Services Departments Government

Planning Commission Minutes
July 10, 2017
6:30 p.m., DSB Auditorium

Commissioners present: Michael Wilson, Gail Holmes, John Drentlaw, Brian Pasko, Mark Fitz, John Gray, Tom Peterson.

Commissioners absent: N/A

Staff present: Mike McCallister, Martha Fritzie, Jennifer Hughes, Darcy Renhard.

  1. Commission Chair Drentlaw called the meeting to order at 6:33 p.m. There was no public comment on things outside of the agenda items.
  2. Martha Fritzie presented the proposal for Z0115-17-C & Z0116-17-Z. The proposal is for a reasons exception to Statewide Planning Goal 3 (Agriculture) to allow a photovoltaic solar power generation facility that will occupy more than 12 acres of high value farmland as required by OAR 660-033-0130(38)(f). The applicant is also asking for a conditional use permit for installation of the solar facility which will occupy approximately 70 acres of high-value farmland as required by Section 401 (EFU) of the County Zoning & Development Ordinance (ZDO). The site is located just north of Estacada on Duus Road and is adjacent to the Estacada UGB. There is a small area along the northeastern boundary of the site that is identified by DOGAMI as a historic landslide deposit area. The property is relatively flat otherwise. There is a regulated stream along the southern portion of the property. The applicant independently hired a firm to complete a wetland delineation for the property, which found that there were wetlands on the site even though they were not found in County inventory or the National Wetland Inventory. The applicant submitted a revised site plan that demonstrates that they are meeting the 50-foot setback from the stream on the southern portion of the property as well as another stream that was identified on the property. There are a few homes immediately to the east of the property, but the subject property is currently undeveloped and uncultivated. There is no record of the property being cultivated for the last 20 years. A Goal exception is necessary because the subject property is designated as natural resource land on the Comp Plan Map and zoned EFU.

    There are 3 types of goal exceptions: physically developed, irrevocably committed, and reasons exception. The applicant is seeking a reasons exception. In order to receive this reasons exception, the applicant must identify the need for it, provide an alternatives analysis, identify the consequences, and explain the compatibility of the use with the property.

    1. Need: The applicant addressed both general criteria and criteria specific to rural industrial uses. There is a need for additional clean energy sources in Oregon, including solar, whenever possible. In exhibits 12, 13, and 14 there is some debate on whether the applicant’s argument meets the high bar to demonstrate an actual need. The applicant argues that PGE has determined that there is a need for it and would not have entered into a contractual agreement with the applicant if it did not meet their needs (i.e., less than 2 miles from a power substation). The applicant also addressed the rural industrial benefits and advantages to siting the development on this particular property. Planning staff feels that the needs argument has been met.
    2. Alternatives: An alternatives analysis does not need to address specific sites, but rather other areas. The applicant has identified needs for a site to accommodate a facility of this size. The applicant identified 2 other sites within the Estacada UGB, but one is a school and the other one does not allow the use because it is in an urban residential , zone. There were no other sites outside the UGB that would not require the same Goal exception. Staff is confident with the finding that there are no other alternative sites in the area that could reasonable accommodate this use.
    3. Consequences: The ORS requires that adverse ESEE impacts of the proposed uses are no greater on this site than if the uses were to locate to another site requiring the same goal exception. This site has no existing structures, and relatively few trees would be removed. The site is not, and has not been, used for agricultural purposes for the last 20 years. The size, orientation, and topography of the subject property has allowed the applicant to design the site efficiently in order to create the lowest possible impact. Staff feels that this criteria has been met.
    4. Compatibility: The proposed solar facility does not create any smells, little to no sounds, and very little traffic. The vegetation that provides a visual buffer along the street would remain in place. There is no evidence to suggest that a solar array will substantially impact surrounding forest or farm operations, or have any impact on nearby residences.

