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Agenda & Minutes

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Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Agenda and Minutes

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The regular meeting of the Planning Commission was called to order at 5:30 PM in the Medford City Hall, Council Chambers, 411 West 8th Street, Medford, Oregon on the above date with the following members and staff in attendance:
Commissioners Present
Joe Foley, Vice Chair
David Culbertson
David Jordan
Bill Mansfield
David McFadden
Jared Pulver
Jeff Thomas
Staff Present
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Chase Browning, Deputy Fire Marshal
Terri Richards, Recording Secretary
Kyle Kearns, Planner II
Commissioners Absent
Mark McKechnie, Chair, Excused Absence          
E.J. McManus, Excused Absence             
10.     Roll Call
20.    Consent Calendar / Written Communications.
20.1 ZC-20-154 Final Order of a request for a change of zone of a single parcel totaling 0.23 acres, located at 1306 West Main Street.  The applicant is requesting a change from the SFR-10 (Single-Family Residential, ten dwelling units per gross acre) zoning district to the C-S/P (Service Commercial and Professional Office) zoning district (372W25BD12300).  Applicant: Zach Macormic; Planner: Dustin Severs.
Motion: The Planning Commission adopted the consent calendar as submitted.
Moved by: Commissioner Culbertson                     Seconded by: Commissioner McFadden
Voice Vote: Motion passed, 7-0-0.
30.          Approval or Correction of the Minutes from August 13, 2020 hearing
30.1 The minutes for August 13, 2020, were approved as submitted.
40.          Oral Requests and Communications from the Public.  None.
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney read the Quasi-Judicial statement.
                50.          Public Hearings.
New Business
50.1 DCA-19-012 Amendment to Articles III and V of the Medford Land Development Code (MLDC) to provide additional design flexibility of lot dimensions, setbacks, commercial development standards and off-street parking. Applicant: City of Medford; Planner: Kyle Kearns.
Kyle Kearns, Planner II reported that the Development Code Amendment approval criteria can be found in the Medford Land Development Code Section 10.214.  The applicable criteria were addressed in the staff report and hard copies are available at the entrance of Council Chambers for those in attendance.  Mr. Kearns reported that since the publication of the agenda packet there are new exhibits.  Exhibit R is a memorandum related to Goal 10 findings.  Exhibit S is a response letter to Mr. Jay Harland’s comments.  Exhibit T is a favorable letter from the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.  These exhibits will be submitted into the record.  Mr. Kearns gave a staff report.
Commissioner Pulver asked, is it staff’s interpretation that there is no discussion of surrounding development in the definition of infill lots?  Mr. Kearns responded that is correct.
Commissioner Pulver asked, is there any basis for the maximum coverage ratios being proposed?  Mr. Kearns reported that they are consistent with the Opticos revisions and C-S/P revisions.  Looking at existing development across the City 50% is closer to the medium and the C-N zone has more than the current code allows.
Commissioner Thomas asked, does staff have examples of infill for residential other than the one that was shown in Mr. Kearns presentation?  Mr. Kearns replied no. 
It seems to Commissioner Thomas there are several issues being thrown into one motion to approve or not to approve.  He is uncomfortable with not having clear definitions of what infill is and how it affects people throughout the City.
Commissioner Thomas stated that the 50% reduction of parking is saying jamming more people and taking parking away hoping they ride their bike to work or school and not have cars which he thinks is ridiculous.  That is not going to happen.  Again, it seems to him they are taking a lot of issues and putting them together.  Without more clarity on what that infill looks like he is a hard no vote.
Commissioner Pulver’s read of the Housing Advisory Commission’s recommendation on #8 reduction of parking is specific to downtown.   Is he misinterpreting that?  It seems that the proposal tonight is City wide.  Mr. Kearns stated that the Housing Advisory Commission’s recommendation was not specific to downtown; the goal in City Council’s resolution was specific to downtown.
Commission Pulver asked, did staff go with the Housing Advisory Commission’s recommendation and not City Council’s?  Mr. Kearns responded that City Council’s goal asked that staff bring forward the regulatory strategies recommended by the Housing Advisory Commission.
