General Plan COWmittee

January 15, 2009

Starting early this year, the Town will commence the major updating of its General Plan. Watch the December 9th COWncil meeting discussing the process on MOOTube and you can read the proposal here (Agenda Item 7).

For any of you unfamiliar with the General Plan, it is the state required “constitution” for land use decisions. All decisions by the staff, commissions and the COWncil must be consistent with the General Plan. These Plans are generally updated about every 10 years. We have been urging that there be wide COWmunity involvement.

The Plan Review project as envisioned by the Interim Planning Director Irwin Kaplan with a COWmittee Task Force of between 25 – 30 Woodside residents. The residents would be members of “Woodside representative bodies,” plus members from other interested groups and the public at large. Commercial property interests and new residents are called out as two possible groups to be represented. There be a series of weekly meetings which will be noticed and opened to the public. We urge all COWs to attend when they can. This is the key to sensible planning for our COWmunity. We hope to have a number of these meetings on Mootube.

The Town’s new Planning Director Jackie Young will act as a facilitator of the meetings. She will work with the Task Force to develop goals, action plans, and objectives. The updated General Plan requires environmental review under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) which can be a somewhat lengthy process.

The Government Code imposes very specific requirements on the Housing Element of the General Plan. These include addressing our fair share of affordable housing.

Mr. Kaplan’s proposal starts with an interesting preamble: “The size of the community, the fact that it has managed to maintain its core values, and that its options have not been foreclosed so that its future is still ahead of it, distinguish Woodside from many communities.” It then continues, “… inviting full participation and involvement of the community can expect to generate controversy along the way. This is essential, if the General Plan is to be a truly representative community effort. As such, it will be a difficult process to manage…” And, “We have in place residents who are deeply committed to the well-being of the community and are knowledgeable in a wide variety of General Plan-related issues who can serve as the backbone of the Planning Process.” It sounds like the Town expects that the General Plan revision is going to be a somewhat tension-fueled affair between strong-willed individuals. We hope that everyone can pull together to ensure this process actually works well towards building a better Woodside for all of us. As Irwin notes, “… there is only one question the community needs to answer for itself, which is, ‘what sort of community do we wish to leave to our grandchildren?’”

Mr. Kaplan’s schedule is very ambitious, and raised concerns from both Town Manager Susan George and members of the COWncil as possibly being overly ambitious. Irwin Kaplan explained his belief that “An ambitious schedule has the advantage of involving people who are more willing to commit their time if they have a finite schedule. It should be clear at the outset that an end is in sight, providing a process that will pay greater attention to goals and policies than to minutiae.”

Despite his hopes for a speedy and efficient process, it is reasonable to believe that the process may take longer. The General Plan is a crucial document for the future of our community and needs to consider all perspectives. It will be in place for a long time so it is more important that it be thoughtful than that it be achieved quickly. The COWncil will be discussing the planning process further, and begin to solicit people to be a part of the revision. If you would like to be a part of the process, you should contact the Town and let them know soon, in order to make sure you’re not overlooked.

This will be a major undertaking for our Town. It will take everyone’s cooperative efforts to ensure that the Woodside General Plan represents the best policies and goals for the future. For that reason we think it’s very important that as many COWs as possible have their voice heard. Even if you don’t have the time to devote to the Task Force, you should definitely COWment on those items that you feel strongly about. It’s our intention here at COW to watch this process carefully and let you know what we think. More importantly, you need to make sure that your voice is heard and the Town knows your vision for the future.

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The Proposed schedule
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Week 1: Foundations of the Plan
Week 2: Foundations of the Plan
Week 3: Mandatory Element: Land Use
Week 4: Mandatory Element: Land Use
Week 5: Mandatory Element: Land Use
Week 6: Design Guidelines (Review and Comment)
Week 7: Commercial Districts: Skylonda Center Local Plan; Town Center Local Area Plan
Week 8: Woodside Glens Specific Plan; Lake Hills Specific Plan
Week 9: Mandatory Element: Open Space
Week 10: Mandatory Element: Open Space
Week 11: Mandatory Element: Conservation
Week 12: Mandatory Element: Conservation
Week 13: Mandatory Element: Circulation
Week 14: Mandatory Element: Circulation
Week 15: Mandatory Element: Natural Hazards/Safety
Week 16: Mandatory Element: Natural Hazards/Safety
Week 17: Mandatory Element: Housing (Review and Comment)
Week 18: Mandatory Element: Noise
Week 19: Mandatory Element: Public Utilities
Week 20: Mandatory Element: Public Utilities
Week 21: Optional Element: Historic Resource Preservation
Week 22: Optional Element: Historic Resource Preservation
Week 23: Preview for Statutory Criteria Required by Court Interpretation
Week 24: Action Plan
Week 25: Action Plan
Week 26: Unfinished Business
Week 27: Unfinished Business

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