Crowded Field

June 22, 2015

There is an old expression (or there should be) that too many bulls in the field means an awful lot of bull. Here in Woodside we have too many COWmissions and COWmittees and some tend to behave like bullies.

We are not a big city with complex projects which impinge on neighborhoods, yet we have 13 of these bodies a number of them imposing their individual ideas and taste on what residents can build, plant or do on their own property.

What does the Architectural and site Review Board (ASRB) bring to the table that the Planning Commission doesn’t or couldn’t handle? The ASRB essentially reviews residential applications for community character, site planning, building design, and landscape elements. It is charged with protecting the rural character and natural beauty of the Town. The ASRB is supposed to ensure that projects are consistent with the General Plan and Design Guidlines. In practice, it seems they decide on their own that these policies should not stop the ASRB from imposing their own idea of what should be built. See paragraph’s 2 and 3 of our article here.

With a remodel usually a COW must appear before the ASRB at least twice (but often more) before any further review by the Planning Commission or permit submission. We would strongly support elimination of the ASRB and a review of the other COWmittees to make sure they are not wasting their time and ours. We have previously described the trials and tribulations of appearing before the ASRB see here and here for stories on some meetings.

We believe and want to encourage COWs to participate in our governance. But instead of a varied membership, the current COWncil and COWmittees are riddled with familiar and related faces. We need term limits for these bodies. Moreover, there is a need for clear guidelines and standards which staff applies and IF needed the Planning COWmission reviews. We urge better outreach and encouragement of participation in public forum discussions of new or amended regulations in the pre-adoption stage, rather than having unclear rules and subjecting COWS to the gauntlet of the COWmittees.

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