Instead of seven Woodside residents on the Architectural and Site Review Board reviewing plans for home construction and remodels, the board will have five members as of Jan. 8. And instead of those five members reviewing certain smaller projects, there will be just one person doing so.
On a 6-1 vote, with Councilwoman Anne Kasten dissenting, the Town Council adopted an ordinance Tuesday (Dec. 8) establishing a new secondary role for the planning director, that of architectural-and-site-review administrator. This was the third time in recent months that the council considered the ordinance. It goes into effect 30 days after adoption.
The measure also reduces the size of the review board to five members from seven, eliminates duplicate review by the Planning Commission and the board, and codifies existing practices around consolidating projects that have grown incrementally since issuing of a building permit.
Not included in the ordinance but widely supported, the town will be engaging at least one consulting architect to assist applicants in preparing their projects for conceptual design review by the board.
The board has been two members short of filing the seven seats for some time. With long meetings dealing with matters that can become controversial, recruiting for the board has been difficult, town officials have said.
Projects to be handled by the new administrator include accessory living quarters, gates and entry features, signs, outdoor lighting, fences that depart from designs specified in the municipal code, and projects within scenic corridors and the western hills with dimensions less than or equal to 1,000 square feet.
Meetings with the administrator will have the same public-notice requirements as are required for an ASRB review, and the administrator will retain the right to refer any project to the full ASRB.
The new administrator position and the hand-over of reviews of smaller projects has been opposed by at least three members of the ASRB: Thalia Lubin, Nancy Reyering and Maggie Mah. At the council meeting, Ms. Lubin spoke, saying that the change in review procedures would be a major alteration that sidesteps real problems that need to be identified through further analysis.
The change, she said, also removes review responsibilities from citizen/resident oversight, "which I think has been the heart of this town."
Ms. Reyering expressed the same concern in an email to the Almanac, saying that the new administrator position would "place control (of project review) in the hands of an employee. This in no way adheres to the spirit or the letter of our public and volunteer review process."
Several residents spoke in support of the changes. William Fender, recalling his frustration at the 18-month process he went through to get approval for a garage, called the changes modest and a first step "in trying to improve the process for residents."
Resident Steve Lubin said he agreed with Mr. Fender that the experience can be frustrating for applicants, but added that vocal complaints are not getting at the real problems. To understand the real problems will require an examination of the processes, he said.
In explaining her dissent on delegating review responsibilities to the administrator, Councilwoman Kasten called it "a huge step," and said that she prefers an incremental and analytical approach.
The council should examine the planning department, she said, and particularly the building department, which is constrained by the state's uniform building code -- a code that now takes up about 4 feet of shelf space, Councilman Dave Tanner noted.