Commissioner Pulver asked for clarification that he thought Mr. Kearns just stated that the City Council recommended specific to downtown but then he said City Council also said take the proposed policy on the Housing Advisory Commission’s recommendation. Is that what Mr. Kearns is saying?  Mr. Kearns referred to page 41 of the agenda packet that reads: “Adopt new parking policies that encourage downtown redevelopment…Regulatory reforms recommended by the Housing Advisory
Commission.”   Number 8 is to reduce parking for residential development.  There are two separate items in this case.
Mr. Kearns backtracked to Commissioner Thomas’s comment that the proposal is not trying to force people out of cars, into bikes. The proposal is trying to offer options to the developers to decide whether or not they want to provide space for units or parking.  These are all optional.  It is not changing the minimums. 
Commissioner Thomas understands that.  If there is not clarity on what infill means and where it means in the City that changes the character of neighborhoods throughout the City without having one stamp that it will be done a certain way.  It is being left up to developers that may jam a bunch of units not worrying about parking and walk away.  He would hope that the City would have a vision of how they want it to look.  Bring that vision forward to the Planning Commission and City Council.  He has a lot of concerns.  Mr. Kearns hears Commissioner Thomas’s concerns.  The vision is driven by the Biennial Goals on page 41 of the agenda packet.  “It is enhancing livability for all residents by providing and safeguarding a range of housing choices in Medford.”  Right now the default in Medford is single family housing and by enabling reduction in parking, staff is working within that goal.
Commissioner Culbertson agrees with Commissioner Thomas and Commissioner Pulver.  The first objective in the presentation was to review the standards and implement any changes.  The word that should have been in there is any “necessary” changes.  It is possible the code is well written with the current standards.  Mr. Kearns also made a comment regarding Opticos Revisions.  Did Opticos or staff design the standards?  Mr. Kearns replied staff but they are based on several different reports that were provided by consultants hired by the City.  Commissioner Culbertson has read Opticos reports.  They want the City to go to small lots, tall buildings and no parking.
Vice Chair Foley asked, is it incumbent on the developer to provide rationale why they want the allowed lot size reduction?  Mr. Kearns responded that when reductions in lot dimensions are proposed for a subdivision reductions may only be permitted on 25% of the total number of proposed parcels. It is at the option of the applicant without much criteria.  Partitions are limited to infill definition.  Three or less lots have to meet the infill definition.
It seems to Vice Chair Foley there needs to be a rationale as to why an applicant wants the exceptions opposed to they feel like it because it is better for them.
Commissioner McFadden’s understanding is that the City has precise dimensions that a developer needs to meet.  If it gets to where an applicant can come in and argue they want their dimensions a certain way without a clear as to why, the authoritative body will get tied up in the process and not be able to make a decision.
Mr. Kearns responded that the maximum density in underlying zones are remaining the same.  The number of units permitted would not change.
Vice Chair Foley’s concern is about allowing more flexibility for no particular reason in the Greenfield development.
Vice Chair Foley thinks there should be criteria as to why the applicant is doing it because these things are allowed.  If they are too wide open they could end up with something they do not want and not have anything saying they cannot do it.
Mr. Kearns reported they could entertain an acreage limitation.  A Planned Unit Development is an acre and above.  They could do an acre and below for these provisions that would be in line with the provisions of the code in terms of Planned Unit Developments.  That would get to the Greenfield point. 
Mr. Mitton responded to an earlier comment from Commissioner Thomas stating that he thought he heard Commissioner Thomas question the definition of infill on whether it is sufficiently defined.  Infill is an objective definition.  On page 34 of the agenda packet is the definition of infill. 
Commissioner Thomas read that and disagrees with Mr. Mitton’s interpretation that it is a clear definition.  He does not think it is.  He is trying to work out how other infill in single family residential neighborhoods would look throughout the City and reduce the parking by 50%.  Where do those people park?  Mr. Kearns stated that it is a maximum reduction of 50% and currently the code requires two spaces per single family.   Commissioner Thomas asked, one puts more houses on a smaller lot reduce the parking in half does that change or not?  He does not understand that.  Mr. Kearns reported that the lot coverage would limit the size of the structures. That is not being changed for residential.  Commissioner Thomas stated that the example in the presentation added two more units but reduced the parking by 50%.  Mr. Kearns replied at the option of the applicant. If the market produces two to three parking spaces per unit and sells then they will continue to develop what sells.  It is an optional reduction.
Mr. Kearns reported that in previous iterations there was further criteria for infill.  It looked at infill development around the parcel.  Staff could bring back some surrounding context in terms of how infill is defined.  He is hearing how it is applied to subdivisions is that they may not want that to be so blanketed in Greenfield development and larger lots. 
Commissioner Culbertson asked, when Governor Brown signed the bill they were required to have clear and objective standards.  He believes the comment was any person should be able to read the code and interpret clearly.  The proposal reads that one has to be a land planner or hire someone to do it.  There are too many weird things.  Mr. Mitton responded that in that clear and objective standard there has to be a path to approval that includes only clear and objective standards.  The City is allowed to have optional routes where someone can do more or different if they want where you can get into subjective or more flexible standards as long as they can default back.
Commissioner Pulver responded to Commissioner McFadden’s comments.  In one of the initial study sessions one of the reasons cited for bringing this forward was because over the course of the last four years staff has had 31 Exception requests.  One third of those were related to public right-of-way.  By creating these flexible design standards would save developers time, money and effort that would be to a public benefit.  He argued at the time that was not enough exception requests needed to make these changes which appears are not creating a clear path, may or may not be creating a better product, may or may not be creating more work for the Commission and staff.  It begs the question are they achieving a goal of creating flexible design standards or not and at whose benefit.  He finds it interesting that they have come back to that here a couple meetings later.
Commissioner McFadden asked, how do they analyze what is happening in the City of Medford to know how to react to it?  Is there a review process for impacts of decisions made in the past?  Maybe doing a slower process.  He would be more confident if they were getting a review of what is working and what is not working.  Carla Paladino, Principal Planner stated they can track submitted applications.  They will know from the neighbors or neighborhood or maybe a more robust downtown that staff has done a good thing or a bad thing.  It may be locale.  The City wants more development downtown.  They would rather utilize parking lots housing cars to house people.  There is a way to track it over time.  If they do not change the standard there is nothing for them to track accept for the normal standard.  City Council requested something similar with cottage housing.  It was adopted a year ago in August and they just had a review with them.  Staff has had only one come in but that is positive.  They need to enable this so it becomes something people can use and staff can see what it does.  It is code.  If it does not work it can be changed.       
Mr. Kearns commented that staff is starting to track data because of House Bill 4006.
Commissioner Culbertson requested data from the slide that stated the City of Medford is behind in housing from 2009.  The data does not coincide with what he sees in the real estate market.  Mr. Kearns replied that it is based on the permit data.
Commissioner Pulver responded to Ms. Paladino’s comments stating it is personal preference but he thinks when cottage housing came before the Commission the first time you could take it and be proactive or reactive.  He hears Planning Staff is stretched thin and has a lot on their plate.  He would argue that being reactive would make more sense.  If there is enough voice it would make sense to get staff working on a project.  Right now it is playing darts with a blindfold on.  He gets worked up when it comes to what he thinks is bad code because someone will take advantage of it.            
The public hearing was opened.
a. Jay Harland, CSA Planning Ltd., 4497 Brownridge Terrace, Suite 101, Medford, Oregon, 97504.  Mr. Harland stated that he was going to inform the Commission on the genesis of the flexible design standards with respect to lot size.  He shares some of the Commission’s concerns on the parking.
Mr. Harland offered alternative language and comments that he wrote.  He thinks in section 4 it needs to say “for land division in residential zones.”   Working on subdivisions in Medford mostly Medford’s code is good.  It delivers product to plan around. Commissioner Pulver noted the number of exceptions the Commission has seen.  It may seem like a small number but to a planner it seems to be a high number.  The bar to an exception is high.  For their projects they spend a lot of time designing to avoid doing an exception.  There is a lot of effort that goes into that.  Mr. Harland suggested in his memorandum a reduction of 12% then one could do 20% of the lot.  If the Planning Commission says no that is too much they think 10% or 8% adjustment wanting 10% of the lot to be able to do it that would still address the issue.  That should be available to an individual for a single lot partition.  The original idea was to have something in the code that is clear and easy to use and provide a certain number of lots can be tweaked a small amount to make the project fit and not spend a lot of time.  He thinks as a policy matter it is beneficial to the City and helpful to CSA Planning laying out projects big and small.  He requests the Planning Commission go this route and move that part along.
He cannot figure out the definition of infill development in staff’s draft.  He did figure out that every SFR-10 and MFR lot and every commercial lot vacant is an infill lot under that definition.  He would offer something that is easy and straight forward to apply and can be applied to every project.  He would like to see the City go that direction.
Vice Chair Foley asked, if Mr. Harland comes in to do a reduction would he report on that or just say they did it?  Mr. Harland stated that goes back to the clear and objective standard.  The idea was that one would qualify for them on a limited number of lots.  That kind of adjustment is common in other development codes.  Ashland has something like that.  Central Point calls them exceptions or variances but there are different levels.  Their lowest level is easy.  In Medford if the lots and streets are not exactly like what it says it has to be it is an exception.  The idea is if they had a little middle ground to move things around but not change the overall zone.  Medford is flexible in the number of residential zones that are allowed in the UR designation.
Commissioner McFadden stated that Mr. Harland provided a slide but he does not know how to read it.  Mr. Harland replied that it is comparing different issues.  He is concerned with staff’s draft of 20% flexibility for 25% of the lot as permitted outright in a subdivision. Then there are parts of the draft code for environmental reasons, riparian areas, etc. one can do more than 25% of the lot as substandard.  An applicant can request an increase in the block length due to some of the same environmental factors.  If they are doing a subdivision where they are requesting that they are not protected by needed housing it is up to the Commission to decide on whether or not they agree with the applicant’s ability to make those blocks bigger.  A big concern of his is interaction of the two codes.
The language Mr. Harland suggested would be limited to residential land divisions.  From the Housing Advisory Commission perspective they never talked about anything but housing.  He has never ran into this for commercial or industrial lots.
Mr. Harland stated that Mr. Mitton spoke to the fact that one can be on these two paths whether it is clear and objective or discretionary.  He is concerned that most applicants would not understand their project could become discretionary.
Another concern Mr. Harland has is respect to buildable lots. 
Commissioner Mansfield commented that it does not take much perception to recognize this is going to fail.  He plans to vote for it.  He is hoping they are not going to spend the next two hours doing committee work.  He hopes they can soon vote on it.  It may go back for committee work at a later time.  That is his recommendation.
Mr. Kearns recapped what he heard and pointed out Exhibit L that summarizes the results from the webinar on page 55 of the agenda packet.  He heard limiting the infill definition to residential would be favorable.  Mr. Kearns proposed that the Commission consider one acre limitation to that.  Further limit the subdivision allowance to a particular size starting with an acre.  He heard in regards to parking to consider something lower than 50% maximum reduction.  Mr. Kearns suggested 30%. 
Commissioner Thomas is not comfortable voting.  He would like to send this back to staff for revisions instead of voting.  He is not comfortable with “we wanted this but how about that”.  It makes more sense to vote it down or have staff bring it back at another time with the comments from the Commission. 
The public hearing was closed.
Commissioner Pulver asked, is an option to forward this to City Council with an unfavorable recommendation?  Would that be effectively a no vote?  Would it go back to staff for further discussion?  Mr. Mitton responded that the Commission can send it to the City Council opposing the recommendation or the Commission can send it back to staff for further work and bring it back with the changes at a later meeting.  Make the motion clear. 
Commissioner McFadden asked, has the City Council stated they want this by a certain date?  Mr. Mitton replied no.                      
Motion: The Planning Commission tabled the recommendation and referred the proposal back to staff for further review and resubmit to the Planning Commission at staff’s option.  
Moved by: Commissioner Mansfield                       Seconded by: Commissioner Thomas
Vice Chair Foley does not know if the Commission wants to restrict the development size on the reduction.  Maybe look at reducing the number of percentages of lots available to have that exception applied to them.  There is discomfort with parking.
Commissioner Pulver agrees with Vice Chair Foley that the Commission needs to provide clear direction for staff.  He has reservations with the infill development.  He has been clear about his parking issues.  He is resistant to decreased parking other than downtown.  There is already code in place that allows the 25% variance with justification.  What is in the code is adequate.  He would be supportive of the flexibility for smaller lots.
Commissioner Thomas would like to see more clarity on infill and what that would mean for different zoning types. He is not against suggestions staff has with why the parking should be at 50% or 30%.  He wants to know why.  Do not change it at all if there is no justification of why the change.
