The plan would take a long-term perspective of 15 to 25 years into the future and would be a road map for future development.
The Town Council, in a May 8 study session, emphasized the need for preserving the coveted "rural character" of the community in the face of new challenges, such as pressures from urbanization and population growth and the threat of wildfires exacerbated by global warming.
The current general plan was amended twice before as the town evolved, in 1977 and 1998, and both updates emphasized the importance of preserving open space and maintaining an atmosphere of tranquility with a family-oriented residential character, according to a staff report.
The original plan was more "poetic than bureaucratic," said Councilman Craig Hughes, who suggested that the new plan follow in that vein.
"We should try to maintain the current feel," Hughes said.
Town Manager Jeremy Dennis said the council should set clear goals for the document that the Planning Commission and other participants in the development process could follow.
The development could take as long as two years and cost as much as several hundred thousand dollars, according to Planning Director Laura Russell.
Dennis characterized those figures as a "worst-case scenario," although he pointed out that it took Palo Alto eight years to develop its new general plan.
"It's a huge undertaking," Mayor Ann Wengert said.
The council has earmarked $25,000 for research and information about an update, with Hughes and Councilman John Richards forming a subcommittee to investigate. It also authorized Russell to prepare a request for proposals on the research project.
"We're gathering information for the council to make a decision," Dennis said. "The council wants to review the RFP before it goes out."
In other action, the council appointed five residents who have volunteered to be on an Ad Hoc Wildfire Preparedness Committee. The committee and a council member will work to formulate a plan over the late spring and summer with the goal of finishing by the end of the year.
Wildfire preparedness includes developing evacuation routes, educating residents on what to do in a wildfire emergency, focusing on vegetation management practices around homes, developing sources of funding for programs and seeking out effective ways to coordinate with other agencies.
The council also adopted a Safe Storage of Firearms ordinance that requires using trigger locks or lock boxes when storing firearms in the home.
The measure cuts the risk that a gun will be used to commit suicide or homicide, or inflict injury, according to the staff report.
The ordinance contains an exception for firearms carried by a person inside the house. A violation could result in criminal prosecution and/or civil penalties.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has requested that all 20 cities in the county adopt identical ordinances to create a uniform rule throughout the county.
There have been 301 gun-related deaths in the county over the past 10 years, according to the report.
Fourteen other California cities have adopted similar safe-storage ordinances, including Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco.