COWncil Roundup – October 28th, 2008

November 19, 2008

After the last quickie meeting (available here on Mootube, the meeting on the 28th took considerably longer – two and a half hours. You can watch it on Mootube here. All COWncil members were present at the meeting except for Debra Gordon.

COWmunications went quickly, with only one Citizen standing to speak . She complained about construction trucks parking near her home and blocking sightlines on the road while advertising their business, and loading and unloading in place. She asked the COWncil to get Caltrans to place ‘No Parking’ signs in the area, and the COWncil promised to look into it.

After that, Mayor Romines pulled what promised to be an interesting and informative item , the report on the status of the 2008-09 Work Plan , off the agenda until the COWncil’s next meeting in late November. Apparently it wasn’t quite ready to be discussed . This is an important document and should be an important discussion since we all rely on that doCOWment to track how the COWncil plans on fulfilling their promises over the next year. We look forward to seeing it at the next meeting.

The Consent Calendar included the Town Manager’s Report to Town Council, which has some interesting tidbits. There was a report on the long-promised permit tracking and management system, information on the Planning Director recruitment (aka the NEW Hope Sullivan), Residential Design Guidelines, and others. This engendered no discussion at all. Some interesting stuff here that that definitely deserves more scrutiny than the Council gave it.

The first new business item was a request for Caltrans to ban parking twelve feet on either side of a residence on Woodside Road, and a request to post signage there as well. This is a small piece of a much larger concern about parking, sightlines, and safety in that area. There was some concern expressed by COWncilmember Mason over doing addressing the issue piecemeal or as a temporary solution. Susan George explained that the citizen had had a request in for more than a year, and that a larger discussion and fix for the region would be on a future COWncil agenda. The resident thanked the COWncil for approving the measure, and said that it’s been very difficult to safely enter and exit his property – and that a neighbor already had a ‘No Parking’ zone in front of his home.

There followed a very long and wandering discussion over the proposal to finally amend and update the Town’s Residential Design Guidelines. The Guidelines are woefully out of date, not having been revised in many many years, and do not comply with the new 7A fire regulations as well as other statutes and Town code. The Town hired a consultant to shepherd the process through the different interest groups – the COWncil, Town Staff, ASRB, the Planning Commission and last, but hopefully not least, the citizens. The consulting firm is Stephen O’Connell and Associates. Mr. O’Connell and two of his employees were present at the meeting to discuss what they had produced so far.

This is a complex and long overdue process. The main idea is to break the design review process into discrete parts – you would have meetings with Town Staff members early on, first discussing site planning (where to place the home and buildings), and then further meetings on the house design itself, and then on landscaping. While sounding quite bureaucratic to us, the idea was promoted as providing more information to buyers and builders earlier in the process. It seems like a case of more hoops, but a perhaps having a clear system in place would make navigating those hoops easier and faster.

The COWncil chewed over this concept for quite a while. The COWncil seemed well aware of the fact that the design and permitting process in Woodside is functionally broken and at the very least is very difficult to use and generates a lot of complaints.

You can check out the Guidelines for yourself here, starting on page 56. While clearly a lot of work by O’Connell’s firm has gone into the Guidelines so far, during the meeting itself, their presentation was wandering, choppy and at times incoherent. If you watch the video you can see O’Connell and his associates bouncing from topic to topic without much of an underlying theme. In their defense, however, COWncil didn’t make it any easier on them, by asking their questions in no particular order, forcing the presentation to wander all over the map. Susan’s plan was that the COWncil would not see the Guidelines again until next spring, after ASRB and the Planning Commission had taken a whack at them. This prompted some concern by the COWncil, so Susan George had to promise to bring this item back sooner.

The meeting finished with a quick look at the Quarterly Budget Review. Not much news came out of it. The one interesting thing, however, was Susan George’s assertion (prompted by a COWncil question) that Woodside’s budget is fine, since there hasn’t (yet!) been wholesale reassessment of Woodside property values. Given all of the articles on falling property values and reassessment requests, one has to wonder.

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