April 24, 2014

In a marathon four-hour meeting, the COWncil heard an update on Safe Routes to School, heard from unhappy residents of Woodside Heights, and spent many hours listening to and debating a proposal from a homeowner divide his large parcel into three separate properties. COWncil member Gordon was absent.

During Communications, Greg Smith from Woodside Heights spoke to the COWncil on a proposal to increase building sizes in his neighborhood. Since this item was not on the Agenda there was no real discussion.
The Consent Calendar was passed, and included an amended contract for Quincy Engineering to evaluate the bridges on Kings Mountain Road, Mountain Home Road, and Portola Road. Quincy increased their bid by $3,900 in order to cover the work on the Portola Road approach that the COWncil requested at their last meeting. In the Town Manager’s Report, Kevin Bryant noted that a State expert had opined that even if the Town bridges were deemed historic, it wouldn’t make any difference in terms of accessing funds from the Federal Highway Bridge Program. This seems to mean that if the Town decides not to widen the bridges to federal standards, we’ll be on the hook for the full cost of any rehabilitation work needed to make the bridges safe and viable – perhaps millions of dollars. Is a bond issue in Woodside’s future?

The Consent Calendar also included an item documenting the completion of the 2013 Road Rehabilitation Program. We note that the so-called ‘lowest bidder’, Interstate Grading & Paving, Inc., had bid $439,230 but the program ended up costing the Town $584,542.15. All the report says about this almost $150,000 overage is that it was “within the original authorized amount of $590,000.”

The land division was next, but the applicant was gracious enough to allow the Safe Routes to School presentation to go ahead, noting that, “we’re going to be here for a while.”

The Safe Routes presentation was projected on the wall of Independence Hall and was conducted by Mr. David Parisi of Parisi Transportation Consulting, hired by the Town to expedite the process. You can be view it on MooTube and is definitely worth watching to get a sense of the challenges and proposed solutions to some of our Town’s most vexing circulation and safety problems. Parisi surveyed Woodside Road thoroughly and discovered many potential problems with various routes to try to build a safe walking path, ranging from incomplete rights of way to many mature old trees that the Town is loath to remove.

The COWncil weighed in on the presentation and selected a southbound route that should avoid most of the problems associated with other options. COWncil member Tom Shanahan stated his by now familiar objections to using “other people’s money” to fund improvements in Woodside, and this time COWncil member Romines gave it right back to him, stating that that Woodside residents pay a lot of money in federal taxes and that he’d rather it be spent back in Woodside than out of state. Mayor Dave Burow actually had to intervene and get the COWncil’s business back on track.

After a break, the COWncil turned to the land division on Moore Road. The parcel in question is 21.71 acres, and the applicant wanted to split it into three parcels (two of 7.5-acres and one of 6.71-acres). The minimum lot size in the area is five-acres. The applicant had been turned down at the staff and Planning Commission level and had appealed to the COWncil. The applicant came loaded for bear with an almost two inch high stack of reports and maps to back up his vision for the property.

Despite what seemed like initial hostility from some COWncil members, with questions as to the viability of building sites and Town liability for creating unbuildable lots, over the course of more than two and a half hours, the feeling on the COWncil seemed to move in favor of the applicant. There was seemingly some confusion on Town rules from the applicant, regarding conforming lot size which was cleared up with some active instruction by members of the Town COWncil, the possibility of increasing the smallest lot to allow a more buildable site seemed to win over the majority of the COWncil in principle.

The applicant agreed to come back to the COWncil directly with an updated map, bypassing the Planning Commission and staff, for which he had a fair amount of criticism. It is worth watching the entire presentation and argument on MooTube, to see what this Town puts applicants through in order to enjoy the benefits of their own property! Apparently it takes a year-long process to get something through the Town that is explicitly allowed in a zoning area, with ridiculous amounts of paper generated and untold amounts of money spent to do it. Sadly, some version of this tale is familiar to the majority of Town residents.

In light of the late hour, the COWncil held over an item on funding proposals for the 2014-2016 Roads Program and Mayor Burow gaveled the meeting closed at 11:32.

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