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Cottage housing a go despite conflict

The Ashland City Council rejected an appeal Tuesday that sought to overturn approval of a garden cottages project at 476 N. Laurel St.

The council decided that the Planning Commission had rationale in approving the project, so the development will move forward.

The only aspect of the appeal councilors could vote on was whether they thought the Planning Commission had reasonable rationale for approving the project, using only information already on the record at the time of the appeal Tuesday.

The five arguments from the appellants didn’t carry much legal weight, as all city codes and standards were met by the applicant, KDA Homes LLC.

The applicant’s attorney, Sydnee Dreyer, said the proposal meets the city’s cottage housing development zoning criteria adopted in 2017.

“I think in all the years that I’ve been doing land-use law, this is the first appeal that I’ve been involved in that I don’t see the issues that we would typically see in an appeal,” Dryer said.

Neighbors opposing the project said additional traffic brought to the neighborhood by the 12 cottages would create congestion and parking issues. Neighbors said they were afraid the congestion would create a backup on Mountain View Drive, which borders the property, which could become hazardous in the case of a wildfire evacuation.

Last fall’s Camp fire in Paradise, California, was mentioned several times during the appeal and the meetings leading up to the appeal.

City senior planner Derek Severson said Mountain View Drive is already designated as a residential neighborhood street in the city’s transportation system plan.

“The street standards for a residential neighborhood street call for a queuing travel lane,” Severson said. “The curb-to-curb configuration that already exists meets the current street standard and is not proposed to change here.”

Severson said the fire marshal said there are no obvious concerns that suggest this could cause a fire hazard — which is why the applicant has not yet submitted a Fire Prevention and Control Plan as required of subdivisions under the new Wildfire Safety Ordinance.

The appellants argued that the Planning Commission erred in approving the application because there was no plan submitted, but because the fire marshal said there’s no obvious concern, the applicant can turn in the fire plan with the final plan application.

“The fire marshal indicated that there were two access routes, and he saw no obvious red flags with the proposal,” Severson said.

The appellants argued that neighbors requested parking bays to allow more room for traffic, and that request was ignored.

Severson said the Planning Commission took that into consideration but found the queuing lane would calm traffic, which is preferable for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The proposal includes 12 off-street parking spaces, one for each cottage, which follows parking requirements.

As part of the application, KDA Homes has offered to build a sidewalk on Mountain View Drive and construct a park row.

The Planning Commission found that in addition to the calming effect a queuing lane has on traffic, not adding the parking bays would reduce the amount of pavement, which means less maintenance and more green space.

The appellants argued that the traffic analysis the applicant supplied was not sufficient, but KDA was not required to provide a traffic assessment. It did so at the neighbors’ request.

The appellants also argued that the applicant did not follow procedural requirements by holding only one meeting with neighbors.

Severson said city staff advised the applicants to hold a neighborhood meeting before the application was submitted, but they were not required to do so. Again, the applicant did it anyway.

“The traffic engineer noted that, in his analysis, Mountain View Drive by itself could accommodate full neighborhood traffic for the entire neighborhood east of the property, with 475 average daily trips where the street standard is designed to accommodate up to 1,500 average daily trips,” Severson said.

The proposal calls for 12 cottages, some adjoined like townhouses and some standalone, all centered around a large, green, open space and a covered parking lot with 12 spaces. Each unit is 800 square feet or less.

One of the sections of open area is proposed to be a pollinator garden with a pesticide ban.

The development is proposed to meet Earth Advantage Platinum/Net Zero standards, utilizing solar panels on top of the units, carports and bike corral structures to produce as much energy as the units use. It would also accommodate electric vehicles, Knox said.

He said there’s a possibility that residents would have no electric bill if they live within the means of the solar energy produced, which would likely result in a financial payback from the city at the end of the year for producing more energy than the owner consumes.

“If optimized, there’s a possibility excess energy from the common panels would help pay for some of the site’s landscape maintenance needs and thus reduce or eliminate common landscape or irrigation expenses,” Knox said. “This is really cutting-edge stuff, but we’re also still in the preliminary stages and don’t necessarily know all of the details, but we’re determined to make this an example project that other contractors will follow and Ashlanders could be proud of.”

He said sale prices of the units have yet to be determined because the project is still in its early phases.

It’s also proposed to be a certified “Lifelong Housing” facility, which allows residents to age in place.

He said the development would be a FireWise Community and Ashland’s first subdivision 100% in compliance with the city’s wildfire safety ordinance.

It would be the city’s first cottage housing development project.

Mark Knox, land-use planner and co-founder of KDA Homes, said the team will next finalize the engineering and building plan to submit to the city. If everything goes well, construction would likely begin in June and finish in December or January of 2020.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

An artist’s conception of the type of proposed cottages. Image by Lindemann Design.