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Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes
Monday, July 27, 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
Matt Brinkley, Planning Director
Kelly Evans, Assistant Planning Director
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Terri Richards, Recording Secretary
Kyle Kearns, Planner II
David McFadden, Unexcused Absence
Jeff Thomas, Unexcused Absence
20.1 DCA-19-012 Flexible Design Standards
Kyle Kearns, Planner II reported that the proposal creates flexible design standards for setbacks, lot coverage, lot dimensions, off-street parking and modifies building height and lot coverage standards within the commercial and industrial zoning districts.
Direction to evaluate this amendment is based on the list created by the Housing Advisory Commission in 2017 which outlined a list of both regulatory and economic incentives to consider to help increase housing production and remove barriers to development.
The Housing Advisory Commission provided a favorable recommendation of the proposal during their May 13th meeting. The Planning Commission reviewed this proposal during study sessions on March 9th and May 11th. Recently, a revised draft was reviewed and discussed with the City Council during a series of three meetings. The City Council did not provide any objections to the proposal moving ahead. In addition, Legal and Planning staff met to discuss the proposal. The amendment before the Commission incorporates the changes discussed with Legal staff.
In addition, to sending the proposal via email to staff’s list of consultants, developers, non-profits, and municipal agency representatives, staff will also present the material through a webinar platform in early August. Staff will invite the community to listen to the proposed code changes and provide time for questions and answers at the end of the session to gather feedback and help clarify the proposal.
Staff is seeking any final changes to the amendment prior to the start of the hearing process.
Definitions tied to the proposal are environmental resources, environmental restoration and infill or infill development. Updated environmental resources definition is to provide clarity and limit applications. Significant trees and topographic features are tied to the above definitions. Further defined “significant tree” is to limit preservation of trees to older, more mature trees. To be more specific the definition would include that small groupings of trees, consisting of four or less of deciduous trees would be 24 inches or greater. Coniferous trees would be 30 inches or greater. Large groupings of trees consisting of five or more trees would measure for deciduous trees 12 inches or greater and coniferous trees 20 inches or greater.
The proposal clarifies language in the Central Business District to meet the City Council’s direction of exempting residential uses from the parking requirement.
The use of the flexible development standards shall be at the option of the applicant for land use review. It creates an optional process that is clear and objective. At the option of the applicant for land use review they can get a 20% reduction in lot dimension for an infill parcel or when reductions in lot dimensions are proposed for a subdivision, reductions may only be permitted on 25% of the total number of proposed parcels. Reduction in lot dimensions, for a land division, may exceed 25% of the proposed number of parcels to the extent necessary to preserve or restore environmental resources.
The infill criteria for SFR-10, MFR or Commercial Zones only: A subject parcel shall be considered infill when a single family home is removed and/or redeveloped to create two or more dwellings, excluding ADUs, but including mixed use buildings. In addition, in other zones, a lot is considered infill if it is a mixed-use building or residential development and the subject parcel is not large enough to be split into four or more lots, consistent with the underlying zoning district.
Exceptions to yard requirements, per the Fire Departments comments, increased the setback to 10 feet or larger, not in Wildfire Risk Area, not on slopes greater than 15%. In order to use this it must be preservation of environmental resources or considered infill development.
Commercial changes proposed a maximum coverage update of C-N from 30 to 50%, C-S/P, C-C, C-R from 40 to 60% and C-H from 60 to 70%. Also, proposed a maximum height update from 35 to 85 feet in all but the C-N zone except 55 feet for the portion of a structure within 150 feet of SFR-00, SFR-2, SFR-4 and SFR-6 zoning districts. When proposed development is adjacent to a lot with the SFR-00 zoning and the General Land Use Plan designation of the lot is Commercial, Service Commercial, Urban Medium Density Residential or Urban High Density Residential the above building height restrictions shall not apply.
Commissioner Pulver asked, what are the height limitations on UM and UH? Carla Paladino, Principal Planner responded that she would get that information while Mr. Kearns continued. She believes it is 35 feet. Chair McKechnie stated that the residential code maximum is 35 feet. Ms. Paladino replied that is correct. Under the multifamily dwelling chart three or more attached dwellings the maximum height is 35 feet.
Commissioner Pulver asked, is this saying that the 55 feet would not apply if the GLUP was UM or UH? Ms. Paladino reported yes or in the future to be commercial.
Chair McKechnie thinks that is a problem because people will be looking for commercial land to build a building 55 feet high when they are limited to 35 feet on any land zoned multifamily. It needs to be 35 feet next to residential zones. Mr. Kearns agreed that it needs to be consistent.
Mr. Kearns continued that parking reductions remain in the same context as the last time the Commission reviewed them. At the option of the applicant reductions for change of use/expansions are still permitted if parking increase is 50% or less. The 24 feet of on-street parking counting towards parking requirement remains the same. The off-street parking requirement shall be reduced by 25% when a subject use or parcel is within ¼ mile of an existing transit stop; or a ½ mile of an existing bike facility including bicycle lane, shared use path or neighborhood bikeway excluding sharrows on higher order roads. When within a Transit Oriented District (TOD) residential development may use a parking standard of one space per two dwelling units.
