The Woodside Planning Commission gave a nudge to town traditions on Sept. 4 by not recommending a request for a conditional use permit for a plan to spend $200,000 in town and donated money to replace a washed-out equestrian bridge.
The commission's vote was 3-3, according to Planning Director Jackie Young. Commissioners Sani Elfishawy, Aydan Kutay and William Fender voted against approving the use permit, while Marilyn Voelke, Kurt Calia and Craig London voted in favor of it. Jim Bildner was absent.
The reason behind the three no votes on the plan: The bridge, over Bear Creek Gulch, only benefited horseback riders and not the community as a whole, Young said.
The vote passes the decision on the conditional use permit to the Woodside Town Council, which approved the town's portion of the bridge funding at its May 27 meeting. The council is tentatively scheduled to take up the matter at its Oct. 8 meeting, according to Town Manager Kevin Bryant.
Seven horse riders' associations and several residents pledged a total of $115,000 toward the project to bolster $50,000 from the town's trails fiduciary fund and $35,000 from the general fund.
Justification for replacing the bridge on the town's Center Trail is embodied in Woodside's general plan, which includes 10 guiding principles behind town governance, Young said.
The first principle states that the community "is dedicated to preserving, enhancing and restoring the Town's character as a rural, scenic and historic community."
The second states that Woodside "recognizes and supports the equestrian heritage, lifestyle and facilities as a unique and defining attribute."
On the other hand, Young said, "There are certain findings that you have to make to approve a use permit, including that the proposed use is necessary ... for the general well-being of the community."
"The dissenting opinion was that the use of the trail for equestrians only is discriminatory, (but) we have a park with a soccer field, even though (most of our residents) don't play soccer," she said.
Use of the Center Trail, a vital link in the complex of horse trails in Woodside, has declined significantly since the washout in 2017, according to the staff report on the project.