April 14, 2015

On Tuesday April 14th the COWncil will hold a study session to review regulations and issues related to basements. Staff seems to be concerned that non-traditional basements impair the rural character of Woodside. We are not sure how basement impact the rural character. Staff does need clarification as to what can be allowed. They want an Urgency ordinance to limit basements to for the construction of ‘conventional’ basements (i.e., a one-story basement directly beneath a main residence and/or under one Accessory Living Quarters; along with no more than minimum CBC-required egress and light/air/ventilation requirements as determined by the Town Building Official and Planning Director) during the new ordinance is explored. An urgency ordinance goes into effect immediately and can last up to two years. We know it is not unusual for development of new standards to take at least that long.

The COWncil established a Subcommittee last year which has worked hard on the issue but we are concerned with overkill. The ‘issue’ seems to be: “The Town is now receiving applications which request the maximum amount of square footage above grade, basements under multiple structures, basements beyond the footprints of buildings above, basements with elaborate sunken features (e.g. patios), connecting tunnels between basements, stand-alone basements (e.g. caves), and basements far beyond storage and mechanical room functions (e.g., full Accessory Living Quarters, fully improved habitable space, recreational spaces, etc.).

In the past the Town has flip flopped on counting basements as square footage. It seems to us that it is necessary to distinguish between counting habitable use and non-habitable use no matter what the size. Basements beyond the footprint of the residence are not necessarily bad and using basements for recreational activity is not a bad thing nor is connecting a house to an accessory building. It seems to us that many of the old estates have these larger footprint basements and tunnels. They have not been a source of a problem. We hope that this is not another exercise in over-regulation.

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