The Ashland City Council on Tuesday will consider an appeal by Rogue Credit Union of a denial of plans to create another branch and donate land for affordable housing. The council also will consider expanding the area in which “downtown behavior” rules are enforced.
Rogue Credit Union had asked the city Planning Commission to approve a new branch at 1651 Ashland St., across from Wendy’s, which would allow for a drive-through. The proposal by the credit union, which holds the lone remaining permit for a drive-through in the city, also calls for subdividing a portion of the property and offering it to a non-profit to build up to 35 affordable housing units.
The Planning Commission turned down the request on Feb. 14 based on a city requirement that a building must take up at least half the lot size. Credit union officials have been quoted in saying that it does not need a building larger than the 4,508 square feet it applied for. It suggested a secondary plan that would allow for affordable housing to be built that would not be in the control of the credit union.
The Planning Commission denied the request based on the proposed building size and also did not accept the plan for affordable housing as being complete enough to be a certainty.
The City Council has four options: uphold the planning commission decision, reverse it, modify it or send the whole project back for re-consideration at the Planning Commission level.
Rogue Credit Union argues that the Planning Commission failed to adequately consider the drive-through and the amount of space it would take up, that it failed to recognize the building size requirement can be modified, that it improperly applied city codes to adjacent land and the secondary affordable housing plan and that it failed to consider possible exceptions cited by the credit union.
The Ashland City planning staff recommended the city uphold the ruling of the commission.
The council also will consider an ordinance amending an earlier smoking ban on Main Street to include 175 Lithia Way and any space within 20 feet of pathways that allows smoke to enter buildings. The council will also consider passing a ban on using parking spaces for any purpose beside parking cars and to declare a public parking lot of Lithia Way to be included in the Enhanced Law Enforcement Area. A neighbor of the Lithia Way lot complained that people — mostly homeless or transients — were congregating in parking spaces.
The ordinance amendment is described this way in the city council information:
“Because of its location near downtown and partly because of being adjacent to the present ELEA [enhanced law enforcement area] boundary, the parking lot increasingly has become a gathering spot for persons engaging in unlawful or otherwise offensive behavior. Such behavior includes conduct currently proscribed by the City’s persistent violation ordinance (e.g., scattering rubbish, undue noise, out-of-control dogs, consumption of alcohol or marijuana in public), as well as taking up parking spaces and not moving from where drivers are attempting to park, camping, and vehicle tampering. APD [Ashland Police Department] and administrative staff are receiving repeated complaints from neighboring property owners and vehicle owners concerning unwanted behavior by persons using the parking lot for activities unrelated to parking.”
The council also will receive the results of a survey of downtown business owners and employees conducted by the Southern Oregon University Research Center to find out how well related measures have worked downtown.
The survey says that the majority of businesses contacted felt the issues of downtown behavior had shifted or grown worse since new ordinances against sitting on curbs, panhandling and smoking were enacted.
Twenty businesses saw overall improvement, 13 saw no change, 29 said the problems shifted to other parts of town and 21 answered that the area had become worse.
The Ashland Council meets in its regular business session at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 1175 East Main Street.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.