COWncil Roundup – October 27th, 2009

November 30, 2009

This was the COWncil’s last meeting before a more than a month hiatus while they waited for certification of the November 3rd municipal election despite the fact that their were no contested elections. COWncil members Dave Tanner and Deborah Gordon were reelected and ASRB member Anne Kasten was elected to replace the departing COWncilmember Hodges. COWncilmember Hodges, she was absent from this meeting, making the previous meeting of October 13th her last on the COWncil.

The meeting was preceded by an hour and a half Special Meeting Study Session on geological hazards and Town regulations which is not included on MOOtube. The meeting proper started with no public comment, leading Mayor Mason to jokingly say, “Oh good, they’re not mad!” to general laughter.

With the consent calendar approved, the COWncil moved on to the big issue of the meeting – the approval of the Woodside Landscape Committees’ commissioning and donation of a horse statue (of a mare and foal) and the placement of the statue on Village Hill. The Committee is a private group focused on the beautification of Woodside. This has been a long-term project of the Landscape Committee, which recently blew up into a very Woodside storm of placement and procedure.

As Assistant Town Manager Kevin Bryant’s report to the COWncil stated, the Landscape Committee came to the COWncil on May 27th, 2008 with the initial concept, and returned on September 23rd of that year with a design (“Spring and Sprite”) by artist Veryl Goodnight. The COWncil approved it in concept, and the Committee began fundraising in order to pay for the statue, and has now raised in the neighborhood of $100,000.

The week of September 14th saw the placement of a full-sized photo mockup of the statue was placed on the Hill, but after consultation with the artist, the mockup was moved 75 feet west on October 6th. The ASRB had a meeting scheduled for October 5th, and was clearly upset by the whole process up to that point. Not only were they unable to view the statue placement in it’s final place, but they also expressed concern that they hadn’t been consulted early enough in the process. The ASRB said they wanted a continuance, and cited their objections to the proposal: the statue could represent “an attractive nuisance” and expose the Town to liability; the statue would encourage parking to view the sculpture and could cause a visual distraction to drivers; and the Trails Committee needs to review the proposal to make sure the statue is not in the way of the existing trai. Staff, responded that all of the concerns could be addressed without slowing down the project., Kevin reported that the ASRB “did struggle with their role in this.”

The ASRB’s concerns and the possible delay of the project really seemed to inflame the statue’s supporters on the Landscape Committee. There was a packed house at the meeting. Someone suggested that the statue should not be placed on Village Hill at all, but instead in the Triangle. The COWncil was left in the unenviable position of trying to placate the ASRB, the Landscape Committee, and the interested COWs.

Council members Ron Romines, Dave Burows and Mayor Mason all raised the question of why the proposal had taken so long to go to the ASRB when it should have brought in earlier. To a question from Council member Romines over whether placement in the Triangle might be a better fit, the head of the Landscape Committee said that all their fundraising was based on the concept that the sculpture would be on Village Hill and apparently they felt they would need to give the money back if it were moved. When pressed on this by the COWncil, a legal representative from the Committee said that they probably would not have to give the money back but they still thought that the Hill was the best place for it.

Comments from the audience seemed to come overwhelmingly from the Landscape Committee’s supporters, who had sharp words for both the COWncil and the ASRB. Anne Kasten, who has now been elected as a COWncil representative, defended the ASRB’s actions and pushed back on the process that had lead to this point. A member of the public also attacked the lack of a good process, saying that “special interests” are the reason “why process is important. In this Town, to raise $100,000 for someone’s special interest is probably not that hard.”

After listening to the audience, and going back and forth between themselves, the COWncil eventually voted to approve the statue at its current location Mayor Mason got a little cute about the placement, saying that the siting should be “plus or minus twenty feet from the current placement, no closer to the road than it is now, either west or northwest,” and then actually made a hand gesture saying “that way”! Despite overruling the ASRB, the COWncil attempted to placate that body, saying that a process should be instituted that would bring it on board in the future earlier with such projects. A notable objection was heard from Dave Burow, saying that such projects are infrequent and a new process doesn’t need to be put into place.

After that tempest in a teapot was over, the COWncil discussed the new building definition again (see our story here), a topic that was surprisingly less controversial than the horse statue issue, despite its likelihood to affect a lot more residents in their pocketbooks. Our separate report on that will be up soon.

The COWncil finished by discussing the quarterly budget and work plan review and adjourned until December.

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