Woodside council OKs limits on basement size, location


After expressions of disappointment from a few residents in the audience at Independence Hall in Woodside Tuesday night (April 26), the Town Council voted unanimously in favor of ordinance governing the size and location of basements.

The ordinance limits the size of basements using a formula to calculate the total volume of removed soil in cubic yards. The formula multiplies the square-foot floor area of the main residence by 12, and then divides that number by 27 to convert cubic feet to cubic yards.

This formula accommodates various configurations, including basements that are deeper than usual.

Also under the ordinance, no more than 50 percent of a basement can be located outside the footprint of the main house above it.

The council's vote was 6-0 with Councilman Chris Shaw voting by phone and Councilman Dave Tanner absent. Before the ordinance becomes law, the council must vote again on it in another meeting, and if a majority favors it, the ordinance will become law 30 days later.

In the spring of 2015, after the town received a spate of applications to build basements, including some very large ones, the council decided to establish rules for their size and location.

This was the sixth draft of the ordinance and the sixth public hearing on the matter.

Prior to the April 26 meeting, the council received 14 emails in support of the latest draft of the ordinance and four opposed.

Resident and architect Steve Lubin, an ordinance critic, told the council before its April 26 deliberations that his chief concern expressed at the April 12 meeting – the quantity of excavated soil the ordinance allows – had not been addressed by the council.

He said the formula should use a multiplying factor of 8 – rather than 12 – to reflect the standard depth of basements. And the maximum depth allowed – 20 feet – is too deep and should be 14, he said.

The town could allow a multiplier of 12 and a depth of 20 feet, but they should be exceptions and not the rule, he said.

Also speaking in favor of a more restrictive ordinance was former councilman Ron Romines.

Resident Greg Raleigh chided the council for backing away from a previous provision that would have allowed 65 percent of a basement to be located outside the footprint of the main house above it. Instead, the council went with the 50 percent figure recommended by the council subcommittee that drafted the ordinance and preferred by the Planning Commission.

At the request of Councilman Daniel Yost, who had expressed a preference for 65 percent in a February straw poll, Planning Director Jackie Young examined town records and found that five residents over the past 15 years had built basements with 65 percent of the structure located outside the house footprint.

All five basements were located on properties of at least three acres, Ms. Young said.

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