Welcome to the Barn

May 26, 2006

Here are some excerpts from the Interview of newly appointed Planning Commissioners.

Sandra Thompson has business experience in strategy and planning. She has lived in Woodside for 6 years.

It sounds to us as if Ms. Thompson has an open mind and will listen. She says that she has only “one overriding philosophy and that is when a property owner buys a piece of property with a reasonable amount of due diligence, I think that property owner should have a reasonable expectation of what they can do with the property.”

Balance seems to be important to her. “One of my loves of California is the beauty of what we have here in Woodside, and I think that again that has to be balanced against a property owner’s expectations of what they can do with the property. But I do agree that our trees, our water, our physical resources here are in Woodside are of the utmost importance and is one of the reasons that all of us have been drawn to this community to live here. So I think that we need to look very closely whenever we put something into the ordinances and when we adopt something into the planning commission as the general plan that balances those needs very carefully and then everything that we look at needs to be balanced specifically as it relates to what is written in the books.”

She stressed the need for clear rules. “Again, I think that it is important that we have a definition for what we think is historic and what should be preserved and that a property owner understands what that is when they buy a property.”

The most specific question and answer had to do with fences. “Well I, uh, I had a beautiful fence when I lived on Olive Hill Lane that was low to the ground and very rural in character, and I moved into a house on a piece of property that has this, that and the other fences. It has an eight foot chain link fence on one part of the property, a low rural side fence on the other side of the property. I actually do not care if I change it or not, but I do like the fact that I can keep deer off my property with a high chain link fence, but I also appreciate the rural character of the fence I had on Olive Hill Lane. I was really disturbed when I saw neighbors I think violate ordinances and policy and put up fences that I did not think were in character of our town. So I just think again, that is very specific in case by case depending on what has been on the property and what it is you want to do as far as taking a look at fences in the future. But I say that the rural character is good.”

We agree with Ms. Thompson that clear balanced rules are essential.

Kyle McDevitt is a Deputy Sheriff. He has lived here for 2 years. There were less questions asked of him and we have less of a sense of his views. He has practical life experience including the fact that he has worked as a carpenter.

On the issue of fences, Mr. McDevitt said, “Well, I like the fences are now, where most of them are see through. I mean if you have… Uh, let me start off by saying if people research their properties and do their homework basically they will know that they will not be able to build an 8 foot fence around their properties. I think being able to see through the property and have the open spaces I a good thing. Anytime you want to look at something like that it I open to interpretation, but I believe the fence ordinance if fine right now. In town obviously there is old stuff and there is a hodge podge of fences and that kind of thing, but you know I think the fence ordinance is well written the way it is. The fence issues that come into play are obviously around driveways, curbs and heights. But I think that being able to see through the fence and having it open is a good thing. There is obviously security issues as people want taller fences to keep people and animals out, but I think the ordinance is fairly thought out.”

In response to a question by a Councilmember about variances, Mr. McDevitt answered “My guess is like what the other applicant said, it is I really a case by case situation. But my opinion is that variances should not be granted all the time, it would have to be an extreme situation to get a variance as far as that goes. I mean there is a plan, and hopefully everybody will abide by those, as I think they are really well written. And there really is really no need for those, and like I said in extreme situation, but taking that in a general question it is kind of hard to say how many you would allow and you would use all those things to judge it and make a decision.”

He had a strong personal recommendation from a member of the public who said, “He is very thoughtful, he is very stable in the way he approaches things and I think he would be very thorough in way he goes about his job and when you get something out of him it is going to be well reasoned and he also has a very strong backbone so if he feels he needs to do the right thing, he will do the right thing.”

We wish both of them good luck.

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