Ashland to amend land-use ordinance

The Ashland Planning Commission will begin a rewrite process of the city's land-use ordinance at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

"Ashland planning staff has been working diligently over the past two months reviewing the code for inconsistencies, missing definitions, contradictory requirements, and minor policy issues," Ashland Community Development Director David Stalheim wrote in a memo introducing the proposed changes. "There is a considerable amount of information and change within these proposed ordinance amendments."

Last year, the city commissioned an outside consultant to inspect the land-use ordinance for inconsistencies. Planning staff added some of its own items to that list, and the compilation will be heard Tuesday night.

Potential changes mentioned in Stalheim's memo include redefining terms such as "lot coverage" and "gross floor area" &

two tenants of Ashland planning that have recently raised confusion for commissioners and applicants.

He also mentioned "minor policy issues," such as setbacks and vision clearance. These two articles of the code have had a significant effect on recent projects before the commission. Setback rules have surprised some applicants when they were enforced, and vision clearance issues have altered the design of some projects.

"While it would be advantageous to go through the entire ordinance and address this issue, a simpler route was taken by revising the definition of setback," Stalheim wrote in his memo. "And by providing clarity as to how setbacks are measured in multi-story buildings."

He said the vision-clearance rules, which require a building to be setback in a way that keeps a driver's line of sight clear of buildings and infrastructure, are being suggested for modification. "The current ordinance measures vision clearance from property lines," Stalheim wrote. "This is a disincentive to wide sidewalks and does not address the purpose of the vision clearance area: for pedestrian and vehicular safety. The proposed changes measure setbacks from curb lines. As a result, an exemption for street utilities is necessary for items such as traffic signs, street lights, etc."

Planning staff is also including in the revised land-use ordinance a new processes for projects to be reviewed by the city. The potential changes include adding "expedited land division procedures" and replacing hearings board decisions with staff approval. The hearings board is a revolving subcommittee of the planning commission that hears less controversial land-use matters.

"The current ordinance has all Type I permit applications reviewed by the Planning Commission Hearings Board before they become final," Stalheim's memo said. "The proposed changes would make the staff decision final, subject to either a reconsideration process or appeal to the Planning Commission for a public hearing."

He said this change could save staff about two weeks time annually.

Stalheim is also hoping to implement a fee to residents who wish to appeal decisions of the planning commission.

"In an effort to avoid appeals when a factual error occurred that is brought to the attention of the staff advisor, a reconsideration process is added to the procedures," he wrote in his memo. "While this ordinance does not set fees, it does authorize the collection of these appeal fees (up to state limit of $250). I am making a recommendation that such fees be established."

Tuesday night's meeting represents the first opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed changes. On Aug. 9, there will be a second meeting to answer questions. Suggestions for changes are due to the planning department by Aug. 20, and the planning commission will hold a public hearing on Sept. 11 on the second draft of the proposed changes. The planning commission will not deliberate about revising the land-use ordinance until Sept. 25, and Stalheim anticipates the Ashland City Council will get its first opportunity to review potential changes in mid-October.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or .

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