    As far as the conditional use portion of the permit, ZDO Section 401 allows photovoltaic solar power facilities as an conditional use in EFU zones. The OAR requires that there be no unnecessary impacts to agricultural operations on the property, no unnecessary grading or erosion, and that weeds must be controlled. This site is found to be suitable based on the criteria in Section 1203.03(B) (characteristics of the property are suitable for use) and Section 1203.03(C) (transportation system safety) of the ZDO, as well as 1203.03(D) (will not alter the character of surrounding area). Staff believes that the proposal complies with any applicable elements in Section 800 (Special Use Requirements) and Section 1000 (Development Standards) of the ZDO, as well as Section 401 (EFU) which requires that the use will not create any significant changes to the surrounding area. Staff finds that the proposal meets all applicable State, regional, and County criteria, and is therefore recommending that the Planning Commission recommend Z0115-17-C and Z0116-17-C for approval by the Board of County Commissioners.

    Commissioner Drentlaw opened the hearing for public testimony.

    Steve Schmidt, 15270 Bear Valley Rd., Auburn, CA (applicant) – Pacific NW Solar is a company that was founded in Oregon and is now a leading national solar project developer across the United States. The proposed project will interconnect with PGE and go to the nearby substation. They are anticipating construction to commence in 2018, which will create between 100 and 200 jobs during the construction, as well as employing local engineers, surveyors, designers, providing business to equipment and hospitality providers at the local level. They expect there to be about $7 million in local spending during the construction phase. After that, there will be 1 or 2 full time employees over the course of a year for the site operations. Property taxes would increase from $1000 per year to $70,000 per year. Those increased taxes will not need any service support from the County, as there is no water or utility need. The project would be able to offset directly the cost of providing non-renewable energy to PGE. One thing that is important about this particular location is the proximity to the PGE substation, as every foot of distance that needs to be covered is additional cost. In addition, they did look at other properties in the area as Martha Fritzie explained. The costs to purchase some of the other properties, most of which are not large enough to house this facility, are so high that the project would not happen.

    The solar equipment that would be on the property is approximately 6 feet in height. They are proposing to leave the existing vegetation along the eastern property line as a screen, and there really isn’t a high amount of noise from the project other than the fan noise which is barely audible from the property line. The proposal is not inconsistent with Goal 3 because this would not be a permanent conversion to a non-agricultural use.

    Commissioner Peterson asked if there is any storage capacity built into the facility. Mr. Schmidt said that there is not, as the cost of power storage is roughly 100% of the cost of the facility. Commissioner Pasko asked about the lifespan of the facility and what happens when the panels are dead. Mr. Schmidt answered that the solar panels degrade at about half a percent each year, and the panels are warrantied between 25 and 30 years. Even at that stage, they will probably still be producing at 85% of their capacity, so it may make sense to keep them in place even then. The agreement with PGE is for 20 years, after which they may go to market based power. Commissioner Wilson asked how many days power will be generated, and is 10 megawatts the maximum. Mr. Schmidt replied that the facility will produce power every day, even on cloudy days. Ten megawatts is the maximum amount of power that can be produced, but even when it is cloudy some energy will be produced. Commissioner Drentlaw wanted to know what the plan is for County taxes when the 20-year agreement expires. Mr. Schmidt explained that the taxes would revert to basically the standard way that the County assesses taxes now, unless another facility comes in. Commissioner Holmes asked if driving poles into the ground is going to affect the landslide issue. Mr. Schmidt pointed out that the site is actually quite flat, and said that it looks like the landslide is a deposit from another area that was quite steep.

