Making land use regulations easier to navigate, modifying the level of permitting needed for tall commercial buildings and tax rates on marijuana sales are all due for discussion at Tuesday's meeting of the Ashland City Council.

The new "Unified Land Use Ordinance" will combine the existing land use ordinance with documents that outline site design and use standards and street design standards and replace Title 18 of Ashland's Municipal Code.

"Most of the existing ordinance is unchanged," says Maria Harris, planning manager for the city's Community Development Department. "There are amendments, but for the most part, the goal is to make this one, user-friendly document rather than needing to navigate three separate documents."

The revision project started in April 2012 and has included more than 30 meetings with the Planning Commission, advisory commissions, focus groups and an open house. Most of the changes to the document are to rectify inconsistencies or redundancies.

"You find a lot of little things when you go through an ordinance," Harris says. "You'll find the same thing stated in two different sections in two different ways."

The new document follows a model format from the state, which Harris says has helped tremendously with their goal of reading ease.

"Each chapter now opens with a stated purpose, which we didn't have before," she says. "Who ever is reading this should be able to look at any section and see what it's about."

Many proposed changes not related to format and wording are the result of recommendations by a 2006 review of the land use ordinance.

One such amendment proposes an increase in maximum height for certain commercial buildings. Commercial buildings currently are allowed a maximum height of 40 feet, or three stories, with downtown commercial buildings allowed to be 55 feet tall, or four stories, with a conditional use permit.

The proposed amendment would allow commercial buildings located 100 feet or more from residential zones to be four stories tall without the need for an additional permit. This is intended to encourage mixed-use buildings, such as commercial buildings with a residential top floor, or parking structures.

"There's quite a bit of material," Harris says. "Some of these things might be part of a bigger project and may need more community discussion."

More information about the ordinance is online at


Marijuana tax

In other business Tuesday, councilors may approve a resolution that sets tax rates for medical and recreational marijuana.

The council lifted the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and approved ordinances outlining operating regulations and tax rates at its Aug. 5 meeting. The tax ordinance says that tax rates are to be determined by a council resolution. The resolution on the table Tuesday proposes taxes of 5 percent for medical marijuana and 10 percent for recreational marijuana.

However, the tax for medical marijuana may be removed from the resolution, an idea proposed by Councilor Greg Lemhouse, and supported by Councilors Pam Marsh and Dennis Slattery, during the Aug. 5 meeting.

"I don't want to tax someone's medicine," Lemhouse said at the time.

 Slattery believed that, while future councils could change the tax rate, the current council could make a value statement that medical marijuana should not be taxed locally.

 The council also will discuss approval of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission.

 The memorandum is an agreement between the two parties that outlines the division of management responsibilities with regard to parks.

The council meets at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St. The meeting also will be broadcast on channel 9 for Ashland TV customers and channel 180 for Charter customers.

A complete agenda and details on each item is online at


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