COWncil Roundup for July 10th, 2012

September 15, 2012

The week after the Fourth of July the Town COWncil held a meeting, minus COWncilmembers Mason and Gordon. While the finalizing of the long-debated Town Residential Design Guidelines was a main topic on the agenda, the COWncil attended to other matters first.

The COWncil rehired the firm of Aaronson, Dickerson, Cohn and Lanzone to provide attorney services to the Town. Rather than have an elected, or on-staff attorney, the Town contracts with the firm to provide an attorney that acts as our Town attorney in all matters. Jean Savaree has been in that job since December 2004, undergoing periodic review, and will continue to serve as Town attorney – advising the COWncil and Town at Town meetings and on pending litigation.

Discussing the Town’s budget recently, the COWncil expressed concerned over the Town’s finances. While currently in the black, COWncil members Mason, Shanahan, Burow and others all expressed their unease with some of the financial moves the Town has been making and wanted a more solid foundation for the Town’s budget. With that in mind, the COWncil voted to double the Town’s budget reserve, raising it to thirty percent from fifteen percent of the annual budget.

Next, the COWncil got into a discussion of an ordinance that would amend the Town’s municipal code to “Clarify Regulations Concerning Average Lot Slope, Lot Yield, and Slope Density Standards.” Hillside development has long been regulated in Woodside. The Code cites seven reasons such as “to preserve and enhance scenic resources,” to provide safe vehicular circulation in hillside areas,” and “to reduce hillside erosion,” among others. The Code generally bans development on portions of a lot exceeding 35% grade and has other provisions as well. The COWncil had some suggestions that were to be incorporated into the final draft ordinance which we will bring you in our next Roundup.

The COWncil then launched into a final discussion on the Town’s Design Guidelines, a long-running issue that we’ve reported on. The Guidelines are designed to give residents an idea of what the Town’s expected ‘look and feel’ is, as well as guide the ASRB in its decisions and in its advice to prospective home builders and remodelers.

As to be expected, such “advice” – and the limits on what homeowners can do with their property – has proven to be contentious, and has taken months of discussions at the COWncil and at the ASRB and elsewhere.

Ideally, the Guidelines will allow homeowners to finally get a handle on just what the process should be and what the often-exacting ASRB will approve most readily, allowing homeowners whose homes “fit” the guidelines a smoother ride through the process. A preliminary review process will also now be included in the process, hopefully saving hapless homeowners thousands in fees and preventing the rejection of projects for esoteric quibbles.

The COWncil adopted the guidelines and gave the first reading to the accompanying ordinance. It looks like the new era in housing development in Woodside has begun.

After a few small COWncil announcements, the meeting concluded two and a half hours after it began.

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