COWncil Roundup – September 22nd, 2009

October 17, 2009

The COWncil meeting was held on September 22nd with COWncil members Romines and Burow were absent. As always, yu can see it, on MOOtube.

Aside from the update on the horse statue that is to placed on Village Hill, the COWncil also approved their audited 2008-2009 financial statements, a permit for an AIDS bike ride on October 17th, and a resolution allowing a company named Acterra to apply for federal money allocated to the Town of Woodside to run an energy assessment program for homes. A resolution reducing the fine for a couple who cut down some trees without a permit – a big issue at a previous COWncil meeting – was delayed to the next meeting.

The main issue was a continuation of a big controversy about the closing of a big stretch of Woodside Road to parking. Under pressure from Caltrans, which had stated its intent to unilaterally close the stretch of highway from Cañada Road to beyond Woodside Elementary due to encroachment on the bike lanes by parkers, the COWncil was scrambling to have some control over the process by implementing their own solution. Their first attempt to ram through a parking ban in July was met with frankly angry pushback by parents from the elementary school, most of whom complained that the school COWmunity hadn’t had an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal. Both Mayor Mason and COWncil member Boynton had had some skeptical words for the parents, saying that issue of parking by the school has grown worse and worse over the past few years and the school and parents haven’t taken ownership to fix the issue, which lead to pushback from the parents saying that it wasn’t just the school’s issue, but a Town issue. A clearly frustrated COWncil referred the matter back to staff and returned to it during this meeting.

What a different a few months and some outreach make! The tone of this meeting was much friendlier and more productive than the acrimonious July disagreement-fest. Town staff (especially Paul Nagengast, Town Engineer) took the lead in working with parents and the school district. – Paul deserves extra credit here for doing parking counts and being very visible during this process!

Many people spoke at this meeting, and the tone was very positive. It is generally recognized that change is necessary. Most speakers were filled with praise for how the process has gone since that July meeting. The general sentiment from both COWncil and citizens was that this attempt to fix the parking situation along the road wasn’t likely to be perfect, and would have to be returned to for tweaking with time and experience. Hopefully the hard-earned compromise will pass muster with Caltrans!

After acknowledging the work staff and school district have done, and in some cases obliquely apologizing for tempers flaring at the July meeting, the COWncil voted unanimously to approve the new parking restrictions. Here’s a list taken from the agenda item:

1. “No Stopping and Parking Anytime”, along the north side of Woodside Road (westbound) from Cañada Road to Miramontes Road.
2. “No Stopping and Parking Anytime”, along the south side of Woodside road (eastbound) from the western boundary of Roberts Market parking lot west of Cañada Road to Fox Hollow Road except during the hours 8-9:30 a.m. and 2-4 p.m, M-F.
3. “No Stopping and Parking Anytime”, along the north side of Woodside Road from Martin Lane to Kings Mountain Road.
4. “No Stopping and Parking Anytime”, along Albion Avenue from Woodside Road to Prospect Street fronting the drainage ditch on the east side and the west side to 139 Albion Avenue.
5. Authorization for signs to placed.
6. Authorization for the Town Manager to provide exceptions to the “No Stopping and Parking Anytime” on Woodside Road to accommodate special events.

We were happy to see an exception was made for special events. Parking for important Town events would otherwise be absolutely impossible. We also want to call out the homeowners along Albion Avenue for “taking it for the team” in not opposing restricted parking on their own street. This will avoid turning the whole street into a parking lot. A parking permit system for residents and their guests was talked about at the meeting. We urge the COWncil to put that program in place since these residents should be able to use their own street.. We also want to commend everyone involved for being able to work together on a solution that will hopefully improve the situation for all users of the roads. We hope the Susan George recognizes that if the Town had started a dialogue with the school and neighbors first, instead of jumping the gun in July, a lot of hurt feelings and anger could have been avoided.

Let us know what your experiences are with the new parking restrictions along Woodside Road we want to know how they are affecting you!

After the main event, the final item on the COWncil’s agenda was an uncontroversial measure to preserve some land near Barkley Park as open space. The preservation and restrictions on use of the 1.7 acres had come up last September, but the COWncil sent it back to staff for refinement. They wanted to make sure that the Town would still have the power to improve the existing trail and keep up landscaping if the agreement was put into place. Town staff managed to answer the COWncil’s concerns, and they voted for the measure unanimously.

COWncil COWmunications followed, with COWncil member Boynton reporting on the results of the Firewise advisory board meeting. In addition to COWncil member Boynton, the advisory board, includes Chief Muela, Town Manager Susan George, Fire Marshal Denise Enea, and others. They are working on its long term goals, focusing first on education on fire safety. Mayor Mason similarly reported on a League of California Cities seminar on fire prevention that among other topics, discussed the new ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ fire survival strategy. He reported that Orange County firefighters are now devoting half an hour per residence to go over fire prevention and survival strategies with homeowners. We’re glad that the safety of our Town and concerns over fire are still uppermost in our COWncil member’s minds!

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