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Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes
Monday, July 13, 2020
The study session of the Planning Commission was called to order in a Zoom webinar at 12:00 p.m. in Medford, Oregon on the above date with the following members and staff in attendance:
Mark McKechnie, Chair
Joe Foley, Vice Chair
Jeff Thomas, Unexcused Absence
Kelly Evans, Assistant Planning Director
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Terri Richards, Recording Secretary
Kyle Kearns, Planner II
20.1 DCA-20-127 Pad Lot and Multi-Family Development Standards
Kyle Kearns, Planner II reported that City Council adopted regulatory strategies recommended by the Housing Advisory Committee to address regulatory barriers to affordable and available housing. The goal is to increase the potential for ownership opportunities in multi-family residential developments and decreasing multi-family zone development standard minimums to increase the potential for available and affordable housing.
High priorities recommended by the Housing Advisory Committee are to review lot sizes for multi-family residential; increasing building height in multi-family family zone; allow pad lot developments for multi-family; and different ways to achieve density.
Prior to establishing a public hearing schedule and reaching out to the local development community, staff is seeking direction from the Planning Commission. Does the Commission support the proposal? Does the Commission want to see any changes made? Does the Commission want to schedule an additional study session before the public hearings are scheduled and outreach begins?
Pad lot development is a land division that permits the division of individual pads from a parent parcel. Pad lots were previously permitted for residential development under an acre. It was amended in 2006 for commercial only.
As proposed, pad lot developments require, prior to tentative plat Site Plan and Architectural Review (SPAR) approval. The land use review process for a land division associated with a pad lot development is set as a Type II administrative review for multi-family of 3 net acres or less. Type III approval for multi-family larger than 3 net acres, commercial development or cottage clusters.
Pad lot development can be applied for once site plan architectural review is approved. The tentative plat relies on existing land division procedures.
Multi-family zone updates is intended to make existing zones and required densities function better by decreasing lot dimension minimums and increasing allowable building height. The proposed lot area changes are for SFR-10 from 15,000 to 5,400; MFR-15 from 9,000 to 4,000; MFR-20 from 8,000 to 5,000; and MFR-30 from 8,000 to 5,000. The current code mandates larger, block-scale attached units. The proposed code enables smaller, house-scaled attached units.
Multi-family changes proposed a maximum coverage update from 50% to MFR-15 to 60%; MFR-20 to 65%; and MFR-30 to 70%. Proposed a maximum height update from 35 feet to SFR-10 and MFR-15 to 45 feet; MFR-20 to 55 feet and MFR-30 to 65 feet.
Commissioner McFadden thinks there should be a setback procedure for pad lots and design is key to making it work.
Chair McKechnie asked, are there changes or leave alone the section in the code that states regardless of the height of the building in the zone, the height cannot be more than 35 feet within 150 feet of a residential zone? Carla Paladino, Principal Planner replied that is in the commercial and industrial zone.
Chair McKechnie stated that putting a four-story building next to a single family neighborhood would look out of place. There needs to be a transition of density.
Commissioner Pulver commented that there are a lot of objections to multi-family from people in SFR neighborhoods. He is not supportive of changing the height from 35 feet. He sort of understands the lot size change. He struggles with the coverage issue. Limiting the coverage forces developers to lose amenities that would be beneficial to the residents of the development as well as the neighbors immediately adjacent to the residents of the City. He is not a fan to a lot of the proposed changes.
Vice Chair Foley agrees with comments made by Commissioner McFadden and Chair McKechnie. He is not concerned with large development going up 10 extra feet. He is concerned about a single building closer to normal residential housing. Making these changes he is nervous now about the proposal recently to not go through Site Plan and Architectural under three acres. Getting creative needs to have a review to make sure it fits to where it is going as opposed to not. Increasing the ability to put people in zones that previously was not able due to lot coverage etc. will run into open space issues. Is there a conscious effort for open space requirements?
Commissioner McFadden referenced last week’s application for Dellwood that the lot was approximately 4,000 to 5,000 square feet. Putting a tall building on that lot would not fit the neighborhood.
Mr. Kearns summarized what he heard for direction. There is a preference to staggered height when near SFR zones. Consensus from the Commission was in agreement. There was general discussion and reservations on height and coverage changes. Would keeping 35 feet for SFR-10, 45 feet in MFR-15, 55 feet in MFR-20 and MFR-30 be more appropriate?
Commissioner McFadden does not have a good reference of what it takes to build a decent functional building. Are the heights reasonable?
Chair McKechnie reported that parking would be the limitation on how dense a project can be built. A thirty-five foot building allows two-stories plus a little roof coverage. Forty-five feet allows three-stories with a little roof coverage. Fifty-five is five stories and sixty-five is six stories. Anything over 35 feet would require an elevator. Two story walkups are rentable or sellable. Three story walkups in Medford would probably not be sellable or rentable. Anything over that would require an elevator. Practical elevators are five stories. Six is complicated and expensive. It is his opinion that MFR-30 needs to be a 15,000 square foot site and 30 to 50 feet from the property edge before allowed height of the zone. That would eliminate small lot development higher than 35 feet regardless of the zoning.
