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Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes
Monday, October 28, 2019
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:
Mark McKechnie, Chair
Joe Foley, Vice Chair
Kelly Evans, Assistant Planning Director
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Kyle Kearns, Planner II
20.1 DCA-19-002 Residential Administrative Review
Kelly Evans, Assistant Planning Director reported that Carla Paladino, Principal Planner was out today so they would discuss the Liberty Park Plan at their next study session.
Kyle Kearns, Planner II reported that this amendment is creating a residential review process as an administrative review as opposed to a Site Plan and Architectural Commission review. City Council adopted regulatory strategies which were recommended by the Housing Advisory Commission that included both economic incentive and regulatory strategies such as: 1) Cottage Housing; 2) Allow duplex in low-density zones; 3) Construction Excise Tax; and 4) SDC Deferral Program.
A suggested regulatory reform is to “…streamline the review process and still achieve the intended objectives of local development ordinances.” Local ordinances include: 1) Special Use Regulations; 2) Multi-Family Design Standards; and 3) Zoning Overlay.
The Housing Advisory Commission met on October 9, 2019 and direction provided:
• Increase multi-family types reviewed administratively – Provide options for consideration
• Incorporate “flexible” development standards – Avoid Type III exception for minor deviations
• Staff to go back to the Housing Advisory Commission on November 13, 2019 for recommendation.
Commissioner Pulver asked, what is an example of a special use regulation? Mr. Kearns responded temporary shelters and food trucks.
Commissioner Pulver asked, is Type I administrative review with no noticing requirements and Type II administrative review is with noticing requirements? Mr. Kearns responded that is correct and is similar to Type III review. Ms. Evans reported that Type II is property owner noticing but no sign posted. Type III is noticing, signs posted and a public hearing. Mr. Kearns stated staff is proposing for the administrative Type II review for multi-family housing signs be posted.
Staff is proposing a new Type II land use review for Site Plan and Architectural Review now called (SPAR). Currently, all multi-family development must go to a public hearing before seeking building permits. Only housing reviewed administratively, currently, is affordable housing at 60% area median income. Housing included in the proposal is townhouses, 4-plex, affordable housing, cottage housing and 3-plex. 30+ units over one acre. Housing in the Historic overlay, PUD, subdivisions would require a Type III review.
Option criteria for administrative review:
Option 1 – All multi-family / cottage cluster development
Options 2 and 3 – When surrounded by and adjacent / abutting SFR-6 – MFR-30 and Commercial / Industrial zones.
Option 2 – Multi-family / cottage cluster 3 net acres or less
Option 3 – Multi-family / cottage cluster 5 net acres or less
Commissioner McFadden asked, is the acreage number arbitrary? Mr. Kearns replied yes.
Commissioner Mansfield favors reducing the number of public hearings because it costs the public money. On the other hand he noticed a lot of language in the materials about flexible that is the opposite from the concept of rule of law. He thought when he was City Attorney for Medford they had to do some redoing of some ordinances because there were not sufficient standards established for administrative determinations. He favors Option 1. He is concerned about flexible standards on design. Does that mean staff can allow any design they want? Eric Mitton, City Attorney pointed out that the term flexible appears in titles and purpose statements. It is never the operative standard that staff would apply through these code provisions.
Mr. Kearns stated that flexible development standards are intended to provide a deviation from development standards without a Type III Exception that includes: Setbacks, lot dimension and area, lot coverage, off-street parking and building height. The permitted deviations under established criteria only includes: Environmental constraints, historic character (e.g. “old-Medford” setbacks), housing development and proximity to transit, bicycle facilities. Ability to require an exception is at the discretion of the Director.
Additional changes in the code include:
• Updating standards used for downtown development
• Removing conditional use permit for downtown apartments
• Removal of SFR-10 apartment ownership requirement
Which of the “Options” is the Planning Commission supportive of? Language clarity is found on page 18 of the agenda packet.
Commissioner McFadden asked, are these options when administrative review and approval kicks in? Mr. Kearns responded that is correct. Type III review would not be considered. The normal avenues would be used.
Chair McKechnie asked, is SPAR a new review commission that staff is proposing to review housing only? Mr. Mitton stated that SPAR is a different Type II review. It is a substantive type of review. Certain types of housing would go to the Planning Director for administrative review. It is not a new commission.
Chair McKechnie stated that he does not know that the current system inhibits development and it is not all that different from any of the other cities that staff has demonstrated. If staff wants to encourage better design, get rid of the exception process and make it free instead of the outrageous fee. To him that would encourage enough development. Mr. Kearns does not follow Chair McKechnie’s point. Chair McKechnie stated that for anything more than a duplex an applicant has to submit for Site Plan and Architectural review that carries a fee. If they need to vary from the standards there is a fee for the exception. That is an expensive fee especially doing three units. He thinks if the applicant has a better idea, submit it with the logic and let the Site Plan and Architectural Commission make a decision but do not change the applicant.
Mr. Kearns reported that the flexible design standards and this are two separate things. The flexible design standards applies to all land development in Article V. This is a new Type II land use review. Does the Planning Commission support the addition of the flexible development standards in DCA-19-002 or should they be separated into their own project?
