The Ashland Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Tuesday evening on two new ordinances addressing setbacks and street standards on Lithia Way.

Planning staff agreed that the ordinance revisions were necessary after the confusion regarding the Northlight project on Lithia Way three years ago, Community Development Director Bill Molnar said.

An Ashland land use ordinance established in 1979 required a 20-foot front yard setback on arterial roads, also known as main streets. According to a planning staff information packet &

distributed prior to the upcoming meeting and available to the public online &

the Site Design and Use Standards was first adopted in 1986. The ordinance has gone through several changes since.

In 1992, the Site Design and Use Standards were replaced and included the Detail Site Review Standards. In 1998, the Site Design and Use Standards were revised to include the Downtown Design Standards. In 1996, the Transportation Element of the Ashland Comprehensive Plan was revised and adopted. Subsequently, the Ashland Transportation System Plan (TSP) was adopted in 1998 and the Ashland Street Standards were adopted in 1999.

When the Northlight project came before the Planning Commission, planning staff had taken the approach that the latest ordinances should be applied, Molnar said.

"But the city attorney (Mike Frannell) said he didn't think we were correct in that assumption. He said that the standard from years ago overrode the more recent standard," Molnar said.

Eventually, the Planning Commission did not approve the Northlight application and project developers did not appeal.

Clearing it up

The proposed amendment to the Special Setback Requirements (section 18.68.050) expands the exception from the 20-foot setback requirement for properties abutting arterial streets to include all properties abutting Lithia Way. The current ordinance allows an exemption to commercial businesses on the south side of Lithia Way only. The proposed ordinance would apply the exemption to the north side of Lithia Way, as well.

The second proposed amendment would be applied to the Street Standards Handbook, which requires a minimum 5-by-5-foot "tree well" and a minimum 10-foot-wide sidewalk. That means at least 15 feet of tree well and sidewalk will be between the curb and a building.

The ordinance change would still allow for flexibility, Molnar said.

"If someone wanted to open a sidewalk caf&

233; on Lithia Way, it could be allowed as long as the 15-foot minimum setback was met," he said. "The ordinance would allow for that because it would fall under public space."

Many of the city's downtown policies and regulations place an emphasis on making the downtown area pedestrian-friendly, Molnar said, adding that the city's transportation policies call for designing streets as critical public spaces where creating comfortable and attractive places encourages people to walk, bicycle and socialize &

and is balanced with building an efficient travel corridor.

In 2007, the city and Planning Commission held several workshops and public hearings dealing with the issues of setbacks and whether Lithia Way should be held to Downtown Design Standards.

Molnar said, ultimately, community groups decided to include both sides of Lithia Way in the Downtown Design Standards.

Molnar said he's looking to get direction from the Planning Commission on Tuesday because he thinks it's time to take a recommendation to the city council.

Strawberry Lane

The Planning Commission will continue its deliberations on Robert and Laura McLellan's proposed subdivision at 500 Strawberry Lane.

The meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.

Reach reporter at 482-3456 x226 or .