Atherton voters will be asked whether they want to see permanent Little League structures in Holbrook-Palmer Park, and if funding for a planned new Town Center should be restricted primarily to private donations.
The City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night (Aug. 7) to put the two measures on the November ballot, along with a measure asking whether a new library should be built in the park -- a measure the council approved at an earlier meeting.
Council members Elizabeth Lewis and Jerry Carlson voted against the ballot measures Tuesday night, saying that, unlike the situation with the library plan, residents have not been concerned about the proposed projects, and haven't
"clamored" for a vote.
But the council majority argued that since there's an election in November that will include choosing two council members and the library measure, it would be reasonable to ask voters about two other projects that will have a major impact on the town.
The city attorney crafted language for both measures, asking council members for suggestions to make the questions fit their purposes. But it was a representative of the Little League, Michael Haven, who suggested language that, with a few tweaks, passed muster with the council.
On that issue, voters will be asked: "Should the town permit the Menlo-Atherton Little League to improve the baseball field and surrounding areas at Holbrook-Palmer Park, including covered seating for spectators and players, an improved playing area for children, and new restrooms for all park users, using private funds only?"
The Town Center measure was approved after emphasis was placed on how the center would be paid for, rather than whether the center would be built. All council members say they support replacing the cramped facilities, which don't meet seismic, fire, or other building codes, but the council majority insisted on restricting the bulk of the project's funding to private contributions.
"The issue isn't shall we construct; it's how it's funded," Mayor Bill Widmer said, insisting that he wouldn't support any new taxes for the project.
The approved ballot language asks: "Should the town of Atherton primarily use private donations to construct and design a new Town Center? Other funding sources might include funds derived from building fees or future grant money, but would not use general fund or parcel tax money."
Councilwoman Lewis, a lead figure on the Town Center Task Force, implored her colleagues not to put the measure on the ballot, asking repeatedly what purpose it would serve. Donors are at the ready to open up their wallets, she said, and the council should let the process go forward.