That makes sense to Chair McKechnie but he is still confused by “separated into their own project.” Ms. Evans reported it would be a separate text amendment process.
Commissioner Pulver is in support of them being separate projects.
The question Commissioner Pulver has on the flexible design standards is that it is like a PUD in the idea that an applicant asks for an exception or flexible design standards not meeting the code standard. Mr. Mitton reported that is exactly what was intended when worked on previously. Senate Bill 1051 requires objective standards. Staff built in a provision if deviating the overall effect would be equal or greater to the objective standards. It is subjective. Commissioner Pulver asked, if the Planning Director is uncomfortable making that decision it goes to the Site Plan and Architectural Commission, is that correct? Mr. Kearns stated it would be a Type III exception.
Commissioner McFadden visions this more the flexibility design because it is supposed to be the fast track downgraded from the State requirement.
Vice Chair Foley echoes Chair McKechnie and Commissioner Pulver’s comments of keeping the exceptions a separate project. Two separate projects make sense to him.
That direction is clear to Mr. Kearns to separate them and come back to the Planning Commission.
Chair McKechnie responded that the issues holding back housing is not the administrative reviews. The bulk of the housing is single family or duplex. The part that kills it is basically the cost. No matter what the question is it is always money. Permit fees in Medford are high.
Commissioner Pulver thinks the cost of construction is hindering a lot of development. He feels the Housing Advisory Commission is pushing an agenda on the basis of affordable housing. New construction is not going to be affordable unless it is subsidized. As far as the options he is comfortable with surrounded by like development. It is hard to swallow a letter from a citizen pleading his case reviewed by one person versus a body.
Vice Chair Foley agrees with several items Commissioner Pulver stated. He wants to make sure the ones that are controversial does not eliminate the ability for the public to show up and talk. It is a very important function. He is nervous about cottages because they are relatively new. SFR-6 is too small especially when trying to get the overall thing at six. Pretty soon that will be everything with zero restriction. Maybe SFR-10 is okay but definitely 15 and above for sure. He does not have a good concept on the acreage size.
Mr. Kearns reported that staff is not proposing, at the moment, but things will change when staff implements it with House Bill 2001 and over the next few years staff will be coming back with similar projects. It may be worth being proactive. This will not change the way zoning code works. It still does not allow multi-family in SFR-6. It is changing how they are reviewed.
Vice Chair Foley asked, why is SFR-6 in this? Mr. Kearns responded that the idea is that if a subject property is multi-family zoning surrounded by SFR-0, SFR-4 and SFR-6 it can still be reviewed at a public hearing.
Commissioner Culbertson thinks the MFR-15, MFR-20 and MFR-30 are the ones that cause the most headache that the public wants to weigh in on. SFR-6 on a three acre parcel is less headache for the neighbors. It should be an administrative review.
Mr. Kearns reported this is a proactive attempt to become more in line with the rest of the State. Phoenix, Ashland and Central Point do administrative review for more housing types than Medford. They have seen more development for multi-family housing over the past twenty years.
Vice Chair Foley asked Commissioner Culbertson where he would see the limit for administrative review based on what he sees at the Site Plan and Architectural Commission. Commissioner Culbertson responded that he is with Chair McKechnie that likes the way it sits now. He appreciates administrative review but it may be opening up for scrutiny, At the Housing Advisory Commission he objected to the Opticos Plan. The Plan had the term “missing middle housing” that he looked up. The Chairman and CEO of Opticos coined the term “missing middle housing” who is in Berkeley, California. The term would imply there is missing housing opportunities within our code. He does not think there is. Medford is unique and needs to maintain some sort of sense that there is a difference. Mr. Kearns responded that “missing middle housing” has been around for over a hundred years. Daniel Perolek is promoting infill housing strategies for cities to use. Commissioner Culbertson asked, why not use the term “infill housing”? Mr. Kearns stated that staff has not used the term “missing middle housing” until Commissioner Culbertson brought it up. Commissioner Culbertson commented that Sarah Sousa had it all through her report. Mr. Kearns replied fair enough. Staff will find a more appropriate way to get that message across. Commissioner Culbertson responded that infill housing is a terminology that more people can readily understand.
Mr. Kearns summarized what he has heard today was flexible design standards is its own project. He does not have a clear direction on the options.
Commissioner Pulver would not be opposed to nothing but he came to this meeting thinking one acre perimeter is hard to do something huge. There is a lot of pressure coming from all points of the State to allow for various types of housing regardless of the zoning. He could tolerate one acre. Chair McKechnie paraphrased that Commissioner Pulver’s option would be Option 2 with one net acre or less. Commissioner Pulver replied yes.
Commissioner McFadden is fine with three acres.
Chair McKechnie thinks the point Commissioner Pulver is trying to get at is multi-family with less number of units. Commissioner McFadden asked, does the definition need to be changed to units instead of acreage? Mr. Kearns responded that originally proposed was unit limitation. A multi-family thirty units per acre on an acre of land is permitted.
Commissioner McKechnie thinks the reason things are supposed to go to the Site Plan and Architectural Commission is to fare out eye sores and not degrade the rest of the neighborhood. Thirty units is a big enough project that should have a secondary look at it.
