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Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes
Monday, May 11, 2020
The study session of the Planning Commission was called to order in a Zoom webinar at 12:08 p.m. in 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
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Kyle Kearns, Planner II
20.1 DCA-19-012 Flexible Design Standards
Kyle Kearns, Planner II reported that this proposal addresses exceptions and reducing development barriers to affordable and available housing costs. The project originated from the original Housing Advisory Committee (HAC) recommendations from 2017/18. The Housing Advisor Committee’s highest priority is to review lot sizes for multi-family residential and reduce parking. Their medium priority is to build in flexibility for site design and layout allowing minor adjustments without the exception process.
The proposal would help to reduce development cost by enabling reduced parking that could have a savings from $5,000 to $25,000 depending on whether it is surface or structure parking. The removal of the Exception requirement would remove the cost of $3,500. Total cost savings per unit could be $8,500 to $28,500. Reduced parking and flexible site development process increases development potential in all zones.
In commercial zones refinements were made defining residential in commercial zones; increasing lot coverage allowance and increasing building height allowance.
At the March 9, 2020 Planning Commission study session the Commission directed staff to remove the amendments to multi-family zone updates and create its own project.
Exceptions since 2016 were four right-of-way reductions; five right-of-way reduction and amenity reduction; six lot dimension (lot depth, width, frontage, etc.); two setback or height; and twelve miscellaneous requests. The miscellaneous requests were unique and some pertained to parking and fencing height.
The two types of Exceptions are through the Land Use Review process or Prescriptive, codified processes. Examples of the prescriptive processes include the existing parking exceptions, multi-family development standards and legacy street standards. Staff is proposing additional prescriptive processes.
Bicycle parking standards (how to count bicycle parking) were added to Code section 10.358 Central Business.
In code section 10.426 Block Length adding standards to allow exceptions to block length without Type III exception process when it meets the infill definition.
New is code section 10.701A Flexible Development Standards. Deviations for setbacks and lot dimensions apply to all development if it pertains to infill, protecting environmental resources and environmental restoration. Added to this code section is an example imagery on how to display the use of flexible development standards. Deviations for setbacks could be twenty percent or 24 inches, whichever is greater. This would not apply in Hillside Overlay and requires compliance with building, fire and life-safety codes. Permitted upon determination that one or more of the following conditions exist: needed to meet fire, life or ADA standards; environmental preservation of restoration; and/or development is considered infill.
Proposed for lot dimensions is a deviation of up to 20%. The deviation is permitted if environmental preservation or restoration exists; development is considered infill; and/or if there are 4 or more parcels.
Staff amended code section 10.704 Lot Types to include infill criteria. Proposed under commercial maximum lot coverage updates 30% to 40% in C-N zones; 40% to 60% in C-S/P, C-C, C-R zones; and 60% to 70% in C-H zones. Proposed a maximum height update from 35 to 85 feet in all but the C-N zones. Clarified residential allowances in C-N zones.
Commercial changes are justified because it stifles development outside of downtown in neighborhoods such as East and West Main, Liberty Park, downtown adjacent areas and commercial areas. Additionally, existing lot coverage on developed lots does not reflect existing develeopment.
Proposed parking reductions are optional choices for developers and property owners that allows for, reductions for change of use or expansions; first five spaces waived for multi-family units of 15+; 24 feet of on-street parking counts towards requirement; may reduce if near bike facilities; may reduce to preserve environmental resources; may perform analysis to show parking reduction; and reduce in Transit Oriented District.
Chair McKechnie suggested under Code Section 10.704(A)(1)(c) make “nor shall abutting parcels be zoned SFR-00” to subsection (d) and change the current subsection (d) to (e).
Chair McKechnie asked, has the Commission previously discussed the code condition that when abutting a residential parcel one is limited to 35 feet? Mr. Kearns responded that it was not in the presentation because it is ambiguous on how it is applied. Due to previous comments the proposed table shows the maximum building height of 35 feet in C-N zones and 85 feet in the other commercial zones except 35 feet for the portions of a structure within 150 feet of a residential zoning district, specifically the SFR-00, SFR-2, SFR-4 and SFR-6 zones. Further clarification is that the 150 feet shall be measured from the property line residential zoning district, not the street centerline.
Chair McKechnie, asked, does the current code also have the limitation of a residential zone or a residential use in a commercial zone? Kelly Evans, Assistant Planning Director replied it is zone to zone not zone to use.
Chair McKechnie asked, was there an exception for Bonaventure since it is in or adjacent to a residential zone? Ms. Evans stated that there was an exception and the way it worked out was that the highest point in the design of the structure was greater than 150 feet from the residential zones.
Staff plans to have the Housing Advisory Commission review this on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. It will be presented at the Planning Commission public hearing on Thursday, June 25, 2020 and City Council August 20, 2020.
Staff is seeking from the Planning Commission whether any changes are needed before the hearing and does the Commission support infill definition or does it need to be revised to make it less complex?
Commissioner Pulver does not like the proposal. Does six or seven exceptions over the last four or five years (actual number is 31 exceptions) justify this change? Right-of-way exceptions have gone away with the addition of legacy street standards. He thinks applicants and staff will still do the same amount of work with the applicant not paying a fee. If the code is bad then it should be fixed but if creating more work around the existing code he does know what they are doing. He does not see, outside of bikes, where the decrease in parking demand is going. He does not know if it is fair that parking on-street is going to be leveraged. He thinks there is a safety question there.
