Tonight: Woodside ordinance would set basement size and location limits

Also on the agenda: Customer survey on quality of service from Town Hall in handling residential construction projects

The Woodside Town Council tonight (March 22) will again consider an ordinance to regulate the size, location, depth and other features of basements and related underground structures.

The council meets at 7:30 p.m. in Independence Hall at 2955 Woodside Road. A public hearing on the proposed basement ordinance is the among the first items on the agenda.

Also on the agenda: a draft survey to determine the quality of service in Town Hall based on feedback from people who do business there on matters related to residential construction.


Depending on the size of a property, the town of Woodside limits the floor area of residences above ground to maximums of 3,000, 4,000 and 6,000 square feet, but has had no limits on the size of basements.

Woodside has seen a significant uptick in the number of applications to build basements, and with designs that are increasingly sophisticated and massive, including tunnels connecting underground rooms.

A draft basement ordinance has been on agendas for the three previous council meetings. In February, the council went through the draft provisions and sent it back to staff for revisions. A key change decided by a straw vote: up to 65 percent of a basement would be allowed outside the footprint of the building above it.

In the straw vote, council members Tom Livermore and Chris Shaw said they wanted to allow 75 percent outside the footprint; member Anne Kasten said 60 percent; members Dave Tanner and Peter Mason said 50 percent; and Mayor Deborah Gordon, speaking last, said 65 percent.

Mr. Tanner and Mr. Mason were on a three-member council subcommittee that examined issues around basements and made recommendations, one of which was settling on 50 percent of a basement allowed outside of the building footprint.

In an interview after the straw vote, Mr. Tanner said he had not changed his mind about his preference for 50 percent, but that he was not planning to vote against 65 percent.

Other provisions in the draft ordinance include:

■ The maximum excavation depth for a basement would be 20 feet.

■ The size of a basement would be determined by grading allowed on a site. For residential zoning districts, the maximum would be based on the maximum allowable house size multiplied by 12 and divided by 27 (to convert to cubic yards).

■ Parts of a basement not located beneath a structure would require at least three feet of soil above.

■ As a whole, patios and egress/light wells could not exceed 15 percent of basement grading.

■ The 15 percent limit would also apply to tunnels, which would be defined as 8 feet wide and 9 feet high when finished.

Customer survey

Over the past one to two years, council meetings have occasionally been the venue for sharp-toned complaints from a group of residents about the quality of service from the planning and building departments and about their perceptions of subjectivity by the Architectural and Site Review Board.

The draft survey includes 32 questions divided into five sections: general information, feedback on the overall experience of interacting with Town Hall, and specific comments on the planning, permitting and building phases of a project.

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