Woodside board OKs plans to renovate Menlo Country Club
Plans to renovate the golf course and tennis courts at the Menlo County Club in Woodside moved one step closer to reality on March 26 when the town's Architectural and Site Review Board approved the project with some recommendations and sent it on to the town's Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission will consider the project on April 25 and will make the final decision on approval unless its decision is appealed to the Town Council. If the club gets the necessary approvals, the project will probably begin in April 2013.
No members of the public spoke against the project, which would modernize the 25-year-old golf course within its current footprint and include the removal of 345 trees and a manmade pond. Earlier plans to expand the golf course were abandoned because it would disturb the nests of a rare wood rat that lives near the golf course.
The country club is located across the street from Woodside High School, near the boundary of Woodside and Redwood City.
Despite the lack of public opposition, the board members did have some concerns about the project. "The fencing is abominable," said board member Karen Rongey-Conners. She asked that a plan for the fencing and landscaping along Woodside Road be brought back to the ASRB.
That recommendation was made part of the board's approval. The club was also asked to agree to the request of a neighbor to add trees near the tennis courts so the courts are less visible to neighboring homes.
Board Chair Nancy Reyering said she has concerns about the environmental impact of the golf course, especially the use of water and chemicals, such as fertilizers and pesticides.
"The thing I'm most concerned about is that this renovation happen in an environmentally sensitive way," she said. "I'm not convinced that enough has been done."
Scott Lewis, the superintendent of the golf course, said that the renovations will reduce the amount of "highly maintained turf" from 95 acres to 58 acres, replacing the rest of the grass with native fescue that uses less water, pesticides and fertilizers. The country club is also a member of the National Audubon Society, he said.
Woodside Planning Director Jackie Young said she will ask the club to put together a list of all the things it is doing, and plans to do, to make the course more environmentally sustainable.
Mark Pitchford, former chair of the club's golf and greens committee and now heading its Golf Course Working Team, explained why the renovations are necessary. "We have a golf course that is old," he said. While the club is nearly 100 years old, the course was last renovated 25 years ago.
The drainage, irrigation, cart paths, tees and greens "are simply failing," Mr. Pitchford said. In addition "the golf game has evolved in the decades since this course was last designed."
In addition to redesigning the course, the project will move two of the club's tennis courts closer to two other courts in the southwest area of the property and add a 640-square-foot tennis building with an office, restrooms and exercise area.
Another concern of several board members was the removal of a pond that is now part of the golf course. While the pond is man-made, it was added in the 1970s and is widely used by local wildlife, ASRB board member Maggie Mah said.
"Creatures have come to rely on it, including migratory birds. It's part of the flyover," she said. Instead of removing the pond, "it might be an opportunity to renovate it and create a better habitat, maybe with a more interesting shape," she said.
The concerns about the pond will be added to the environmental report on the project. The town is not requiring a full environmental impact report on the project, but instead a report called a "mitigated negative declaration" because, Planning Director Young said, research has indicated that the environmental impacts of the project can be made less than significant if the club meets conditions imposed by the town.
The vote to approve the project was 5 to 1, with board member Barbara Hoskinson absent and member Thalia Lubin voting no. Maggie Mah, Karen Rongey-Conners, Peter Rosecrans, Nancy Reyering and Jack Helfand voted yes.