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Agenda & Minutes

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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes

Monday, August 26, 2019

12:00 P.M.
Lausmann Annex, Room 151
200 S. Ivy Street, Medford, Oregon
The regular meeting of the Planning Commission was called to order at 12:00 noon in the Medford Lausmann Annex, Room 151, 200 S. Ivy Street, Medford, Oregon on the above date with the following members and staff in attendance:
Commissioners Present
Mark McKechnie, Chair
Joe Foley, Vice Chair
Bill Mansfield
David McFadden
E.J. McManus
Jared Pulver
Commissioners Absent
David Culbertson, Unexcused Absence
Patrick Miranda, Excused Absence
Jeff Thomas, Unexcused Absence
Staff Present
Matt Brinkley, Planning Director
Kelly Evans, Assistant Planning Director
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Greg Kleinberg, Fire Marshall
Kyle Kearns, Planner II
Greg Lemhouse, JWA Public Affairs
Michael Pate, Electric Guard Dog
20.    Subject
20.1 Discussion regarding a citizen initiated request to amend Chapter 9 of the Municipal Code to expand the number of zones that permit electric fences
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner reported that in Chapter 9 electric fences are permitted only around outdoor storage areas including vehicle storage areas.  It identifies four specific zones:
•             Heavy Commercial (C-H)
•             All Industrial Zones (I-L, I-G, and I-H)
The letter received requested to expand types of uses that permit electric fences and to allow in all Commercial zones except for the Central Business overlay and Public Park zones.
Staff is not supportive of the amendment because the reasoning was unclear and it would have negative impacts.
Staff will provide a memorandum for the Planning Commission’s decision on whether or not to initiate the amendment at the Thursday, September 12, 2019 hearing.
Commissioner Mansfield asked, is it a safety issue?  Ms. Paladino commented that it is safety, aesthetics and proximity issue.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that he read that the amount electricity from the fences is not harmful to people.  Ms. Paladino responded that is correct. 
Commissioner Pulver stated that in the code there is a requirement if there is an electric fence there needs to be another non-electric fence on the abutting property or the right-of-way.  It requires a double fence that seems to him cost prohibitive.  Aesthetics does not concern him as much because it would be buffered.  He does not understand the context.  It seems to him a big barrier. 
Commissioner McFadden commented that the ones he knows of are big barriers.  They are taller than a regular fence.  They are set back inside another cyclone fence. 
Commissioner Pulver asked, is there a limit on fence heights?  Ms. Paladino responded yes.  On page 9 of the agenda packet under (4.2) states: “The non-electric fence shall be a height equal to, or greater than the highest level of electrification, but in no case less than 6 feet in height.  Electric fences shall not exceed the height of the legally permitted non-electric surrounding fence.  Electric fences shall not be located in the front yard setback”.
Chair McKechnie asked, what does the code say about barbed wire?  Ms. Paladino stated that barbed wire shall be prohibited except at a level of 6 feet or more from the ground. 
Mr. Lemhouse reported they were contacted by Electric Guard Dog requesting to expand the code allowing electric fences in other commercial zones. 
Mr. Pate reported that in 2013 electric fences were considered a hazard and were not able to obtain a permit.  They worked with staff to amend the code to what is currently in place.  They have had several requests to install electric fences in the restrictive zoning.
•             They do not install electric fences in residential zones. 
•             It is a safe and reliable product.  It operates on a 12-volt battery.
•             Aesthetically they are difficult to see.
•             No harm will come to anyone.
Mr. Lemhouse stated that the livability is a safer area where the fences are installed.
Commissioner McFadden asked, how many other companies offer similar products?  Mr. Pate reported there is Gallagher, Live Wire, Advance Perimeter Systems and others.
Commissioner McFadden asked, is their product similar in looks and things like that?  Mr. Pate replied yes. 
Commissioner McManus stated that Mr. Pate mentioned Portland having a different interpretation of his application of the alarm system.  Mr. Pate replied yes. 
Commissioner McManus assumes it follows some type of electric code standard.  Mr. Pate responded that they follow the IUC standard for installation of electric fences.  It is a little different.
Chair McKechnie asked, were the zones being requested to expand to, all commercial zones outside the CBD?  Ms. Paladino replied correct. 
Chair McKechnie asked, is there a distance requirement in the current code between the security fence and a surrounding non-electric fence or wall?  Mr. Pate replied 12 inches apart and at least 24 inches from the property line.     
Commissioner Mansfield commented that they have satisfied him as far as appearance, dealt with the safety and the demand.  His opinion is to look at this matter further. 
