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PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING MINUTES

OCTOBER 28, 2003


1. CALL TO ORDER AND ROLL CALL: Chair Balen called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m. Chair Balen and Commissioners Milligan, Meatzie, Uhl and Cvar answered the roll. Commissioners Hauser and Cutter were absent. A quorum was present.
2. CITIZEN COMMENTS AND CONCERNS: None.
3. COMMISSION COMMENTS AND CONCERNS: Commissioner Meatzie noted the car across from his business had been moved off the public right-of-way and back onto private property. A brief discussion ensued regarding abandoned cars on private property. Staff noted that the City Attorney was currently looking at ordinance language that may help to address this issue. Chair Balen noted a concern about a house on the corner of Willow and Cedar Street, indicating that it looked like a "junkyard". Mr. Lewis will check into the situation.
4. CONSIDERATION OF MINUTES: The Commission considered the minutes of September 23 and September 30, 2003. Commissioner Meatzie moved to approve the minutes as presented. Commissioner Uhl seconded, and the motion carried on a voice vote, with Commissioner Cvar abstaining as he was not present at those meetings.
5. CORRESPONDENCE: None.
6. PUBLIC HEARINGS:
  A. Case File 1-V-03, Louise and Charles Dane. Chair Balen opened the public hearing, noting that the application had come before the Planning Commission on two previous occasions but had to be postponed due to lack of a quorum. He asked for abstentions, bias, conflicts of interest or ex parte contact. Commissioner Meatzie asked to recuse himself due to a conflict of interest. The Commission did not object.
  Applicant's Presentation: Mr. Dane addressed the Commission regarding the application and began by stating that he appreciated the volunteer efforts of the Commission. He noted that there had been two objections, one that made it sound like there would be a 16-foot vacant lot, when in fact the house occupies 14 of that 16 feet, and the other from a property owner who previously sold off 50 feet of his 70-foot lot and now had a trailer on a 20-foot wide lot. Mr. Dane noted that the original buildings had been built as a tourist court, with four little two-story cottages. What they have done has been to improve the houses but not change the footprint of the buildings. They had come to the Planning Commission in 1996 to gain permission to build a garage for one of the houses. The reason they were before the Planning Commission now is that they wished to mortgage the house they have the most improvements on, and in order to do that, the bank was requiring that the house be on a separate tax lot. Otherwise, they would have to encumber all of the houses on the existing tax lot. He assured the Commission that they had no intention of selling off any of the properties, the sole purpose of the partition was to gain the mortgage. Mr. Dane also noted that the Planning Commission would still have control over any proposals to enlarge the buildings in the future, even if the partition was approved.
  Opponent's Presentation: None.
  Chair Balen asked if the dimensions that are shown as the amount of side yard between the buildings were put on the map by the applicant. Mr. Lewis responded affirmatively, noting that the applicant has a surveying background. Mr. Dane added that he no longer has an active surveyor's license. However, he did guarantee that the measurements were accurate within a tenth of a foot, foundation to foundation. He knew where the east property line was, as well as the west and also noted the presence of several survey pins along the front. The foundations are square with one another, the cottages were exactly four feet apart. Commissioner Milligan asked if a formal survey would be necessary to obtain final approval for the partition, and Mr. Dane responded that he would hire a currently registered surveyor. Commissioner Cvar asked about the dashed and solid lines on the tax map, and Commissioner Milligan responded that the tax maps show prior property lines as dashed lines, and the solid lines delineate the current tax lots. Chair Balen asked about the drawing for the duplex, and Mr. Dane responded that this was a result of the computer program he used to generate the drawing. This was actually one building. He confirmed that the garage for the duplex sits practically on the property line, which is why he has been careful to keep in standing. It is currently being used for storage.
  Chair Balen then closed the Public Hearing and opened the Planning Commission meeting for deliberations. Chair Balen expressed concern about fire danger for the entire neighborhood, as the houses are in such close proximity. However, the buildings were there long before the property was taken into the City. He understood that the applicant was anxious to get the mortgage for the house without encumbering the other buildings, but also noted that the partition gave the benefit of being able to sell off the properties individually. Commissioner Milligan commented that the reasoning behind the request was understandable, and also noted that she had lived in San Francisco and other areas where the houses were always close to each other. This is a risk a buyer takes when they purchase property. Commissioner Uhl noted that his concern was that this would create three non-conforming lots with non-conforming setbacks. Chair Balen agreed, and asked Mr. Lewis about the presence of so many houses on a lot in an R-1 zone. Mr. Lewis responded that this was a lawful non-conforming use, and would continue to retain that status. Commissioner Cvar noted that he understood the request, but felt that the Planning Commission should look at land use issues, not mortgage issues. This application would create three more non-compliant lots. He stated that the Development Code was to guide future development, to bring up the standards, and that if the area was ever to be brought into conformance, this was a good time to start. He would not be in favor of the partition. Commissioners Milligan and Balen noted that this area will probably never be brought into compliance, short of taking down all of the existing structures. Further discussion ensued. Commissioner Milligan moved to approve the application. Chair Balen seconded. The motion failed on a tie vote, with Chair Balen and Commissioner Milligan voting "Aye", Commissioners Uhl and Cvar voting "Nay", and Commissioner Meatzie abstaining.
