Woodside riders worried over fate of horse trail
Woodside equestrians fear they are about to lose another key stretch of horse trail in town, thanks to a new owner's development plans.
At issue is a stretch of equestrian trail that links northern and southern Woodside and provides access to Wunderlich and Huddart county parks. Horse riders are pressing town officials to get a dedicated trail easement in exchange for the lot line adjustment being sought by the property owner, to ensure that the trail will stay open in perpetuity.
So far, they haven't been dissuaded by Town Attorney Jean Savaree's opinion that, legally, the town can't do that.
Equestrians turned out to plead their case before the Woodside Town Council on March 27. Woodside resident Eldona Hamel filed an appeal asking the council to overturn the Planning Commission's previous approval of the lot line adjustment, an action that would create two legal-size parcels where currently there is one large lot and one that is too small to be built upon.
"I'm really concerned about whittling away, bit by bit, the access to this trail," said Woodside resident Signe Ostby. "Having trail access through this property is critical."
By not requiring a dedicated trail, the town is giving away its rights to a trail that has been used for more than 30 years, equestrians maintained.
Although the right to use the trail was never made official, it has been used openly for so long that Woodside could legalize its use as a "prescriptive" trail, Ms. Hamel said. Why should the town, she argued, trade a prescriptive easement for a permissive trail that could be closed down by the property owner at any time?
"This is not a subdivision, this is not a case where the council has the authority, either under ordinance or under state law, to require dedication of a trail," said attorney John Hanna, who represents the property owners.
Officially, the owner of almost 23 acres at 3411 and 3417 Woodside Road is Bear Gulch Creek Partners, LLC. As usual in Woodside, locals know exactly who their new neighbors are: Atherton resident Charles Schwab and family.
"I want to talk to someone with a direct line to Chuck Schwab," said Carleen Whittelsey, who brought along a metal pole and said she could solve his deer/security fence problems while leaving the majority of the property open for wildlife.
Eight people expressed concerns about the trail at the meeting before the council curtailed the discussion by continuing the matter to its April 24 meeting.
Council members said they've been meeting in closed session with Mr. Hanna and Ms. Savaree on a formalized permissive trail agreement that they hope will ease equestrians’ concerns. However, since it wasn't on the agenda, they could not discuss it.
Councilman Pete Sinclair said it made sense to continue the lot line adjustment appeal to the April council meeting, when the trail agreement could also be heard.
"A lot of the (public's) concerns are the same as the ones the council members have had — but we can't respond because (the trail agreement) hasn't been agendized," Mr. Sinclair said. "So we're in a bad spot, the public is in a bad spot, and the applicant is in a bad spot."
Mr. Hanna said he believed the public would be very pleased with the permissive trail agreement, which would provide for temporary, short-term closures if security or construction situations demanded it.
The council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, in Independence Hall, 2955 Woodside Road. Meeting information is available one week in advance at WoodsideTown.org, or by calling 851-6790.