    Tim Murphy, 635 Capitol Street NE, Salem (DLCD) - DLCD has submitted 3 letters regarding this proposal. Since this is high value farmland, it does require and exception. But goal exceptions should not just be handed out. The project needs to be either a rural industrial use or the need should be based on a Statewide Planning Goal. He does not feel that this project meets the criteria, as there is very little employment from this facility (which is not the definition of industrial). Goal 3 does not address siting of new solar facilities. Zoning does not exclude a use, and property can always be rezoned. The rules say that economics can be considered, but there are also other things that need to be considered. Commissioner Drentlaw asked if the State has a record of the land ever actually being used for agricultural purposes, even though it is zoned EFU. Mr. Murphy replied that they do not, but that they would like to preserve it for future use. They are assuming that the property will someday be developed for farm use. Commissioner Pasko stated that the issue of solar energy vs. land protection is not a new issue, and it has been a debate in the environmental community for years, but this particular property has not been farmed or even used for at least the last 20 years, and it is unlikely to be farmed in the next 20 years. He asked Mr. Schmidt if his position is that we should just let this land lay fallow and not do anything with it for another 20 years. This farmland will still be there in 20 years, and will still be viable as high-value farmland. He asked if Mr. Schmidt is really suggesting that we should not allow projects like these to move forward. Mr. Schmidt explained that their argument is that if the project can be located within the UGB, then it should go there. Commissioner Fitz said that Mr. Schmidt made a zone change sound very simple and easy and asked if he is recommending a zone change over a goal exception. There are vertical farms in the area who need the power, and the fact that PGE has entered into a contract to purchase the power generated should tell you that there is a demonstrated need. Commissioner Drentlaw asked why DLCD has held firm on not allowing expansion of the UGB for so many years if they want land within the UGB to be used first. Jennifer Donnelly of DLCD explained that Estacada did a UGB expansion in 2011 to bring in industrial land. Land outside of the UGB is always cheaper than land within the UGB, which is why many of these developers will try to locate just outside of the UGB.

    Steve Schmidt responded that this project meets the County definition of a rural industrial development. The product that is being produced is energy, which is then wholesaled to PGE. This project will not remove farmland from future use as DLCD is claiming. They did try to contact the property owners in what is referred to as Area 2 in the alternatives analysis, but none were interested in working with them. Area 1 is all zoned as residential. Area 3 would require $7 million for only 50 acres, which would kill this project. Martha Fritzie agreed with Mr. Schmidt that the other areas as proposed by DLCD are not good options. Trying to do a zone change inside an urban growth area to something that might not even be an urban use is a difficult prospect. The expansion of Estacada’s UGB was specifically to have large-lot industrial land, which is now shovel-ready and therefore more expensive now that things are starting to happen on these lands. Mike McCallister explained that in the original approval for the 130 acres that was brought into the UGB in Area 3, there is a set amount (2 lots) that must be set aside for large lot industrial. He does not think that the intent was to turn these two large industrial lots within the UGB into a solar facility that is only going to generate 1 or 2 jobs.

    Commissioner Drentlaw closed the public testimony portion of the hearing and opened deliberations. He mentioned to the applicant that he appreciated that they did the work on their own to find out about the streams and wetlands. It seems to him that these wetlands would make the property even less viable for farming.

    Commissioner Pasko moved to recommend approval of Z0115-17-C and Z0116-17-Z to the Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Gray seconded the motion. Ayes=7; Nays=0. Motion passes.

    Commissioner Drentlaw opened the public hearing for ZDO-267, which is a proposed amendment to Clackamas County land use regulations to provide for transitional shelter communities.

    Jennifer Hughes provided some background information on the idea of transitional housing and described how houselessness is increasing in Clackamas County. The goal of transitional housing is to move people into permanent housing options, but not to be permanent housing itself. The item before the Planning Commission is not for any specific development proposal. What we are considering is a text amendment that would allow for transitional housing as a land use option. The proposal is for an amendment to the ZDO and Comprehensive Plan with the purpose of providing a pathway to transitional housing within the County. Currently transitional housing is not provided for in any zone within the County. This proposal would amend Comp Plan Chapters 4 and 6 and ZDO Sections 202, 602, and create a new Section 842. The transitional housing communities would be operated by government or another entity that is approved by the Health, Housing, and Human Services Division (H3S). Residents under 18 years old would only be allowed if they were accompanied by a legal guardian, and other support services would be a part of the transitional housing developments. They would be permitted as a conditional use in LI and GI districts, but would be implemented with standards such as type and size, fencing, storage, setbacks, utilities, and so on. The County would waive the design review application, but would still require the conditional use process. If additional design standards were determined to be necessary, they could be applied within the conditional use.