Commissioner Mansfield commented that they are sitting around talking about design and questions whether it is even a function of the City to determine good design. He thinks they are talking about more than design. The resistance he sees from people is that they do not want more people living near them. He thinks they are talking about density. He sees a constant resistance to density. He does not believe the American public understands that we cannot afford non-density anymore.
Commissioner McManus asked, with Option 2 & 3 would the Commission entertain having two different versions for discussion at the next meeting? One version is by unit limit and the other version by acreage and how it plans out what an application would have to go through. How does that get impacted by both versions? Ms. Evans responded that the code does not change. It is all about the process. It is a question of do they have a hearing or not. The code standards are the same, still send out property owner notices and for SPAC post the signs. The question is at what point should there be a public hearing.
Commissioner McFadden agrees with Chair McKechnie’s comment that somewhere in all this is the thought of reducing the cost of housing so people can afford it better. He does not see it happening.
Mr. Kearns reported that with the removal of the public hearing, it shaves two weeks off the timeline. A public hearing could stretch out for months. The possibility is there for time and cost savings.
Commissioner Pulver responded that people that are directly impacted by projects, whether their voice matters or not, they are the ones most impacted by these projects. They know them better than the Planning Director. They can raise issues that they are concerned about and then the body can evaluate. There is a reason these bodies exist. If they want streamline the whole thing then get rid of all of them. What is the point? Mr. Kearns directed the Commission to page 17 of the agenda packet reading: “Site Plan and Architectural Review – Type II land use actions may be referred to the Site Plan and Architectural Review Commission for review through a Type III land use action.” That discretion remains.
Commissioner Mansfield agrees with Commissioner Pulver’s comment that a public hearing is necessary as irrational as some of the objections are.
Vice Chair Foley commented that draws the issue of where to set the limit. Where does the Planning Commission feel comfortable on a day-in / day-out basis requiring a public hearing versus not? He echoes Commissioner Pulver and Commissioner Mansfield the public hearing piece is very important because people get to say something as opposed to it just happening and they knew nothing about it. He does not know where to draw the line. He says no to Option 1.
Chair McKechnie thinks it would be helpful to take the last year and how many projects of three to five were submitted, how many were five to ten, how many ten to twenty and how many were more than twenty. Mr. Kearns reported staff did that for the past three years and multi-family projects were low. That is not going to give the information Chair McKechnie is requesting. Chair McKechnie thinks it is worthwhile knowing how many projects were three to five or three to ten in the last three years. He imagines the ones over twenty units could be counted on one hand. Ms. Evans commented probably and the same with the others.
Commissioner Thomas asked, how many acres was the project on Cedar Links for the 120 units? Mr. Kearns replied that would not meet this criteria because it was a PUD. Ms. Evans replied she thinks it is about seven acres.
Mr. Kearns stated that if someone builds 60% area medium income or lower and dedicate those units to that income it has to be reviewed as an administrative review. If they are going to use that same criteria for what is perceived to be the worst possible multi-family project from the neighborhood why not apply this to all housing types? Why treat affordable housing different than treating the market rate? Commissioner Pulver does not think they chose to do that they are required to do that. He thinks a lot of this is getting shoved down their throats.
Mr. Kearns is hearing SFR-10 for sure on Options 2 & 3. The Housing Advisory Commission also wanted options. Maybe they should proceed forward with options and dealing with it in a hearing and making seven different amendments since there is not a clear consensus.
Commissioner Thomas thinks it comes down to whether they value public input regardless of whether or not that input can change and the trust the public should have with the community and the City or whether they don’t. That is the biggest issue talking about a three acre parcel and what is going to be developed there that it is important the public can come speak about it. Mr. Kearns replied that there still is a window for public comment. Commissioner Thomas thinks it helps relationships between the developer, neighbors and the City. When they lose that they do not trust their city or people. It is irrational but important.
Vice Chair Foley reported that the Planning Commission has seen cases where public input has had an impact on the developer.
Commissioner McFadden suggested neighborhood meetings.
Commissioner Culbertson thinks the public hearings are important because applicants have requested a continuance in the middle of the hearing citing they need to work things out and coming back with a community oriented plan that solved whatever the concerns were. Table reviews do not get that.
Commissioner McFadden commented that if a neighborhood meeting could be held prior to an administrative review may help a lot.
Chair McKechnie stated that a public hearing is helpful opposed to a neighborhood meeting. It provides valuable feedback. He does not think there is a need to streamline the process.
Mr. Kearns commented that it sounds like the Planning Commission prefers another study session on this.
Commissioner Pulver is not hearing that SPAC has applications they prefer to have reviewed as an administrative review. Mr. Kearns responded that SPAC is supportive of this.
Commissioner McFadden would be interested to know before the Planning Commission meeting on December 12, 2019 what the Housing Advisory Commission on November 13, 2019 thinks about the comments from this study. Their recommendation was to bring them options and to remove any unit number limitations. Some of them supported all multi-family housing reviewed administratively.
101. The meeting was adjourned at approximately 1:09 p.m.
Terri L. Richards