The regular Town COWNcil meeting on September 9th began with a special presentation from Margo Knight, head of the Djerassi Resident Artists program (djerassi.org) at SMIP Ranch in Woodside. She wanted to thank the COWncil and the Town for the “use of” the Arts & Culture Committee, who helped with Djerassi’s most recent annual Open House at the end of July, where art is set up along the trails on the ranch for the public to come and view it and learn about the program. She was so grateful, in fact, that she brought along a check for $2,000 for the Town – a split of the proceeds.
The COWncil then mooved on to approving the minutes and also authorized joining the HERO and the “Figtree Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)” programs, after some discussion. The two programs are completely voluntary and allow residents to finance the cost of energy generation, energy efficiency and water efficiency projects on their property. Homeowners can repay the loan and interest on their property tax bills. The Town had to join the programs in order for Town residents to be able to take advantage of these benefits. The Town Manager Kevin Bryant gave assurances that these programs are completely voluntary and the Town has not bound itself to issue bonds or anything like that.
Kevin reported on the successful completion of the first phase of the Safe Routes to School project near Woodside Elementary. Further crosswalks were expected to be installed by the end of September. He also reported that Woodside did not get a State grant to help fund the Safe Routes phase near Robert’s Market, but that Woodside will be applying to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission funding for the same project.
Next, the COWncil heard from the Firewise Advisory Committee, the Town Manager and the Fire Chief of the WFPD on fire safety. As this is one of the most threatening fire seasons in memory, this topic is on all our minds. The Fire Chief reported on the grass fire of July 24th, and the reasons for delayed response and traffic congestion around that incident. Apparently many firefighters were out on calls and there were electrical outages nearby which caused confusion and pulled crews away from the fire. He called it a ‘horrific day’ but noted that the fire was under control soon after firefighters arrived on scene. He praised Woodside’s brush-clearing procedure, which prevented the fire from jumping Cañada Road. He also said that despite the traffic congestion, he felt closing the road was necessary and would do it again if need be, despite the threats motorists made against the fire department. We COWs really do appreciate the good work of our Fire District.
The COWncil next heard a report on water conservation and the work done by the Sustainability and Conservation Committee.
The big topic of the meeting was an appeal of a Planning Commission 3-3 split vote that resulted in the holdup of a big building project that’s been on hold for two months. The project went through our Town’s laborious ASRB and Planning Commission process, and then it was discovered that due to the way the basement was constructed, the first floor had to be removed. While the end project was going to look exactly the same, the project-in-process looked different enough that a little birdie called the ASRB and a stop-work order was issued through the Town when someone complained.
Luckily for that family, and for those of us who like a sane development process in our Town, the COWncil overruled the 3-3 vote of the PC and let dozens of workers get back to work and the project to start towards completion.