    Several significant issues were raised during the study sessions, the first one being who would operate these communities. The sense is that there should be a higher level requirement that just “any non-profit organization”. Jennifer spoke with our land use attorney, and the feeling at this time is that the standards are not sufficient and well enough developed yet to just say that anyone approved by H3S could run the community. Instead, maybe we could require that the property where these communities go are owned by government. Or we could require that they be operated or funded primarily by government. The second issue was whether or not the ZDO should limit the duration of occupancy or siting. These are supposed to be transitional shelters, so is there a particular time limit that should apply? Input from others who operate similar facilities tells us that there may be extenuating circumstances at times and it may be difficult to evict someone because of a set time limit. There also may be an unwillingness of people to invest in a site, only to have it expire after a set number of years. Then there is the possibility of having the ordinance itself expire after a certain amount of time. Our current code has a 5-year discontinuance for other conditional uses, but there is the option of setting a lesser amount of time for this particular use. Staff has no preference on either proposal as submitted, other than the fact that maintaining consistency within the code is easier to manage. Commissioner Drentlaw asked if we could remove all of the amendments to Chapter 6- Housing. Jennifer explained that putting it in Chapter 6 does not impose any sort of standards. That is done in the ZDO. Chapter 6 recognizes transitional housing as a type of residence, even if it is not a “typical” housing model. Exhibits 1-3 were entered into the record. The amendments to the ZDO are only proposing to regulate who can operate the community, not who pays for it. The exhibit from H3S is an example of how they regulate operations. Our current draft does not require an onsite manager, and even if we do add it into the code it does not really lay out the criteria of what the manager would have to be. If we can specify who can operate it, then it can be vetted through other regulatory agencies who have a vested interest in the success of this operation.

    There were no government agencies, CPOs, hamlets, or villages wishing to provide testimony.

    Pat McDonald, 14808 Oatfield Rd., Milwaukie - Mr. McDonald is concerned about the location of the sites being proximal to each other, and worried that these sites will just grow and grow. If they are close to each other, they will merge into one big ghetto. He would like to know who will be responsible for picking up garbage and who is liable if someone gets hurt. Who will pay for the insurance? There should be some sort of criteria on who gets in, such as giving preference to local veterans over those who are from out-of-state.

    Leslie Weaver, 4815 SE Meldrum, Milwaukie - Ms. Weaver finds it sad that we even have to discuss this in our country. That being said, these facilities need to be in a location where services are readily available. Why not have it on Red Soils Campus? The police presence is already there for everyone’s safety, there are bus stops right there, health services, and grocery stores nearby. This seems to make more sense than having them located in an area that is out and away.

    Susan Keil, 1719 SE Oak Shore Lane, Oak Grove – Ms. Keil asked about the adjacency to operating businesses. She is concerned about siting these facilities next to businesses with toxic chemicals and fumes. She would encourage having a limit to the number of residents. Adjacency to transit is critical, people have to be able to get to the services that they need. Liability is also a concern, especially for the property owner.

    Bryon Boyce, PO Box 1392, Clackamas – Mr. Boyce is with the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good. He commends the County’s efforts to try and establish housing options for veterans. There is no single cause of houselessness, the issues are very diverse. The County’s recent homeless count shows that veterans in the County only make up about 4% of the homesless though. Families with children make up a much higher percentage. The proposal tonight is inadequate to meet the needs of families who are houseless. He would like to see the County enter into a more extensive approach to solving the houseless issue.

    Ellen Burns, 7550 Charolais Court, Gladstone – Ms. Burns is with the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good as well. She appreciates that the County is moving forward and trying to find some sort of solution. Even though the proposal tonight won’t be the end-all solution, it is at least a step in the right direction. Single mothers with children under the age of 5 are a significant percentage of the houseless, and she would like to see options to address their needs as well.

    John Reytter-Harrah, 1770 Carriage Way, West Linn – As a church minister, Mr. Reytter-Harrah deals with people who are facing houselessness every day. They allow car camping on their church parking lot, and he has spent a great deal of time getting to know some of these people. Some of those who are homeless actually have degrees and careers, they are not necessarily that you typically think of as homeless. Many simply cannot afford housing the way it is priced now. These people are willing to work in order to find a solution to their housing issues, they are not just looking for a handout.