Commissioner Pulver asked, does outdoor storage area mean anything in the code or is it a generic term?  Ms. Paladino reported that it is generic.  Commissioner Pulver was referring to: “Electric fences shall only be permitted around outdoor storage areas…”
Mr. Pate listed his uses as a business go into: Trucking, UPS and Fed-Ex (two of his biggest customers), every major trucking company in America, outdoor storage, auto repair, automobile recycling, equipment rental, distribution, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.
Commissioner Pulver stated that one of staff concerns was aesthetics.  There are not a lot of outdoor storage areas on street frontages.  He can see Community Commercial added.  He does not think there is a need in Neighborhood Commercial or C-S/P.  It could be stipulated residential uses in a commercial zone. 
Ms. Paladino reported that Code Section 10.831 Outdoor Storage, Display and Sales Merchandise, are permitted in C-H and all the industrial zones that correlates with where electric fences are permitted. 
Mr. Paladino reported that staff will prepare a memorandum to be presented on Thursday, September 12. 2019 on the consent calendar and the Planning Commission can determine if they want to initiate the amendment or not.            
20.2 GF-19-006 Wildfire Risk Reduction Program (WRRP)
Kyle Kearns, Planner II reported that the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) is any developed area where conditions affecting the combustibility of natural and cultivated vegetation (wildland fuels) mixed with structures or infrastructure (build fuels) allows for ignition and spread of wildfire through these combined fuels.
An analysis of the areas considered to be in the WUI was performed as a part of the City’s Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan.  This analysis was driven by Oregon Senate Bill 360 which determined the area’s most susceptible to wildfire damages in the City of Medford. 
•             19% of the City’s total UGB is within the Wildfire High Risk Area (WHRA) (excluding Urban Reserves and WHRA adjacent land)
•             50% increase of structures in WHRA between 2010-2017
•             City’s Urban Reserves (50 year supply of UGB land) predominantly within the Wildfire Risk Area
Current actions being taken are new building codes for underfloor and attic vents, roofing, rain gutters, underfloor protection, windows, doors, skylights, glazing, overhanging projections, exterior wall covering and walking surfaces.  These come from the State Building Code standards.  These will go to City Council on October 17, 2019 for adoption.
Short term actions (2019-2020) – Amend Medford Land Development Code to prohibit highly flammable plants (e.g. blackberries, juniper, sagebrush) and require either an owner affidavit or landscape plan.
Characteristics of highly-flammable vegetation include:
•             Contains fine, dry, or dead material within the plant, such as twigs, needles and leaves
•             Leaves, twigs and stems contain volatile waxes, turpentine, or oils
•             Sap is gummy, resinous, and has a strong odor
•             May have loose or papery bark
Plants that are often highly-flammable are also extremely water dependent (“fire wise” – “water wise”).
Short term actions (2019-2020)
•             Amend subdivision requirement to require two access points
•             Amend ordinances to ensure sufficient roads are available to evacuate residents living in vulnerable areas during emergencies and maintain adequate road design that allows emergency responders to effectively get into these areas.
•             Amend Medford Land Development Code (MLDC) to require fuel breaks on undeveloped land adjacent to developed land (largely achieved through weed/nuisance ordinances)
•             Amend MLDC to require non-combustible or ignition-resistant building materials for fencing, decks, and accessory structures within 10 feet of house that are not regulated by Building and Fire codes; an affidavit would be required
•             Setback of 20 feet or greater for wood piles during fire season
•             Participate in outreach efforts to better inform the community, including industries directly affected by proposed changes
Long term actions (2020 +)
•             Promote the benefits of fire sprinklers in the wildfire risk area
•             Limit land uses that concentrate vulnerable populations (e.g. retirement homes, hospitals, congregate care facilities) and high density residential
•             Limit land uses that have combustible resources (e.g. gas stations, certain industrial uses, certain farm uses)
Staff is scheduled to present this to the City Council on October 10, 2019.
Does the Planning Commission agree with staff pursuing the short term items identified?  Are there other topic staff needs to include? What additional information is needed?
Commissioner McManus commented that the City of Talent incorporated a similar landscape plan.
Vice Chair Foley asked, are the recommendations only in the exclusive wildfire zone?  Mr. Kearns responded correct. 
Vice Chair Foley asked, are these things to be considered for a broader use of new construction versus just in that zone; not making it retroactive across the City.
Commissioner McFadden does not see it affecting the Planning Commission for individual landscaping.  That is for the Site Plan and Architectural Commission.  Accesses in and out of subdivisions are a huge impact.