Commissioner Mansfield disagrees with most of the Commissioners.  He favors the proposal as it was originally proposed two or three months ago.  He suggested that staff may want to have another study session. 
Mr. Kearns summarized what he heard stating concerns on the infill development definition to refocus specifically on residential.  On larger subdivisions there is preference to allow lot dimension deviations maybe somewhere between 12 and 20, not sure the total number of lots somewhere between 20 and 25.  The setback language from Mr. Harland and staff are similar.  He has not heard too much discussion on that so it may be sitting well.  Parking without justification but have no number needs review.  Without the data parking will not proceed.  There has not been a lot of discussion on the commercial changes. 
Commissioner Pulver would like to see justification.  To him for C-C and C-H it was an arbitrary jump.  C-H is currently at 60% and I-L is at 50%.  It seemed to him those numbers were being pushed up for the sake of pushing them up.  He could get on board with 50% across the board for commercial zones.  If the gut of this change is to increase the amount of residential maybe there needs to be an asterisk that states for a residential project done in a commercial zone you can go at 50% or 60% and maybe that is more acceptable.  The way the code is proposed would affect commercial.  Then that presents the question of why is that in the proposal because this is related to residential. 
Commissioner Jordan requested that if there is another study session on this that staff bring back more examples of what an infill development would look like with these standards.  Mr. Kearns responded that at a study session staff could provide infill options.                             
Roll Call Vote: Motion passed, 7-0-0.
60.      Reports
60.1 Site Plan and Architectural Commission.
Commissioner Culbertson reported that the Site Plan and Architectural met on Friday, August 21, 2020.  They approved a three-story office building located at the southeast corner of South Pacific Highway and Garfield Street intersection.
Immediately following they had a study session on Fuel Station and Car Wash Amendment.   
60.2 Transportation Commission.
Commissioner Pulver reported that the Transportation Commission met yesterday, Wednesday, August 26, 2020.  They are recommending projects for the next six year window.  The budget is moving but they have $3.2 million that is not spoken for.     
60.3 Planning Department
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner reported there is a Planning Commission study session scheduled for Monday, September 14, 2020.  Discussions will be on temporary shelters. 
There is business scheduled for Thursday, September 10, 2020, Thursday, September 24, 2020 and Thursday, October 8, 2020.
Last week City Council approved the Shared Use Path amendment, Community Development Grants Commission, and the Urbanization Plan for MD-3a (Skinner and Veritas Properties).  The Annexation was continued because they are waiting on the County to finalize the plats for a property line adjustment and partition.
Planning applied for a Technical Assistance Grant through DLCD as part of House Bill 2003.  It is a requirement every eight years that cities have to update their Housing Element.  Planning received funding to start the update.  Staff will be coming forward with information about that in a future Planning Commission study session.  In addition to that Planning has funding to do a Housing Production Strategy that ties in with the housing analysis.  
70.      Messages and Papers from the Chair. 
70.1 Vice Chair Foley stated that tonight’s meeting highlighted the importance of making sure the Commissioners engage and give good direction back to staff in their study sessions. 
80.      City Attorney Remarks.  None.
90.      Propositions and Remarks from the Commission.
90.1 Commissioner Pulver echoed Vice Chair Foley’s comment.  He voiced his frustrations with code amendments that cover a range of topics.  It is probably easier on staff instead of running through one at a time.  It is vital that the Planning Commission give rationale on the whys because he thinks City Council looks at that.  He encouraged the Commission to stay engaged on their recommendations to the City Council.
90.2 Commissioner Thomas commented that their lunch time study sessions that educate the Commissioners are great.  If staff is looking for feedback and direction from the Commission he does not know whether a study session during lunch time makes more sense or an evening one that can last as long as it takes to get it done.  It is difficult on a complex issue like this was to get it done in 45 or 50 minutes.
90.3 Commissioner McFadden does not think Zoom meetings help either.           
100.    Adjournment
100.1 The meeting was adjourned at approximately 7:02 p.m.  The proceedings of this meeting were digitally recorded and are filed in the City Recorder’s office.
Submitted by:
Terri L. Richards                                                                               
Recording Secretary                                                                      
Joe Foley
Planning Commission Vice-Chair
Approved: September 10, 2020

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