    Desiree Rose, PO Box 12053, Portland – Ms. Rose said that she is one of those people that we are talking about. She has found some very definite differences between where she is now at Hazelnut Grove versus traditional shelters. Having a tiny house has given her a level of dignity and self-respect that she would not otherwise have. She thinks that having 25-30 people in these communities is ideal, and having a purpose for these villages work well because it gives a sense of comradery. She thinks that a veterans village would have a lot of potential for success, there are a lot of older veterans that are broken and would benefit from having a common union with their military brothers.

    Cary Miller, 22070 SE Chinook Way, Fairview - Mr. Miller is a 20-year active military veteran. He now owns his own security company. Hiring a local vet from the village provides a great opportunity—you give them not only a place to live, but an opportunity to learn skills.

    Elsbeth Tanguay-Koo, 4815 SE 7th Avenue, Portland– Ms. Koo is an advocate for the homeless. Her Village Coalition works with partners across the area. She would like to offer support for the proposed amendments, but would like to answer questions on how these shelters might be managed. Typically, they are self-governing facilities and any number of community stakeholders may come together and provide support. In the village model, the community is not built around paternalistic models where you walk in and are given a set of regulations. The village model allows for personal accountability of the residents. Everyone has a stake in the success of the village, so they participate in creating a complex of logic and cooperation. She thinks that there are limitations of access to resources when you only allow these facilities in industrial areas. She would like the County to consider also including this as an institutional use our zoning code.

    Tonya Hurt, 15613 SE Andys Court, Milwaukie – Ms. Hurt is a realtor, so she has a lot of customers who are very concerned about the safety, and the sleeping pods, where these facilities could be, the effect on home values within a half mile area of these facilities, and the people in these facilities who always appear disheveled. There is actually transitional housing in front of her home, and they take really great care of the house. She asked if the County has considered offering tax incentives to landlords that would make low-income housing more appealing.

    Robert Lane, 11490 SE Jennifer St., Clackamas – Mr. Lane owns a building at the corner of Jennifer and 115th Street, which is next to the proposed location. Putting a transitional shelter in an industrial zone does not seem to be a good idea to him. A transitional shelter, or any type of housing, is incompatible with industrial uses. The Comp Plan states that industrial uses should be protected from uses that are incompatible. There are 2 businesses near his location that operate 24 hours a day, one builds trusses and the other makes concrete mix. Dump trucks go in and out at all hours of the day and night. Noises and ground vibrations can actually exacerbate symptoms of PTSD, so he does not think that this is a good idea.

    Jim Kelly, 11751 Hazelnut Avenue, Oregon City - In his mind, compatibility is the biggest problem with what is being proposed. Village living belongs in a rural area, not in an industrial area that is incompatible. These amendments will jeopardize future uses and future planning within the County.

    Diane Stevens, 15261 SE Ondo Rivera Drive, Damascus – Ms. Stevens and her husband owned Gary’s Mustangs, which is right next door to where the proposed facility would be. What has not been addressed is the pedestrian issue. There are no sidewalks, there are no bike lanes, and it is very heavy use of trucks and busses that are trying to avoid Hwy. 212. Maybe there needs to be something written into code that addresses pedestrian use or puts these within a certain distance from a bus line. Because of the traffic and noise at this location, she does not think that it is the best location for these facilities.

    Tommy LaLonde, 1050 N. River Street, Portland – Mr. LaLonde is the general manager for a concrete company adjacent to the camp that is proposed. His plant was put into production 27 years ago. The operating hours could be any time, based on what the customer’s needs are. Dump trucks run 2 feet from the property line that divides his property and the proposed village. On the other side of him is a mining operation. There are vibrators on the plants that go on and off. Equipment repair is done onsite, usually during the evening. This is not an environment to put any sort of housing in. He believes that the County needs to do a lot more research before they decide on a particular site. He spoke with 2 of the County Commissioners a month ago, and neither one of them had ever even visited this site.

