Planners to consider procedural changes

Community Development Director David Stalheim will give recommendations for land use decision-making procedures on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at his last planning commission meeting before he heads back to Washington.

One procedural amendment would allow staff to make decisions on minor planning issues, such as secondary dwellings on single-family lots, without being subject to commission approval, Stalheim said. The change would allow neighbors to submit comments to staff before a decision is made, rather than waiting for a hearing at the commission where they can no longer argue for or against the development.

"Quite often, neighbors help inform us about issues, such as environmental and traffic issues, that may not be as obvious to us as they are to the neighbors," Stalheim said. "It gets them involved earlier in the process, which really helps their participation and will lead to better decisions."

Stalheim said he expects the commission to approve several other amendments to the land use ordinance that have been under consideration since April. The changes should make the requirements of the ordinance clearer, he said.

The commission will also discuss the possibility of adding a hearings officer who could approve development projects.

When Stalheim arrived in Ashland, he suggested such an officer was not necessary, but he will leave with a different recommendation.

"I've rethought it based on my history here," he said. "I think we probably should have done that."

A hearings officer used as a short term solution would ensure fair and consistent application of the ordinance, he said, as well as allow for more efficient use of the commission's time.

"So much time is spent on these minor land use decisions that in my mind should be better spent on long range planning discussions," he said.

The meeting will be held at the Civic Center on 1175 E. Main Street.

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