February 1, 2014

The first COWncil meeting of the year was a marathon, lasting just shy of four and a half hours despite a sparse agenda. All seven members of the COWncil were present.

Before the getting into COWncil business, the Associate Director of HIP Housing Laura Fanucchi made a presentation to the COWncil. She thanked them for the monetary support Woodside provides to the nonprofit, which provides housing assistance in the Bay Area.

The COWncil then interviewed the candidates for two open ASRB seats. A whopping five candidates applied for the positions. Now if only we could get that kind of competition in our COWncil races! The candidates had a wide range of experience and length of time living in Woodside – from 56 years in Town all the way to one applicant who had just bought a home in October and isn’t expecting to actually live there until late this year due to renovations.

The COWncil interviewed the four candidates present at the meeting for ten to fifteen minutes each, eventually selecting Tom Livermore for the seat that expires in 2017 and Andrea Massey Shaw for the seat that runs through 2015. Tom served 8 years on the Planning Commission and serves as the President of the Woodside Hills Home Owners Association. Mayor Dave Burow is a member. He stated that serving on both bodies should not constitute a conflict of interest but if it became a conflict, he would resign from the WH Homes Association.

Andrea Massey Shaw is a homeowner, interior designer, and longtime resident of Woodside, who volunteers with the Woodside School and the PTA. She skillfully answered the COWncil’s questions, refusing to be drawn into a few hypotheticals while letting the COWncil know she was very familiar with the Residential Design Guidelines. She said that the motto should be, “Preserve, Enhance, and Respect.” When Peter Mason said that the Guidelines were just that, guidelines, COWncil member Tom Shanahan asked Peter if he was really comfortable having the ASRB substituting it’s aesthetic judgment for professionals. While it seemed like Peter might have had more to say on that topic, Mayor Dave Burrow shut it down and moved on with the voting. We thought that was an illuminating digression and should engender further discussion about what the role of the ASRB really should be!

The COWncil then approved the COWnsent calendar, including the new fixes to nonconforming floor area that we’ve reported on.

The COWncil next heard another appeal to the tree ordinance which lasted for more than an hour, and then segued into a review and comment of a new Fire Protection District Ordinance that would formally adopt the State’s new fire regulations with a few tweaks for the Woodside Fire Protection District area. Most of the changes from the old Code were minor, but the one that got a big push back from COWncil was the proposed language to require a zone around every property of 100 feet that would require the removal of ‘flashy fuels’ consisting of dead plant matter such as weeds and grasses, as well as litter. Denise Enea from the WFPD explained that she had gotten a lot of requests from residents on this issue, asking for the stricter rules. Many people in Woodside live less than 100 feet from a property line, and while they are able to clear their land properly for fire safety, they have no control over what a neighbor does with theirs – and end up having a difficult time obtaining insurance.

The COWncil was concerned with the impact this ordinance would have on the appearance of Woodside, with Peter Mason saying it would destroy dusky-footed wood rat habitat and violate the natural state ordinances, with Denise responding that wood rat nests are to be left alone, and that only ‘the dead stuff’ had to be picked up. COWncil member Barbara Gordon was concerned about fairness, and ensuring that it applied equally, having had some problems recently on her own property that she insists she buzzes down to dirt every week and continues getting notices from the Fire District, while neighboring houses have thickets of dead material all over their property. Denise stated that is not how enforcement is meant to be handled in the WFPD and she would personally look into it.

The COWncil and Denise eventually came to a compromise – as the issue is with fire safety around structures, the Code will read that areas within 100 feet of a structure will have to be cleared in this fashion, and that the current 30 foot zone will remain in effect otherwise. This should improve fire safety near homes, and we hope it’s enough to help prevent major fires in our Town.

The last piece of business was the Mayor’s appointments of COWncil members to Town COWmmittees – there was some minor shuffling. The meeting concluded just a few minutes before midnight.

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