Chair McKechnie commented that phased developments have one way in. How many homes get built before a second or temporary access is constructed?
Commissioner Mansfield asked, what is the County doing?  Rural residential areas are extremely vulnerable to fires compared to the City.  Are they still allowing subdivisions to be built in fire hazardous areas?  Mr. Kearns reported that the County has implemented some of the standards.  They have fuel break requirements.  He cannot speak to subdivision requirements.
Chair McKechnie thinks the County’s limitations are an acre or bigger for a lot.  There is room around an individual home to do the 50 foot fire break.  They also require the dwelling to be more centered on the property. 
Greg Kleinberg, Fire Marshal reported that they had a fire safety inspection for some of the areas in Rural District #2 that is in their fire protection area.  They look at every one of those properties when they are going to build a new house and make sure they have their fuel reduction in place.  The County does not have a weeds or grass ordinance like the City has.  Code Enforcement does an excellent job making sure the grasses are mowed before fire season gets in gear.  The Fire Code talks about more than 30 homes there has to be two access roads.  The exception is if the homes have sprinklers.  Sprinklers only protects what is inside. 
Commissioner McFadden asked, is there conditions on water towers and availability of water?  The Medford Water Commission keeps their reservoirs high but he doubts those reservoirs have the capacity to water large amounts of exterior properties around them.  Fire Marshal Kleinberg responded that they are good in most of the City limit areas.  Rural areas, if up a canyon road, will be hard to get to so they require additional firefighting water supply.  The tinder operations are successful in certain areas but they get dangerous to operate going up winding roads.
Commissioner Pulver thought the fire sprinkler was effective but it does not address today’s discussion.  The materials are flame resistant but sprinklers are protecting the interior not the exterior if a flame is hopping from rooftop to rooftop the interior sprinklers are not sufficient.  Fire Marshal Kleinberg commented that is why they are pushing for the ignition building requirement.
Commissioner Pulver does not have an issue with the landscaping but he does have an issue with the access points.  It seems there are mechanisms already in place but it is a question of at what point does the City force the developer to build it. There is the street plan and connectivity in the code but it seems to be a timing matter. 
Commissioner Pulver does not know how to effectively achieve the fuel breaks.  Substantial fuel breaks would be valuable.  Weed abatement is nice but it is still an easy burn.  Fire Marshal Kleinberg responded that currently they have recommendations in place but it is not codified. One of the recommendations is a 100 foot field break adjacent to any improved subdivision or properties.  Code Enforcement is doing a good job of making that happen but it needs to be in the code. 
Commissioner Pulver would be in support of that but the question would be who is responsible?  Fire Marshal Kleinberg reported the property owner would have to cut it.
Commissioner Pulver asked, has the City Council already seen that the information on the ignition resistant materials and looking to approve it?  Mr. Kearns stated that is separate from today’s discussion and what City Council will consider in October.  Fire Marshal Kleinberg reported that in 2016 it was proposed to the State Building Code’s Division as an amendment.  There was nothing for Wildfire Mitigation.  It was modeled after what California has done since 2008.  They have had good successes in wildfires with ignition resistant construction.  It does not mean it cannot burn. It means if it burns it does not sustain flaming combustion and make things worse.  There are a lot of products that have been tested that do not sustain flames.  Wood siding products, cement based siding products, things like that have gone through testing in California and have been put on a list of acceptable products.  The State finally included this in the code January 2019 but included it only enforceable opted by a local jurisdiction.  In March they had their first City Council meeting.  August 1, 2019 the City Council continued it until October 17, 2019.  The Fire Department met with home builders to work out details.
Commissioner Pulver asked, is this particular component only related to fencing, decks and accessory structures and not part of City Councils decision in October?  Fire Marshal Kleinberg responded some of those items are not addressed in the building code.  For instance, decks below 30 inches tall are not addressed and enforced through the building inspection process.  They wanted to get a few of those components tied up in this so they are not building a highly combustible wood deck at ground level.  Making them build something ignition resistant. 
Commissioner Pulver thinks it odd limiting land uses.  Mr. Kearns reported it is a longer term idea.  The idea was to gain initial feedback today.  It is to think about the land use patterns in the area.  Matt Brinkley, Planning Director commented that putting retirement homes, congregate care facilities on the edge of these areas is not a good planning idea.  These are people that have to be evacuated that do not have the ability to evacuate themselves.
The Planning Commission agrees with staff pursuing the short term items identified.                                                                         
100.        Adjournment
101. The meeting was adjourned at approximately 1:10 p.m. 
Submitted by:
Terri L. Richards                                                                               
Recording Secretary

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