Debbie Mendelson bought her home on Sheridan Way in Woodside more than 30 years ago, but she says it wasn't until after she moved in that she discovered she had a large and noisy next-door neighbor in the Menlo Country Club.
Mendelson's house is uphill from the country club's swimming pool, and her own swimming pool is level with club's pool, which is about 70 feet away from the property line.
"I didn't know their pool was there until I was sitting by my pool right after I moved in and heard a gun go off," she said. "It was the starter pistol for a race at a swim meet."
That was just the beginning, Mendelson said.
In the intervening years, she and her husband, Kevin Greenwood, say they have been overwhelmed by a barrage of noise from the swim meets and from amplified music generated by wedding parties and other social events held in the pool area.
They say they have dealt with the situation by keeping their windows closed during the summer when the noise is highest and by refraining from entertaining by their pool when an event is in progress.
Disclosure of the noise conditions wasn't required at the time she bought the house, Mendelson said.
"If we have the windows open in the house, we can't hear our TV," she said.
Things came to a head earlier this year when the country club announced it was planning to tear down its main clubhouse, built in 1917, because of seismic concerns and replace it with a new structure, according to the staff report on the project.
At the same time, the club revealed plans to remove the one-story pool house and replace it with a two-story pool house and fitness center that would make the pool area even more attractive for noise-generating events.
The Woodside Planning Commission approved the remodeling with the stipulation that a maximum of 20 events and five swim meets be allowed in the pool and fitness center area per year.
Frustrated, Mendelson and Greenwood joined neighbor Dave Burow in filing appeals to the Town Council, arguing that upper limits on noise should be imposed along with the limits on the number of noise-generating events at the pool.
Mendelson, Greenwood and Burow, were backed by about 30 neighbors in their Woodside Hills neighborhood, who filed a petition and sent letters to the planning department, said Woodside Planning Director Jackie Young.
The neighbors asked the council to impose the same noise regulations that had been previously applied to the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County at its rodeo grounds on Kings Mountain Road, Mendelson said.
That rodeo grounds agreement limited the Mounted Patrol to 19 events a year, with five of the events limited to two hours in length with a maximum noise level of 55 dB averaged over an hour at the property line at all the events.
However, at the Aug. 6 Town Council hearing on the appeals that went on for four hours, the council essentially ratified the Planning Commission's decision, allowing the club to hold 25 events per year at the pool, including five swim meets.
It also set noise limits for the first time, but it agreed to noise levels much higher than those that were imposed on the Mounted Patrol grounds, with a maximum of 65 dB averaged over an hour at the property line with an 85 dB peak.
A 10 dB increase is equivalent to twice the noise.
Menlo Country Club is required to monitor the sound at the 25 events at the pool and fitness facility for first 12 months that the new facility will be operating.
Mendelson and Greenwood were horrified at the outcome.
"I am in disbelief," Mendelson said. "They got everything they needed and wanted to do."
Woodside, unlike neighboring Atherton, Menlo Park and Portola Valley, doesn't have a townwide noise ordinance, but would establishing one make it easier to settle such disputes?
It wouldn't necessarily make a difference if the conflict is between homeowners and a commercial use, according to Young.
The town "is looking at each conditional use permit based on what the operational characteristics of the commercial business are," Young said. "It isn't that every use permit has the same conditions."
The noise rules about the Mounted Patrol grounds were based on the conditional use permit for a rodeo grounds and horse stables, whereas the Menlo Country Club is and has been hosting parties and swim meets at its pool, Young said.
The council also took into consideration opinion within the Woodside Hills community, which wasn't unanimous about noise rules being applied to the club in the first place, Young said.
"Two-thirds of the letters we received asked for noise conditions and a third supported the club's position," Young said. "The council did apply noise conditions that didn't previously exist."
Mendelson and Greenwood say they are resigned to the council's decision, but going forward they say they're concerned that the council failed to grant them a recourse if Menlo Country Club violates the new rules.
"There's no teeth in this," Greenwood said. "Nothing says to them that 'if you violate this, X will happen.'"