Commissioner McFadden asked, would parking be a reason to increase the height and coverage? Does the first floor become parking to live on top of it? Chair McKechnie responded that is a practical consideration but it is an expensive project and the City wants to do parking at grade.
Mr. Kearns reiterated that staff needs to work on the coverage and height to bring the multifamily changes forward. He also heard that MFR-30 would be better served with larger lot sizes. Another consideration would be a smaller height under a certain square footage. There is a substantial difference in housing that goes into infill and established neighborhoods compared to Greenfield large lot developments.
Commissioner Pulver struggles with some of this. He does not feel development is being turned away because of not accommodating people’s needs. He does not think there are that many projects that need to exceed the proposed heights. They seem unnecessary changes because of a consultant’s suggestion from other municipalities. He does not see the need and does not see that it is helping the City and citizens. He is opposed to height adjustment at this point. He thinks the current code allows for MFR and commercial zones to be taller.
Mr. Kearns agreed with Commissioner Pulver that the City does not see that type of development here. The code sets the minimums. Setting the standard at a lower minimum for height and coverage would make the standard more permissive, not change the market. It is all speculative but review of the code is that the current density does not function with the current standards.
Commissioner McFadden commented that pushing the elevation up will cost more. It is opposite of the cluster cottages.
Mr. Kearns stated this is not forcing anything it is creating more opportunity. The market will determine what is feasible for development.
Chair McKechnie commented that the change for cottage housing will have more of an impact than what is being discussed today especially for infill development. It would be interesting for staff to do a couple of hypothetical test cases or run these changes by developers that do small scale infill development for multifamily to see if any of them have an impact.
Commissioner McFadden remembers when the City removed pad lots but does not remember why. He thinks it was because of too tight developments. It would be interesting to know. Staff that was around during that time is no longer with the City.
Kelly Evans, Assistant Planning Director reported that staff removed residential pad lots because they were permissible for single family and were problematic for small single family. Staff saw weird infill patterns that were inefficient and problematic for the owners. Developers decided to redraft property boundaries illegally. Staff intended to remove them but did not anticipate the impact.
Mr. Kearns stated that in the past single family pad lots were limited to an acre or less. In a PUD it is an acre or more. The proposed pad lot text states for smaller pad lots that it would not have to be a PUD to do creative lot design or pad lots themselves. An applicant would have to go through the PUD process for larger scale pad lots.
Commissioner Pulver has discomfort with the Site Plan and Architectural Commission reviewing some of this. He thinks administrative review would be better to review pad lots.
Mr. Kearns reported there could be some value putting that with pad lots given the acreage is with the PUD otherwise it is making a lot of administrative review PUDs. Ms. Evans does not agree with that. She agrees if doing straight single family as a pad lot. The proposed is for multifamily and has to go through a Type III review. It has to go through the Site Plan and Architectural Commission. The pad lots become a matter of drawing lines and ownership. It is not a project design question. She suggested they be a Type II because there is no point in taking the ownership piece through a public hearing when that work has already been done at the Site Plan and Architectural Commission level.
Commissioner Pulver hears what staff is saying on Site Plan and Architectural Commission review. It falls back where the Planning Commission gets asked to be the role of the Site Plan and Architectural Commission. He does not know whether they get a lot out of a review for a subdivision depending on how murky they are or not. Yes, they are dividing ownership but it falls in that same category where the Planning Commission would review a subdivision from a functionality point for the owners which is not what the Site Plan and Architectural Commission would typically review.
Mr. Kearns reported that staff provided reading material from The Strong Towns organization, a non-profit focused on building resilient communities. One of the big take away from the article The 5 Immutable Laws of Affordable Housing was their third rule that “If your zoning and building code mandates expensive housing, housing will be expensive.” Most zoning codes place minimums on the size of dwelling units, the size of lots, and countless other factors that affect the cost of building housing. Unfortunately, these minimums don’t generally envision affordable construction types, even in the most progressive and challenged of housing markets. One of the rules they suggested is to reduce minimum lot sizes and relax density restrictions in single-family zones.
Mr. Kearns summarized the direction given from the Planning Commission. They cannot make the decision today on whether they support the proposal. Changes to the proposal is stagger the height within or near SFR zones. Height and coverage were too far. Keep MFR-30 lots larger. Run the changes past the development community and staff needs to run visuals and renderings so the Commission can see what it looks like. Yes, the Commission wants an additional study session before a public hearing.
Chair McKechnie thinks Mr. Kearns gave a good synopsis and it would be helpful to have another study session especially with examples of what the proposal looks like.
101. The meeting was adjourned at approximately 12:48 p.m.
Terri L. Richards