The Town COWncil met in a long and contentious meeting on May 28th that crushed hopes for a Farmer’s Market on Town Center property and ignited a firestorm of debate over the outlines of the upcoming Town Center Plan.
The meeting kicked off with a celebration of Town Clerk Janet Koelsch’s 25 years of service with the Town government. Mayor Anne Kasten read the proclamation highlighting Ms. Koelsch’s record with the Town, which began back on May 16th, 1988. The item wasn’t listed on the agenda, because otherwise it wouldn’t have been a surprise – the Town Clerk is the one who compiles the agenda for every meeting. We want to congratulate Janet and express our appreciation for the good job that she does.
During Communications, Thalia Lubin of the Woodside History Committee announced that the Committee was awarding the first three Historical Preservation Awards at the Woodside History Museum. While we celebrate the awarding of recognition to COWs who choose to help preserve Woodside’s wonderful history, we remain concerned over the possibility of future historical preservation efforts that may restrict homeowner’s rights to enjoy their properties as they see fit.
Next, the COWncil interviewed Steven Patrick for the open seat on the ASRB. Three candidates are up for the position, but only Mr. Patrick was able to make the beginning of the meeting (one other candidate arrived later and graciously agreed to come back next meeting, as this meeting went very long). The COWncil was familiar with Mr. Patrick’s record of service in the Town (he served on the General Plan Update committee, as well as serving on the Planning Commission for years ending eight years ago) as well as his professional credentials as an architect. The COWncil members spoke highly of him during the interview, though they asked him the necessity that he recuse himself from matters he brings before the Town in a professional capacity. He indicated that it would not be a problem. He also stated that the new review process which the ASRB conducts is good, considering it “less adversarial”. The other two candidates will be interviewed and the matter will be decided during the June 11th meeting.
A variance to allow a house to connect to a different sewer district than the one it was already in was granted quickly, and then the COWncil turned to the progress report on the Town Center Area Plan Task Force. The COWncil discussed the issue for hours, with a lot of passionate debate from Town residents. The COWncil will study the issue further and we will definitely be tracking this!
Finally, as the night got late, the COWncil turned to the matter of the Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market is already operating in two locations – one at Cañada Corners as well as at the Elementary School. The Elementary School location was always meant to be a temporary location, and the School has made it clear that they don’t want to accommodate the Market forever. The hope of the Market was to move to the Town Center parking lot, but staff’s reading of Woodside Measures 1 and J (passed decades ago to prevent development of the Town Center area) is that it’s not allowed under current code (a contention COWncil member Ron Romines, who was involved with passing Measure J, and the author of Measure J dispute).
There was a big crowd weeks ago at a COWncil meeting urging the COWncil to take action and allow the Farmer’s Market to move to Town Center, talking in depth about how much they loved having the Market in Town and being able to buy fresh food. The COWncil asked staff to study the issue, and at this meeting staff asked for direction on whether to put an ordinance on the ballot in November to allow the Market.
At this meeting, the other side turned out in force and speakers (some of them local business owners whose businesses front the parking lots that would be affected) spoke against the plan, even implying strongly that they might sue over the issue. The COWncil also argued amongst themselves about whether it made sense to have a Farmer’s Market in Town Center when the larger traffic and parking issues remain unresolved.
In the end, with no Farmer’s Market supporters at this meeting, the COWncil accepted a motion from
Thomas Shanahan, to not work on bringing the Farmer’s Market to Town Center for the rest of 2013. Given the fact that it is more costly to but a measure on the ballot when there is no COWncil election, it is unlikely that this would be considered earlier than then the ballot in 2015. COWncil member’s Romines and Deborah Gordon were in favor of having an election to allow the Citizens to decide on whether to allow a Farmer’s Market and possibly a Craft Fair in the Town Center, while the rest of the COWncil was against it. In the final vote on taking no action for the rest of the year, COWncil member’s Romines, Gordon, and Mayor Kasten voted against it, while the rest of the COWncil voted to not consider the matter again until 2014. So, that unless COWs circulate an initiative petition, this ends the dream of having the Farmer’s Market in Town Center, at least for several years.
The almost four-and-a-half-hour meeting ended shortly thereafter.