The COWncil started early and stayed late on Tuesday, for their first in-depth study session review of the Town’s new General Plan. The marathon session went for more than four hours and only covered a fraction of the mammoth new Plan so two more study sessions are planned. By the end of the meeting, the Council and Town Manager Susan George were seriously considering adding a fourth session.
Before diving into the Plan, the COWncil voted to allow another bike ride through Woodside. The National Brain Tumor Society Charity Bicycle Ride is a 75-mile ride that passes through Woodside, with between 50-75 riders participating, according to the organizer of the ride, Filco Events. The motion was passed with the caveat that marshals be posted at the four left turns in Woodside.
During the study session, the COWncil had intended to go over the Preface, Introduction, Land Use and Community Design Element, Historic Preservation Element, and the Public Utilities Element, but didn’t get that far. The study sessions are being held before the draft is finalized and sent to the Environmental Impact Review (EIR) consultant. Meanwhile, Town staff contracted for Acoustical and Traffic consultants whose work has already begun. Their reports are due October 15th.
We are glad to see that the Council appears committed to going over the proposed Plan with a fine-toothed comb. The COWncil took a full hour to go over the ten pages of the Preface, which is composed of innocuous statistics, descriptions, and an interesting capsule history of our Town. This prompted Mayor Burows to joke at 7:40 pm, “Should we order breakfast?” The Mayor considered jumping into the Introduction at that point, saying there was nothing new in it so it should be a fast review, to which George pointed out, “…neither was what you just did!” Council member Peter Mason chimed in with “We just spent an hour and a half on it!” Defeated, Burows said “Never mind,” and moved on to the Historic Preservation section.
Most of the comments and changes were minor wording changes, typo corrections, and the like, with some personal preferences as to how the finished document should present information. One burning issue was whether the height for Woodside should be the average currently presented in the Plan (384 feet, for the curious) or expressed as a range.
The Historic Preservation section did prompt a substantive policy question, however. One of the proposed strategies for the goal of protecting important historical structures was to maintain an annually updated list of structures 50 years or older. This prompted a discussion about building reuse and whether or not you can “do stuff” to your “historical building”. COWncil member Mason said the idea is “maintaining context” with the exteriors of buildings, and not worrying so much about the insides of the buildings, and allowing “adaptive reuse.” However, there was some discussion about whether the existence of a list of 50-year-old-plus houses would spur people to attempt to renovate (or sell!) their homes before their homes reached that age in fear of restrictions from the Town, with Burows and Mason discussing somewhat jokingly that possibility. To us, that sounds like exactly what is likely to happen, but we’ll have to wait and see. We wonder whether there is any real value in expending the time and effort to maintain such a list. Today, when a permit is sought to renovate or demolish a structure, Staff inquires into its age and studies whether or not there is historical significance. That seems to us to be a reasonable approach.
The COWncil then went back to the Introduction. Even though they continued on past 10 pm, the Public Utilities Element was delayed to a future meeting. The two currently scheduled study sessions are set for October 11th and 13th and promise to be just as in-depth.
Given the importance of the General Plan to the future of our COWmunity, the time expended is well worth while.