  Commissioner Milligan noted that the property lines were political, and before she saw the plat map she had not realized that all these homes were on one lot. She stated that the street will not change, the appearance will not change, the line is only an assessor's line. She also reiterated that any future development would have to come before the Planning Commission for approval. She then asked the applicant if they would be willing to divide off only the property on which the single house stood (910 Waziyata). The Danes responded that this would achieve the same goal, and they would be willing to do so. Commissioner Milligan then moved to divide the property into two parcels, the proposed Lot #1, and the remaining lot which was comprised of proposed Lots #2 and #3. Chair Balen seconded. Discussion ensued regarding whether conditions could be placed on the property if it ever sold. Mr. Lewis noted that for non-conforming structures, if a building were destroyed by fire it could be replaced on the same foundation if done within one year. Otherwise, a new structure would have to comply with the current Code requirements. Further discussion ensued. The motion then carried, with Chair Balen and Commissioners Milligan and Uhl voting "Aye", Commissioner Cvar voting "Nay", and Commissioner Meatzie abstaining. Mr. Lewis asked if the Commission would give permission for him to draft the findings and email them to the Commission for review, then have Chair Balen sign them in order to meet the 120-day requirements. The Commission agreed.
  B. Case File #3-V-03 - Richard Snow: Chair Balen opened the Public Hearing, asking for bias, conflicts of interest or ex parte contact. None were noted. Chair Balen noted that the applicant was not present, but the Commission had read and reviewed the application. There were no statements in opposition. Chair Balen closed the Public Hearing and opened the Planning Commission meeting for deliberations. Chair Balen asked why the applicant was projecting into the side yard, and Mr. Lewis responded that the building was existing, and had a 5' setback. The applicant wished to replace the flat roof with a 6/12 pitch roof, and in doing so he would need to have a 1 foot variance to the side yard setback. The applicant could have lowered the pitch in conformance with the setback, but felt that it would not be as aesthetically pleasing. Commissioner Meatzie noted that in addition to the 5' setback from the property line, there was also a 25' utility easement on the adjoining property, where no structures could be built, so fire protection would not be an issue. Commissioner Milligan noted that only about 15' of the existing house is 5' from the property line, the rest is well in compliance. Chair Balen noted that he did not like to use existing easements to enhance setbacks, as a lot line is a line which is supposed to define a piece of property. Commissioner Meatzie commented that the utilities are not likely to give up an easement, and Commissioner Cvar agreed, noting that setbacks are usually set to for issues such as fire prevention. Commissioner Milligan noted that this stretch of Crestline looks rather blighted, and is delighted that someone is taking the time and money to improve the property. Commissioner Meatzie moved to approve the variance. Commissioner Milligan seconded, and the motion carried unanimously on a voice vote. Mr. Lewis will draft the findings, email them to the Commission for their review, and then notify Chair Balen to come in and sign them.
7. DISCUSSION/ACTION ITEMS:
  A. City Planner Report: Mr. Lewis reviewed his written report. Chair Balen expressed concern about the signage around the West Coast Bank, wondering whether they were in compliance. Mr. Lewis indicated he would look back in the file to see what signs they have permits for.
  B. Code Revisions: The Commission confirmed that the workshop on code revisions would be held on Tuesday, December 9 at 5:30 p.m. This will be a dinner workshop.
  C. Other Issues: Staff noted that there will be a holiday party for the City staff, City Council members, Planning Commission members, and their families on December 8, 2003 at the Senior Center, beginning at 4:00 p.m.
8. ADJOURNMENT: At 7:50 p.m., there being no further business to come before the Commission, Commissioner Meatzie moved to adjourn. Commissioner Uhl seconded, and the motion carried unanimously on a voice vote.
Respectfully submitted,
Reda A. Quinlan, City Clerk
APPROVED by the Planning Commission this 27th day of January, 2004.
SIGNED by the Chair this 27th day of January, 2004.
Samuel Balen, Chair