The February 12th Town COWncil meeting took a contentious turn with controversy about a couple of items relating to Cañada College’s housing proposal. You can watch what happened on Mootube. Check it out here.
The meeting began with the public comment period. Town Manager Susan George introduced Kevin Bryant, the new assistant to the Town Manager, who started working with the Town on the 11th of February. He previously worked for the Town of Sausalito as the assistant to City Manager and the Deputy Planner and, before that, for Tiburon. . Susan said he was going to be her “right hand person” and the COWncil welcomed him to Woodside. The consent calendar then passed unanimously without discussion.
The COWncil then moved to two related items concerning the San Mateo Community College District (SMCCD) desire to build a 60-unit rental housing complex on land that is part of the Cañada College campus. The proposed building site (currently a parking lot) is in Woodside, while other parts of the College lie within Redwood City. The two items on the February 12th agenda (items 2 and 3) were an appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of a Lot Line Adjustment to move 3.77 acres of land from one lot owned by the SMCCD District to another lot which it owns so that the boundary line can be moved making the land part of Redwood City. In conjunction to this before LAFCo can consider the boundary shift, there is a state law technicality that requires agreement on a property tax shift even though SMCCD is a public entity that pays no tax. The necessity for the change in control over the land is that the Town of Woodside does not have a zoning district which allows multifamily housing developments, whereas Redwood City does. Town staff recommended that the COWncil approve both items and transfer the land and the responsibility for the development to Redwood City. Discussion and arguments over these items went on for hours, with disagreement between Council members, and between the COWncil and its staff.
Eventually, a majority of the COWncil voted to accept the lot line adjustment with Carroll Ann Hodges and Dave Burow opposed. However, the COWncil unanimously decided to hold off on voting on property tax exchange at this time, which prevents the land becoming part of Redwood City. Staff was directed to communicate with Redwood City and the District in order to present COWncil’s concerns about the development. A representative from the College District, Barbara Christensen, had strong words for the COWncil, accusing them of holding the project hostage – a charge rejected by Mayor Romines.
After a break, the meeting reconvened in order to take up item 4, a resolution changing the conditions of approval for a site development application from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. While the site development permit had already been approved, it had required the different parcels that will make up Thornewood Open Space Preserve be merged before the development of the Bridle Trail. Due to the way MROSD finances its land acquisitions, this would end up costing the District millions of dollars in lost funds. After a report by the new Town Engineer, it was determined that the Trail actually can be built in a way that does not require the merging of the parcels. Are we seeing some flexibility in Woodside public works department?? This may be a very good sign!
The COWncil unanimously voted to amend the approval, and the many people from the MROSD and horse community cheered and thanked them. Many got up to speak about the long road involved in the creation of the Preserve and expressed gratitude to the COWncil for understanding and helping to bring the Preserve and the Trail into existence.
Item 5, the mid-year budget and work plan review, was tabled due to the lateness of the hour and because Town Manager George wanted to go into some detail about the plan. The COWncil decided to come back to the review in an upcoming meeting when everyone was more alert.
The COWncil wearily finished its last item of business – appointments to the Town COWncils’ citizen committees. Councilmember Boynton took the lead in laying out who had reapplied for membership and what positions were left vacant and needed to be advertised. A unanimous vote was taken to accept all applicants and to advertise for the vacant positions. Afterwards, the COWncil adjourned for the evening.