he thinks is misconstrued.
Chair McKechnie thinks that there will be people wanting to buy or rent them. It is market driven. He likes the idea of mixing them throughout all zones. History has shown diversity is better than uniformity.
Commissioner McFadden asked, is there a proposal to get rid of all zoning? Mr. Brinkley reported that HB 2001 does not get rid of all zoning. It will require all cities to allow for one of a range of different housing types to go into single family zones including duplexes, cottage housing, and townhouses. The City of Medford already complies. It is based on zoning.
Chair McKechnie asked, is this bill the one under consideration that they revised for towns bigger than 25,000? Mr. Brinkley replied yes.
Commissioner McFadden was first against cottage housing because it is retro and scary. When he drove by the ones on 11th Street, which probably does not fit any of this code, everything is too tight. He looks at it versus the two or three apartment complexes across the street and it has a better look and feel than those concrete and two story apartment complexes. There is no comparison. How do we get that feel into more places?
Commissioner Culbertson is an advocate for more housing. He believes that if this was built out as 12 units on one lot as rentals, then someone has to buy all 12 units as one and maintain as rentals. They will probably not be owner occupied, and they will not meet the lending criteria to buy as owner occupied over 4 units. He sees it as creating a problem. If the City is able to crack into pad lots and allow individual ownership then he thinks the community where those houses are built will be kept up. Very few people own their own home and have too much deferred maintenance. They take care of them. They show pride of ownership. It would create community and affordability. The smaller the house, the lower cost to purchase. Someone that can afford $150,000 or 175,000 maximum on a FHA loan are priced out in this current market even on a 1,000 square foot home because that is $200,000. A 1,000 square foot home is functional. They did it in the 1960s. You can build a comfortable 1,000 square foot home with three bedrooms, two baths, living room and galley kitchen. If these were at 900 square feet you may have to sacrifice the master bathroom or do two master suites. If they are able to build a good product you will create good community within those units. He would be an advocate for figuring out how to do it. Parking is a separate conversation. He is not in favor of having one parking space for an ADU.
Chair McKechnie suggested increasing the minimum size for the lot area. Mr. Adams stated there is a minimum of 4 units. Someone might be able to squeeze 4 units into a 10,000 square foot lot. Staff is proposing two story. Staff will look at the lot sizes for each zone.
Vice Chair Foley asked, can the private space be a patio on the second floor? Mr. Adams replied that it could be.
Maximum unit sizes – Cottage units shall have a maximum total floor area of 1,200 square feet and many have a second story. Ground floor area shall not exceed 1,000 square feet.
Carriage houses (one cottage unit located above a common parking structure) are permitted up to a maximum floor area of 800 square feet.
Duplexes are limited to a maximum total floor area of 1,000 square feet. Ground floor area not to exceed 800 square feet.
Commissioner McFadden asked, will the fire department have a problem with carriage houses and flammable fluids? Chair McKechnie replied yes. Single family not so much, but if it goes into commercial it would require two sprinklers. If there are more than 3 units they are going to want to see sprinklers as well unless there is more separation between the units.
Commissioner Pulver asked, are the setbacks smaller on the cottage housing than single family homes? Mr. Adams replied fire zoning code yes, but not building code.
Mr. Brinkley reported that the threshold where it goes into the commercial code is three units and above. Chair McKechnie stated not necessarily. Depending on how close they are or how they are constructed it can be looked at as a commercial development and actually if it is one unit over a garage it would require it to be fire sprinkled.
Commissioner McFadden stated that as far as separation there was a comment in the report that the eaves have to be 6 feet apart. Chair McKechnie reported that if it is built like an apartment where there are more than three units on the property it would have to follow commercial code. The lots would have to be created in advance and then construct the units. The closest they could be is 6 feet.
Commissioner Pulver does not know why they need to be capped at a certain size. The market will determine the size. To him, the Ashland plan accommodates what cottages should accomplish. Instead of having a dozen individual backyards there is a shared common space in the middle. That would be a positive. To get something in MFR-20 and MFR-30 without going vertical would be difficult. Chair McKechnie stated anything in MFR-15, MFR-20 and MFR-30 would have to be a townhouse situation.