Chair McKechnie did not see anything in the proposal that talked about parking. Is the Commission discussing infill development at this point and not parking? Mr. Kearns responded that they are talking of allowing for prescriptive exceptions in parking if development chooses to use them. Under exceptions to required off-street parking for non-residential uses staff proposes to remove the “for non-residential uses.” Then outlined specific ways to apply for an exception.
Chair McKechnie asked, is the exception to the required off-street parking an administrative decision or does it go before the approving body? Mr. Kearns responded that it would go the approving body depending on the land use proposed.
Chair McKechnie agrees with Commissioner Pulver with the exception fee of $1,000 but when staff increased it to $3,500 it is outrageous. It is pricey for infill developments. He is in favor of doing as much of this administratively as long as parameters are established.
Commissioner Pulver reflected back to the last housekeeping amendments that if what was put before the Commission was for infill development, the fee for exceptions would be lowered across the board, or no exception fees to encourage infill development is different and a singular question. This proposal is a bunch of code changes that are all over the board with a similar thread but makes it difficult to analyze and assess. This may be the reason he does not like it. He feels it is being crossed over and that it how he felt about the housekeeping amendment.
Vice Chair Foley asked, does an applicant need to give justification why the exception should apply to them? Mr. Kearns replied yes. For setbacks there are four conditions each and they must fall under one of the following: (a) The part of the proposed structure that encroaches into the minimum setback area is necessitated by a fire, life, ADA standard, and other public safety code requirements; or (b) The proposed structure will allow the preservation or restoration or existing environmental resources; or (c) The proposed development is considered infill, per 10.704; or (d) Deviations greater that twenty percent or 24 inches may be permitted if it can be found to meet the provisions of Section 10.707(A)(4). Lot dimension reductions shall be permitted upon determination that the following conditions exist: (a) The proposal may require lot dimension deviations in order to preserve or restore environmental resources; or (b) The proposed development is considered infill per 10.704; and (c) When not infill development, the proposal creates four or more parcels; and (d) If a flag lot is created, the pole of the flag lot is no less than 20 feet.
Vice Chair Foley asked, are there restrictions on the parking other than allowing it? Mr. Kearns stated parking targets residential specifically rather than just infill.
Chair McKechnie commented that Mr. Kearns has outlined the hearing dates for the proposal. Does the Commission want to poll how ready the proposal is for hearing?
Vice Chair Foley is okay with the schedule but shares some of Commissioner Pulver’s concerns on the parking.
Commissioner Culbertson agrees with Vice Chair Foley. The schedule is fine but the proposal is creating too much work.
Commissioner Jordan is undecided and needs to get up to speed on the proposal.
Commissioner McFadden kind of agrees with Commissioner Pulver. He does not know if the schedule can be met and sort out the issues brought forward. He is hesitant to move forward on it right away.
Commissioner McManus agrees with Commissioner McFadden. He does not feel confident to review it.
Commissioner Thomas would move it forward at this time.
Commissioner Mansfield votes to move it forward.
Chair McKechnie responded that it sounds like they need one more study session on the parking aspect. It would be helpful if there were “what if” scenarios. If parking is not standard then the design professional needs to provide justification why more or less parking is needed. Is that the way he understands this? Mr. Kearns replied that summarizes it.
Commissioner Pulver asked, if he summarized his thoughts and concerns and emailed those to Mr. Kearns and Carla Paladino, Principal Planner could it be shared with the Commission and not perceived as a meeting outside of a meeting? Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney responded that if he communicated with staff then put in the record that is not a public meeting issue.
Commissioner Pulver is fine with the timeline but if there are other Commissioners uncomfortable then they probably need another study session.
Mr. Kearns offered Plan B. Separate out the parking piece and move forward with the rest and the schedule. Chair McKechnie replied that it would be helpful to see what Commissioner Pulver has to say about his thoughts and concerns. He would like to see more on the parking. He does not know if they should arbitrarily reduce parking spaces for residential uses without a backup of the current code.
Commissioner Pulver senses discomfort with some of the other Commissioners.
Vice Chair Foley’s main concern is in the parking. Why make the change? Mr. Kearns noted that the reason is from the Housing Advisory Committee’s high priority recommendations adopted by City Council. The goal is to increase flexibility and available and affordable housing. The easiest way to do that is reduce lot size requirements and reduce parking minimums. The parking part can be its own project and move forward with the rest of the proposal.
Ms. Paladino clarified that the Commission would like another study session and break down the topics specifically and identify why staff is proposing them the way they are. Maybe in different categories to better understand. Chair McKechnie commented that it may be easier to go through the general topics to find out if any Commissioner has an issue with it. Ms. Paladino thinks it would be helpful to staff for the Commission to send her or Mr. Kearns their specific comments and/or concerns so they can be addressed in their next study session.
Commissioner Pulver asked, is the Planning Commission being asked to approve or make a recommendation to City Council when it comes before them in a public hearing? Ms. Paladino responded that code changes are always a recommendation from the Planning Commission to City Council. City Council makes the final decision.
Ms. Paladino reported that last week City Council reviewed and approved the urbanization plan for MD-7c.
101. The meeting was adjourned at approximately 12:54 p.m.
Terri L. Richards