June 13, 2019
City Hall, Medford Room
411 W. 8th Street, Medford, Oregon
The City Council Study Session was called to order at 6:00 p.m. in the Medford Room of City Hall on the above date with the following members and staff present:
Mayor Gary Wheeler; Councilmembers Clay Bearnson, Kay Brooks (arrived at 6:05 p.m.), Tim D’Alessandro (left at 6:42 p.m.), Alex Poythress, Eric Stark, Kevin Stine and Michael Zarosinski; City Manager Brian Sjothun, City Attorney Lori Cooper, Deputy City Recorder Winnie Shepard
Councilmember Dick Gordon was absent.
Downtown Redevelopment Zoning Options
Principal Planner Carla Paladino advised that staff evaluated zoning uses within the Liberty Park area: auto-oriented businesses (82 tax lots), parking lots (22 tax lots) and drive-through restaurants (2 lots).
She noted present and past zoning downtown, with site transformations from auto-oriented businesses to an education center, a park, and a restaurant. Council’s vision for downtown included coffeehouses, restaurants, greenspace, food trucks, bookstores, music, pedestrians, etc. Central and Riverside will need improvement to meet Council’s vision.
Currently, if a property owner would like to open an auto-oriented business, they obtain a building permit for modifications and a sign permit. Planning requirements for areas zoned for auto-oriented businesses could be modified to: prohibit uses, limit uses, provide conditional uses, allow uses but develop site and design criteria or a combination of these options. More restrictive criteria could limit use within a specific area, require a conditional use permit, permit the businesses outright but develop standards or any combination of those. Parking standards could be modified to “build up” parking lots or prioritize the development of the existing parking lots. The Planning Department is researching options for changing Riverside and Central, maybe limiting the streets to two lanes to improve aesthetics and increase pedestrian safety.
Ms. Paladino clarified that the term “auto-oriented businesses” was used to avoid singling out specific automotive businesses.
Councilmember Bearnson suggested that MURA purchase properties for future development, noting that changing a business within an area impacts the neighborhood over time (Lithia Commons area). Urban Renewal Director Harry Weiss advised that the urban renewal funds are very limited and recommended creating a land bank using a different funding source if the City wished to pursue that option.
Council discussed non-conforming use permits. Planning Director Matt Brinkley advised that a non‑conforming use is allowed at that location through ownership transfers, unless the City starts using an amortization process. Using an amortization method would provide a specific ending date, however it could be difficult to force a business closure at the ending date.
Councilmember Zarosinski was not in favor of “banning” a specific business within in an area. He recommended more general changes for improvement that would apply to all businesses.
Councilmember Brooks opined that the large number of auto-oriented businesses in downtown and completely surrounding the Liberty Park area impacts the livability in those areas.
Mayor Wheeler noted that many of the businesses along Riverside and Central were long-standing and will most likely remain. He recommended staff look at Code revisions to begin mitigating various issues and promote residential building in these areas.
Councilmember D’Alessandro requested that staff research other cities that solved similar issues in their community. He also preferred general zoning changes and not singling out a specific type of business.
Ms. Paladino recommended creating a master plan following any Code amendment. A plan would provide builders with the City’s vision for the areas and could potentially increase development.
City Manager Brian Sjothun noted the transition in Woodburn after the construction of an outlet mall. There were many auto dealerships in that area that slowly moved to other areas.
Councilmember Brooks preferred new downtown zoning, but did want to require businesses to close after the zoning changed. She preferred that staff enforce the updated zoning when a business sold. City Attorney Lori Cooper advised that businesses with a non‑conforming use maintain that that non‑conforming use throughout business and/or property sales.
Councilmember Bearnson suggested the City or MURA change the zoning on specific properties to re‑GLUP for high density residential.
Councilmember Stark also preferred general zoning revisions without eliminating specific business types. He requested that staff review the downtown and Liberty Park areas and provide recommendations for how the Council could promote their vision for these areas.
Mr. Weiss explained that urban renewal agencies can create land-banking programs, typically for tax delinquencies. He advised private developers would be more likely to consider specific areas if the City was working toward improving them. The expense of improvements should not be placed solely on developers. He recommended upgrading streets to promote business development.
Ms. Paladino clarified that Council directed staff research the areas for proposed design standards, proposed Code amendments and potential land site review options while continuing their work on the Liberty Park Master Plan.
Councilmember Bearnson requested that any Code amendment conform the 2050 plan. Councilmember Zarosinski also preferred the design/site standards to push people in the direction we would like to see.
Planning Code Amendments
Planner III Seth Adams explained that staff sought Council direction regarding whether to allow for a wider range of projects that would qualify for Minor Historic Review.
Currently staff approves the following revisions through the minor historic review permitting process: changes in roofing materials, exterior paint colors, awning fabric materials and sign face/copy. Staff proposes expanding that list to include: visible fencing, signage, and allowing non‑contributing/non‑historic structures to make small changes in accordance with the proposed standards.
There are approximately 160 paint colors approved by the Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission (LHPC). Property owners are allowed three colors from this list. Staff would like to eliminate the color requirement and allow property owners to paint as they wish.
Staff has held two study sessions with the LHPC regarding exterior paint approval and they are split on whether to change this requirement. There was also a study session with the Planning Commission and they were neutral; they did not voice an approval or rejection regarding whether to continue formal approval of paint revisions.
Mr. Adams noted that LHPC had no objections to the signage, fencing and minor alternations, but not all agreed with revising the exterior paint approval process.
Mayor Wheeler and Councilmembers Stine, Zarosinski, Stark, Bearnson all preferred some review of exterior paint colors.
After discussion, Councilmember Stine clarified that Council preferred that staff approve exterior paint colors with an appeal to LHPC.
The meeting adjourned at 7:05 p.m.
Winnie Shepard, CMC
Deputy City Recorder