COWncil Roundup – May 10th, 2011

May 31, 2011

May 10th’s Town COWncil meeting had an important but eclectic agenda, running from long running concerns about new building regulations and the General Plan to updates of the Town’s ordinances regarding stables and tree protection. As always, you can see the Roundup on Mootube.

The meeting, for which COWncil members Mason and Gordon were absent, began on a sad note. The Vice-Mayor of San Carlos, Omar Ahmad, passed away the morning of the 10th at age 46. Woodside COWncil members spoke about having come to know Mr. Ahmad by serving on various inter-government boards with him, and expressed sorrow over his passing.

After then passing the consent calendar filled with routine items, the COWncil turned to the official introduction of an ordinance requiring backflow preventers within setbacks. Staff has been working on versions of this ordinance since mid-December. The devices, which prevent water from homes and businesses from flowing backwards into municipal water supplies, are being required in more and more instances, and come in various sizes and shapes. The COWncil has spent months debating on how big they can be, how high off the ground they should be, whether they must be screened, how they should be painted, etc., as well as looking at pictures of various backflow preventers installed around Town – some blend quite well into the background, while others stick out like giant sore thumbs. The ordinance was finally delivered to COWncil in a form they mostly approved of and was officially introduced, to be voted on and finalized in a future meeting. Under the proposed ordinance, devices that are two inches in diameter must be 10 feet from the road surface, with larger devices at least 25 feet away. The bottoms of the devices cannot be more than 12 inches above grade. The devices need to painted unless they’re made of a metal that develops a patina, and they will have to be screened by plantings.

The COWncil then moved on to discussing building regulations, specifically the continuing attempts to meet Chapter 7A fire requirements in Town. A public hearing and adoption of an enabling ordinance will come in June. The COWncil wanted to have a public discussion with officials from the Fire Prevention District, in an attempt to balance fire safety with the natural pastoral beauty we’ve come to expect in Woodside – there was concern that aggressive paring back of fuel – i.e. small trees and brush and landscaping – would not only make Woodside ugly, but also eliminate habitat for threatened animal species. On the other hand, great concern was again expressed over the amount of fuel on the land right now and the possibilities of a dangerous fire in Town. COWncil member Burow stated that Fire Marshal Enea should come speak to the Town COWncil and not “mail it in”; he also had some questions about how our neighbor, the Town of Portola Valley, was able to not adopt the Very High Fire Risk map that the State has mandated. The Town Attorney said she would look into it.

The COWncil then reviewed the Conservation and Land Use elements of the new General Plan – the COWncil has been reviewing pieces of the overall Plan in order to keep it manageable. When all of the elements are complete, the entire draft will be subject to CEQA review. .

Next up was a small change to the Municipal Code that requires inspections to obtain a private stable permit. The COWncil approved the change, recommended by the Trails Committee, which will allow a new property owner to not have to have an inspection done on change of ownership, so long as a valid stable permit existed in the preceding, but requiring that the new property owner assert in writing that their stable is in compliance with regulations.

The COWncil then spent some more time on possible amendments to the Town’s tree protection ordinance, a slow-moving but incredibly important issue. The COWncil is still trying to decide when a tree is significant as well as how to handle removal of “significant” but not desirable trees (like eucalyptus) and well as address circumstances where removal would create privacy issues.

Town Staff noted that the May 24th meeting has been canceled. The meeting adjourned in memory of Mr. Ahmad.

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