More COWncern!

June 2, 2010

While none of us want to see our pastures paved over, we are gravel-ly COWncerned about how the Town intends to define “paved area” and how different material, most particularly gravel, is counted. Gravel and horses go together like cows and grass. Gravel is needed for riding rings, trails, as well as parking of horse trailers and other equipment. It is also needed for horseless COWs for agricultural equipment, driveways, pathways, decks, area’s around accessory buildings and structures such as areas surrounding pools. Tennis courts alone are about 7000 square feet.

At one time, gravel was not cow-nted as “paved area” at all. We rang the Belle COW alert when former Planning Director Hope Sullivan, on her own, decided that gravel needed to be cow-nted at 50%, probably making more than 40% of all homes in Woodside nonconforming. We applauded Town Manager Susan George when she agreed with us that Staff should not be making policy, that a study session and direction directly from COWncil was necessary and that there needs to be discussion to determine the point of the ordinance – is it to keep Woodside’s rural character or to restrict runoff? We often disagree with Susan but she was sure right that time. As we see it, gravel is quintessentially rural and is not impermeable so severe limitations are not needed. (See our other articles here and here)

The Planning Commission has now issued a Resolution of Intent to amend the Municipal Code to address the issues. Sections 153.047 and 153.056 of the Municipal Code deal with how much “paved area” you’re allowed on your property. It currently tops out at 15,000 square feet, which may work for properties which are one acre or less, but is a very small percent of a 3, 5, 7, 10 or more acre property! The Code does not specify what materials count as “paved area.” The Staff report (starts on page 43) spells out what they consider to be “Complications with the Current Ordinance and Potential Changes.” There is a list of products that could count as paved area. It is really frightening is Staff’s implication that even DIRT could be considered paved area!!

We all want to preserve the rural environment of the Town of Woodside. In keeping with this goal, we do not want the natural beauty of our residential lots paved over. There are a number of aspects of this issue which really need to be considered.

(1) Gravel is not impermeable and has a rural appearance.

(2) Rural does not mean untouched. It means an environment characteristic of farming or country life, in particular, where the keeping of horses and other animals is encouraged. Historically, Woodside has been farmed and logged, so much, if not most of the land is already disturbed.

(3) It needs to be possible for COWs to enjoy the use of their property by having pools, tennis courts, riding arenas and other horse related activities and having enough allowance for patios and walkways to other buildings.

(4) Siting of structures so they are not visible, not in setbacks, not on slopes, and so that trees are preserved etc. often creates the need for a long driveway. Owners should not be penalized for this.

(5) Regulations requiring fire equipment turnouts and turnarounds on the main driveway entrance should not result in a penalty. This is dictated by Fire Code, not owners, and should not count as suggested by Staff.

(6) Larger properties should not be constrained by an arbitrary cap, irrespective of size. Large properties provide the community with much open space and a rural, rather than a suburban, environment. They enable this to be a horse and COW town. They should be encouraged. Capping the amount of paved area and particularly the use of gravel, can render much of the land useless and could encourage subdivision.

(7) Much of Woodside has been “disturbed.” Farming and agricultural use DO disturb the land, so do animals. Woodside has also been logged in the past and so the idea of “undisturbed” land is a silly notion.

(8) Woodside is not a park. It is a town and the land belongs to the residents for their use and enjoyment. After all COWs are the ones paying the hefty taxes. Citizens being able to use their own land should always be a major cow-nsideration when making policy.

The amount of paved area currently allowed is already unrealistically restrictive. Many of Woodside properties are already nonconforming and the only reason it hasn’t been a controversial issue is that when people update structures or add new ones, they have been allowed to move the existing nonconforming paved area to suit the new construction. Now Staff is suggesting that this no longer be allowed. Why is this draconian restriction even being considered. In these situations, the paved area is already there, so there is no benefit from preventing its relocation.

Hopefully there will be a full discussion and serious consideration of these concerns.

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