BELLE ALERT – Paving Pastures

September 23, 2010

The Town Council is meeting to provide direction to Staff on the areas to explore with regard to paved coverage regulations. As we pointed out in past stories, here, here and here, the amount of paved and semi-pervious surfaces allowed as been a issue of controversy in the past. While the Municipal Code has not substantially changed since 1970, the interpretations of the regulations certainly have and the regulations have been applied in an inconsistent manner.

In March, the Planning Commission adopted a Resolution of Intent to explore the possibility of a change in the Code. Staff has presented COWncil with an analysis of the issues (here pages 55 – 73) and are asking for direction based on which they will draft and ordinance and present it to the Planning Commission for review.

As Staff pointed out, for example, paving for horse arenas can take up most of the permitted coverage. Depending on the size of the lot so can pools or tennis courts, patios, paths or if counted, driveways. Currently, even a rock garden counts as coverage. We particularly want to point out that historically, gravel did not count as paved area. If gravel is counted, the vast majority of properties in Town will become nonconforming. Since gravel had been allowed without restriction from the time Woodside came into existence, including during some of our biggest building booms, we fail to understand why it has become an issue.

Staff presented to Council a series of choices. Should the focus be on the type of feature or the type of material? Staff posits a similar choice between parcel size and allowed materials. Other questions include, how should driveways, horse arenas, drainage features, and water features be counted.? Are current limits too strict? Changes in the Code may make many properties non-conforming, how should they be treated?

We believe that ‘material versus feature’ and the’ size versus material’ are false choices. It is obvious that different materials should be treated differently. It is obvious that some features should not be counted. Similarly, lot size makes a big difference. The discussion should focus on what we are trying to accomplish. First, are we trying to preserve the rural environment that we all cherish? We do not want a paved over look. From this perspective, large lots can accommodate more paved features without impacting appearance. Gravel and some other materials are consistent with a rural appearance. We don’t believe that enjoying and the use of your property, either with equestrian or other animal interests, or by being able to play tennis or lounge by your pool, is contrary to rural living. Certainly, barns and horse arenas add to a rural environment.

Second, there are concerns with drainage. Gravel is a natural material and is not impervious. Moreover, Staff already ensures that larger lots keep all drainage within their boundaries and away from their neighbors. Again, we don’t see an issue here.

Size of lot, type of material and type of feature all make a difference and should be considered. We think the regulation should be strictly limited to those which are necessary to protect our COWmunity. The new regulations will impact what each of us can do with our property. This is an issue important to all of COWs and this appears to be the time to make your opinions known.

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