The on-street parking is not clear to Chair McKechnie. If a lot has 100 feet of frontage can it have credit for four on-street parking spaces or only one because there is a minimum of 24 feet? Mr. Kearns responded that a reduction of one off-street parking space shall be approved for each 24 feet of linear roadway with on-street parking directly abutting the proposed development, excluding driveway widths. Chair McKechnie asked, is Mr. Kearns saying that with a net of 48 feet two on-street parking spaces are permitted? Mr. Kearns replied yes. Chair McKechnie thinks this could be interpreted if one has at least 24 feet only one on-street parking space is permitted. Mr. Kearns replied that is correct. Chair McKechnie thinks the sentence needs to be clearer so that developers will understand that they can count as many parking spaces on the street as they have 24 feet of qualifying frontage. Commissioner Pulver commented that it is clear in the code. Mr. Kearns’s read the code section. Chair McKechnie was just responding to the shortcut on the PowerPoint slide.
Chair McKechnie commented that Ashland allows 2/3 credit. If there was room for three spaces in front they get a reduction of on-street parking of two spaces. He is thinking down the road for infill projects. Mr. Kearns asked, does the Commission want to put limits like Ashland or something different? Chair McKechnie thinks in may come into play for corner lots where they get parking on two streets.
Ms. Paladino wanted to know if there was a consensus on changing that or if that is something the Commissioners would do at their hearing so that staff has direction.
Commissioner Pulver is not in favor of any reduction for on-street parking.
Mr. Kearns will research Ashland to see if there are some provisions staff could add that limits how much on-street parking is allowed.
Mr. Kearns reported that the code allows reduced parking for environmental resources up to 50%, more if needed to further preserve environmental resources. Also, a revised parking needs analysis to be consistent with current code that demonstrates that a lower parking requirement can adequately serve the parking needs of the use.
Dwelling Units in Commercial Districts shall be allowed in all commercial districts. The proposal includes small revisions to make consistency throughout the code including current density references and additional criteria for C-N zone.
The next steps will be a live webinar event the week of August 4, 2020. Planning Commission public hearing on August 27, 2020 and City Council public hearing on September 17, 2020.
Mr. Kearns asked, are there any final changes to make to the proposal? The comments that he has so far are to clean up the 150 feet note, change the height restriction to 35 feet near a zone that requires a 35 foot height, clean up the 24 feet on-street parking allowance for reducing parking, looking at Ashland’s code of the 2/3 reduction with concerns of corner lots not getting it to zero off-street parking requirement with the 24 feet of on-street parking.
Commissioner Pulver commented that making comments does not necessarily warrant a change. He implored the body to speak up. His next comment was that the exception language in Section 10.721 of maximum building heights of 85 feet in commercial zones is okay but if they are within 150 feet it should be 35 feet including all residential zones including medium and high density. In Section 10.741 he would advocate for not making changes at all. He thinks it was crossed out the option if it was not more than 25% increase additional spaces would not have to be created. He thinks that is adequate flexibility. In Section 10.743 he thinks leave the option to do a parking needs study but there is a table that directs what minimum and maximum parking can be or has to be and if that needs to be adjusted then adjust that. He has an objection to on-street. Transit is grossly inadequate in Medford for serving the masses. Bike paths are grossly inadequate in term of connectivity. He has not seen the TODs work in Medford such that the need for an automobile has decreased to that level. The general is one to one and a half parking spaces per unit and the proposal is saying one space for 2 units. He thinks that is grossly inadequate. Reduction up to 50% of off-street parking shall be approved to preserve environmental resources is fluffy. It could be generally abused. The idea is to provide public benefit. A lot of this has to do with other types of developments not just housing. They have not answered the basic fundamental question of where is that going to go. If there were great bike paths and transit there would be evidence not needing to take an automobile but Medford does not have that. He would argue that is the predominant means of transport and will continue to be for the foreseeable future in this area. It is short sited to try and eliminate parking.
Commissioner Jordan thanked Commissioner Pulver for his advocacy for connected bike trails. It is certainly a need.
Mr. Kearns responded to the parking reduction language stating the standards drastically revised based on Commissioner Pulver’s comments received through emails. Originally the TOD districts were a blanketed allowance for this type of standard. It has now been limited to residential. He encouraged the Commission to drive through TODs identified in the Comprehensive Plan which is West Main, Northern and Southern shopping centers and downtown. He would argue that there is ample parking in those places. This proposal is aimed at reducing costs to residential development. The problem with the bicycle facilities is that there are only a few shared use bike paths. The bicycle lanes are well connected in the areas this would apply.
Chair McKechnie asked, for a residential developer to utilize parking on another site in a TOD would he need to have an agreement from the owner of that site that he could count that parking? Mr. Kearns responded yes they would need that permission.
Commissioner Jordon commented that he is an east Medford bike commuter and he has been amazed on the activity on the east Larson expansion up to Black Oak. It provides connectivity to Bear Creek then into west Medford.
101. The meeting was adjourned at approximately 12:50 p.m.
Terri L. Richards