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Study Session

Minutes
Monday, April 15, 2013

 

MINUTES FOR THE STUDY SESSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
Monday, April 15, 2013
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way
 
Council Chair Morris called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room. 
 
Councilor Slattery, Rosenthal, Marsh, Voisin, and Lemhouse were present.  Mayor Stromberg was absent. 
 
1.     Look Ahead review
City Administrator Dave Kanner reviewed items on the Look Ahead. 
 
2.     Public Works report on readiness for drought years (request of Councilor Voisin)
Public Works Director Mike Faught explained the factors staff looked at regarding drought readiness were supply sites, conservation, and Reeder Reservoir Drawdown.  Variables were snowpack and how much water came into the east and west forks.  Ashland Municipal Code regarding Curtailment 14.06.20 Determination of Water Shortage contained water prohibitions and curtailment stages once a water shortage was determined.  Initially, the City asked for voluntary curtailment and if that failed, implemented water curtailment in stages.   Curtailment stages 1-3 included restricted water allocation and surcharges four times the normal water rate when water use exceeded the allotment.  Stages 4 and above increased the surcharge ten times the water rate.  During September and October 2009, the City spent $46,000 in additional cost and substantial revenue.
 
Mr. Faught addressed the impact from climate change.  Typically, snowpack lasted through late May early June and covered water supply September to early October.  The climate change model showed snowpack ending April-May creating less water during September.  During the Water Master Plan development, staff looked at alternatives like the TID (Talent Irrigation District), TAP (Talent-Ashland-Phoenix), and wells.
 
3.     Economic Development Strategy, Phase Two implementation plan
Project Manager Adam Hanks explained the proposed expenditure of $50,000-$70,000 in the Draft Priority One Actions, 3.3 Create a coordinated economic development information and marketing plant to maximize public communication tools would go towards creating a resource center for Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  The center would host news items, events, training opportunities and serve as a repository for data sources.  The Chamber of Commerce would provide some elements separately.  Staff looked at the City of Charlotte, OR in terms of a model to base the resource center on and another city he would forward information on following the meeting.
 
Currently they did not have an organized benchmark for monitoring the health of local business and the economy annually.  Staff did have business license data, and information from the Chamber of Commerce.  Monitoring business health was in the document but not as a specific action item. 
 
The $50,000-$70,000 was a ballpark estimate on what staff would spend.  City Administrator Dave Kanner added these were onetime costs with approximately $20,000 going to portal development and $30,000 to marketing.
 
Mr. Hanks addressed Brammo and Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) moving each of their expansions to Talent.  Brammo was moving into the former Wal-Mart building, gaining 90,000 square feet that their previous site in Ashland could not accommodate.  It was also less expensive.  Apparently, OSF experienced topographic issues with a possible site in Ashland.  Moving their expansion to Talent was easier, and the property was flatter.  
Growth beyond what Ashland had to offer would occur.  Retaining the business in the valley was productive to the region.
 
Council and staff discussed the Mayor’s proposed additions to the Economic Development Strategy.  The Mayor was willing to change the word “cultivate” to “support” in his proposed eighth strategy objective. 
Mr. Kanner noted some of the Priority One Action items accepted by Council, would be in the budget for the first year of the biennium.  The Mayor’s item had no budget impact at this time.  Council decided to wait until the Mayor was present to discuss his proposed strategy.  Staff clarified the Economic Development Strategy was funded through a portion of the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) that also covered SOREDI fees and partial salary.  The typical annual allocation for economic development was $110,000. 
 
Council thought drafting an ordinance for the Jobs Commission item were premature and needed further discussion.  Staff responded the initial draft was for the purpose of discussion.  The funds in the budget would purchase staff time and workforce partnerships to tap into existing skill sets.  Council suggested having a Study Session regarding the Jobs Commission as an intermediary step.  Another suggestion was incorporating all the areas that touched on economic development activities under the umbrella of the Economic Development Strategy Plan.  Also suggested was adding AFN’s (Ashland Fiber Network) 5-Year Plan or achievable portions of the plan to the Council’s objective to further internet businesses.  Council wanted to establish some form of exit interviews for businesses leaving the area.   Another suggestion regarding the Jobs Commission included a Study Session with Jackson County Job Council and Oregon Action.
 
Council and staff discussed requiring occupancy data on the TOT statement sent to the lodging community instead of having the request optional. Citizen input suggested using the electronic filing system the state used to gather occupancy data.
 
Mr. Hanks explained how 6.5 Evaluate land availability for business expansion on lands on or adjacent to existing businesses under the Draft Priority One Actions was retention driven.
 
Council stressed the need to develop a metric that measured outcomes and success.  Staff thought conducting the Business, Retention & Expansion Survey on a regular basis using key questions would trend responses.  
 
Council suggested adding a column to the Economic Development Strategy Plan for return of investment to measure results.
 
Council directed staff to create a dashboard of business information, add AFN expansion plans to the Economic Development Strategy, and add objectives specific to business retention.  Council and staff discussed the potential difficulties conducting exit interviews with businesses that were closing.  Staff would talk to the Chamber of Commerce regarding exit interview processes.  Council consensus supported adding a key metric column to each action item in the Economic Development Strategy Plan.
 
4.     Discussion of application of lodging tax and business license requirements for short-term vacation rentals by owners (request of Councilor Voisin)
City Attorney Dave Lohman explained the business license tax and lodging tax as currently written applied to vacation rentals but could be clearer.  He went on to note scribner’s errors, using Travelers Accommodations to remain consistent with the Land Use Ordinance, and adding rental activity to Definitions.
 
City Administrator Dave Kanner addressed code violation enforcement.  The City would receive a complaint and proceed to gather evidence.  The code officer would confirm the violation and send a warning letter via certified mail, stating how ther recipient could come into compliance.  If the person making the violation came into compliance, that would end the matter.  If they did not comply by the deadline given or had a plan to cure the violation that was acceptable to the City they received a citation.  Once cited, it went through the court.  The maximum penalty was $600 per day for each day they were in violation, after citation.  The Judge would make the determination and might not impose anything.
 
Violations in R-1 Zones would have to cease and desist.  Code violations in other areas became time consuming and Council could provide direction to the code enforcement officer.
 
Mr. Kanner thought it would be easy to track down code violators through advertising.  If Council approved the ordinances, the offender would have to get a business license and start paying TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) to remain in compliance. 
 
Council wanted to make the rules extremely clear, treat every hotel, Bed and Breakfast, VRBO as a tourist accommodation, require them to have business licenses and pay TOT.  The community needed to understand who could be legal, what they needed to do to be legal, and if they were not, expect the City to come after them, no more negotiations.   
 
Council did not come to an agreement regarding collecting taxes retroactively from people operating illegally. Mr. Lohman would put it in the proposed ordinance and Council could amend if needed.  Council would also submit changes to Mr. Lohman.
 
5.     Update from ad hoc committee on Parks funding (request of Councilor Marsh)
Councilor Marsh explained the committee had a tentative recommendation to establish a reserve fund. The Committee would meet in two weeks to finalize short-term recommendations before looking at the long term.
 
Meeting adjourned at 7:12 p.m.
 
 
 
Respectfully submitted,                                
Dana Smith
Assistant to the City Recorder
 
 

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