Commissioner Pulver commented that to him, 400 square feet of common area does not seem like a lot for a residential unit. If you have 12 units and 12,400 square feet of common area put together maybe that is a substantial amount of open space. He does not know that can be assumed.
Commissioner McFadden asked, should style be a requirement?
Commissioner Mansfield asked, does the Planning Commission have any business dictating taste? Commissioner McFadden said no but he can see someone buying metal shipping containers, weld a door into them and have a square box sitting there.
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney stated there may be building code issues that would prevent people from using shipping containers.
Ms. Paladino stated that design standards could be added to the amendment.
2 spaces per unit in SFR-4 and SFR-6 zones.
1.5 spaces per unit in SFR-10, MFR-15, and MFR-20 zones.
Chair McKechnie stated that it is common to calculate the parking by bedrooms. Ashland does it by size.
Commissioner Pulver thinks some of the other mechanisms may make more sense, whether it be the size or by bedrooms.
Chair McKechnie stated that as long as they do not count the spaces on the street it gives room for overflow.
Required open space (both common and private)
Minimum of 400 square feet per unit.
Porches – Each cottage unit shall have an attached covered porch with a minimum area of 60 square feet and a minimum dimension of 6 feet on any side. Carriage units are not required to have porches, but are encouraged to have an outdoor patio or deck.
Chair McKechnie thinks it is a good idea to require porches. He does not think the porch should be included in the private space. The 400 square feet common area needs to be accessible by a number of units or all the units. That way there are no dead corners that count as the common area that no one can get to.
Vice Chair Foley is a fan of porches and likes them a lot. It should be encouraged rather than required. It should be left up to the market to figure out what makes the most sense.
Ownership (creation of pad lots for fee simple ownership of units) – May be held as one common lot, fee simple lots for the cottages with a HOA holding ownership of the common areas, or condominium ownership of the whole development. If individual cottage lots are created the lots shall not be subject to the minimum lot sizes by the underlying zone; however, they must include the building footprint and private yard areas for the individual cottages.
There was a consensus of home ownership.
Commissioner Pulver thinks that with the ownership there should be a required organizational structure to manage the common area.
Commissioner Mansfield has a bad feeling of HOA’s and maintenance agreements. The cost of attorneys is greater than what is being argued.
Commissioner Pulver asked, if the common area is not being maintained then what is the City’s action? Mr. Mitton stated that if there were to be an unlawful accumulation of junk in someone’s yard the property owner is cited. He does not know how the code would deal with it if it were a similar accumulation of junk, garbage, etc. in a common area not owned by any of the surrounding houses. The City may have to adjust their code enforcement ordinance.
Commissioner Culbertson stated that staff might be able to call Commercial Property Management (CPM). They handle the vast majority of the larger HOA’s and ask how they are operated, what is the function of them and what are the minimum requirements once they put the CC&R’s and HOA’s in place on the subdivisions and developments. If there is a problem how is it dealt with? That may give the groundwork that staff can incorporate in the code that if implemented it is handled appropriately.
Commissioner McFadden commented that the City does not get too much into that with any of those associations. Mr. Mitton reported that if an HOA had never collected any money from any of its members for a number of years and had deferred maintenance it is a dysfunctional situation because there is no money to do the maintenance. No individual is going to dip in their pockets to do it. The City is not in a position to monitor HOA’s to make sure they are doing what they say they are going to do on paper. When they don’t it is a situation where nobody is going to be the winner. Mr. Brinkley stated if it becomes an infrastructure facility like a sidewalk or storm water management facility then the City does get involved.
Optional adjustments process for deviations – Applicants may elect to seek approval of innovation and/or unconventional cottage housing developments that my not precisely satisfy the development standards of this section. In such cases the project would be a Type III Land Use Review by the Site Plan and Architectural Commission. Project would need to demonstrate consistency with purpose and intent section of Cottage Housing regulations, and achieve an equivalent or higher quality design than would otherwise result through strict adherence to the development standards.
There was an affirmative consensus among the Planning Commissioners.
After this meeting staff is going out to the development community and planning consultants to get their feedback as well. Staff wants this to be a successful code. If all goes according to plan it will come before the Planning Commission public hearing on Thursday, May 9, 2019 and City Council on Thursday, June 20, 2019.
The Planning Commission would like to see this again before the May 9, 2019 public hearing.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:55 p.m.
Terri L. Richards