    Pat Murphy, PO Box 562, Clackamas – Mr. Murphy owns property near the river, and a homeless camp showed up there about 2 years ago. Since then, they have had windows broken out, batteries are being stolen, and there are death threats frequently written on their equipment. He and his employees feel threatened. They have spent countless dollars on fencing which just gets cut every night.

    Robert Rayson, 15988 SE Keller Road, Damascus - Mr. Rayson owns property on Capps Road about a mile east of the property in question. Specifically the conversation tonight has been about this particular piece of property, and he would agree that it is not a safe site for this camp. He did not hear discussion of all the other potential sites like the solar people had to do. He is concerned that the regulations are going to get waived for this project just because the County wants it, when everyone else has to jump through a bunch of hoops.

    Commissioner Pasko explained that what we are discussing is not a specific site. It is a conversation about whether placing the shelters in an industrial area is appropriate.

    Gary Stevens, 15261 SE Ondo Rivera Drive, Damascus – Mr. Stevens is upset because work is already happening on this site as though is already decided, no matter what the residents have to say. The County has already bored pipes to supply the place with water. It doesn’t sound like the County is considering changing the zoning in general, but it seems like this site has already been approved before the amendments have even gone through the proper process.

    Commissioner Wilson asked what other zones could support this type of facility if the proposal does not pass. There are none. Commissioner Pasko said that our job is to decide whether or not this use should be allowed in the industrial zone.

    Commissioner Drentlaw closed the public testimony portion of the hearing and opened deliberations.

    Commissioner Pasko thinks that when the material was originally presented to the Planning Commission, it was intended to be a proof of concept. We have to look at it as whether or not we can actually put tiny houses on an industrial zone. We have to be careful about proposing amendments around one particular project, but we should allow the County the opportunity to prove that something like this can work. Should we adopt the staff recommendation with the requirement that 25% of the funding be government, or that the conditional use would expire, and should there be a sunset provision on the ordinance? Commissioner Wilson asked what the zoning was on the other examples of these villages. Mike McCallister answered that the sites in Eugene were all in industrial districts. Commissioner Fitz is going to recommend approval, but would like to forward a letter to the BCC laying out the conditions that the Planning Commission would like to see. If we are in such an emergency, then regulations also need to roll back so that building affordable housing is easier for developers. Commissioner Peterson does not think that there has been a thorough vetting of all the options. He does not support this amendment. Commissioner Holmes said that this has been troubling from the very beginning. People who need assistance need to be able to access services, they don’t need to be living next to a concrete facility. A village for houseless individuals needs to have access to services, and she does not see this as a solution. Commissioner Drentlaw thinks that bringing this use into all industrial lands creates a lot of risk and is not sure that we would be creating a place that would actually be beneficial to the individuals. We can all agree that there is a problem, but maybe we should talk about pushing our UGB so that we can address the homeless problem. The Planning Commission discussed that there may be many options to consider, not just this one. These houseless people are already here and living in the communities. What we are discussing here is just a small piece of what needs to be done to actually start moving people from a state of homelessness to permanent housing. There are many steps along the way, and there may be many alternatives to consider. Commissioner Pasko said that this proposal is not a long term or a permanent solution, but it is a tool that we should provide the County with so that an appropriate and workable site can be found.

    Commissioner Pasko moved to recommend ZDO-267 as submitted by staff with the amendments that: 1. Funding be 25% government; 2. The conditional use will expire after 1 year; and 3. There is a sunset provision to repeal the ordinance 2 years after the effective date. There was no second to the motion. Commissioner Pasko amended his motion to include a requirement that H3S require any applicant for these facilities to provide a clear security plan for the premises. Commissioner Drentlaw seconded the motion. Ayes=3 (Pasko, Drentlaw, Fitz); Nays=4 (Gray, Peterson, Holmes, Wilson). Motion fails.

    Commissioner Fitz moved to recommend approval of ZDO-267 with the condition that staff examine alternative sites. There was no second.

    Commissioner Pasko moved to continue deliberations to July 24th. Commissioner Drentlaw seconded the motion. Ayes=6 (Drentlaw, Pasko, Peterson, Holmes, Gray, Wilson); Nays=1 (Fitz). Motion passes.

    There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:40 p.m.

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