COWncil Roundup – April 14th, 2009

May 4, 2009

On a blustery windy night, the COWncil held a short meeting chaired by Mayor Pro Tem Burow, as Mayor Mason was absent again. The meeting began late due to a closed session regarding pending litigation – as usual the COWncil didn’t report any news from the closed portion of the meeting.

After Communications, the COWncil moved on to the Consent Calendar. It was approved unanimously, but had a few items of note. The Woodside Open Space Committee changed it’s meeting time from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., every fourth Thursday, to better accommodate committee member’s schedules. Garbage rates with the firm GreenWaste recovery went up a tiny fraction due to cost of living adjustments as provided in their contract – nothing on the lower end, and three cents on the higher cost service plans.

The Town will apply for federal stimulus money, funneled through the State Water Resources Control Board, for the Town Hall Sewage and Water Reclamation Demonstration Project. The project would take wastewater from the Town Hall and Independence Hall, treat it so it’s non-harmful, and use it for irrigation and toilets on the property. The plans will be ‘shovel ready’ and thus possibly eligible for stimulus funds, according to state officials. No dollar amount was mentioned in the resolution.

An important measure that was passed was a waiving of the $400 fee for the appealing of matters to the Town COWncil in those cases where projects had passed the review of the Department of Planning and Building – including the ASRB and the Planning Commission, but would now not be able to apply for a building permit before the new 7A fire regulations were imposed. The COWncil felt it was unfair to penalize people who might be in the middle of the process and had made a good faith effort to abide by the regulations in place when they started. This doesn’t give applicants carte blanche, but does allow them to appeal to the COWncil and plead their case without the burden of the fee. We’re glad to see the COWncil show concern for homeowners, especially in these bad economic times.

The Town Manager’s Report had some important news in it as well.Our Town’s contract with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office is about to run out, and Town Manager Susan George expects the price of services to rise sharply higher, possibly a ten percent increase for the first year of a three year agreement. In her report, George says she’s “in discussion” with Portola Valley and her Assistant Town Manager Kevin Bryant over what to do if the costs for the new contract turn out to be “prohibitively higher”. No word on what the alternatives might be.

The Housing Element has been completed in draft form and is available for viewing. The Planning Commission has a public hearing to discuss it on May 6th; the COWncil will have a public hearing to consider it on May 26th. More hurdles will then have to be jumped, but it’s well on its way to completion according to Susan George, which is good as it is required by the State to be updated before the rest of the General Plan.

Also mentioned is a Geology Regulations and Mapping Project study session, which sounds bland – but is actually somewhat COWntroversial. The actual study session will be in late May or early June.

There was a comparatively brief discussion of the Third Quarterly Budget and Work Plan Review. Susan George is now projecting $200,000 more in revenue than previously budgeted. Both sales and property tax are above projections, improbably given the economic climate.

Also mentioned was the implementation of Trak-It, the new permitting system. According to Susan George, the project is “moving right along,” with the staff being trained in its use. COWncilmember Hodges asked if Susan was pleased with the software, and Susan responded that, “Everyone is very pleased.” We are also pleased to hear that this important improvement to the planning process is moving forward. The cost in the budget for Trak-It this quarter was $35,000.

Money for the Planning Director transition including hiring the interim Director Irwin Kaplan, paying the search firm for finding the new Director, and paying out the settlement with Hope Sullivan’s costs the Town $97,000.

The COWncil approved the budget amendment resolution. The meeting adjourned shortly thereafter.

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