Yesterday, the City Council met for their Study Session for March
. The first part of the meeting was a Joint Meeting with the Park & Recreation Committee to discuss the planned Capital Improvement Projects in Holbrook-Palmer Park. A portion of these planned improvements are within the FY 2016/17 Capital Improvement Budget.
The Council and Committee walked the Park to view various improvements that have been made over the last year. Recent capital improvements in the Park include renovations to the turf, completion of the Event Garden, renovations and widening of the west path from the pedestrian bridge to the rear gate, and the installation of new Par Course equipment.
After the quick walk-about, the group returned to the Pavilion to discuss the plans prepared by Verde Design. The group discussed the various elements of the plans including pedestrian access ways, turf, parking spaces, and entry elements. The group also discussed the conversion of existing asphalt pathways in the Park (non-bicycle pathways) to decomposed granite pathways. It was the consensus of the group that staff should include the cost of converting these pathways areas into the Town’s Park Maintenance Budget each year section by section instead of the Town’s overall Capital Improvement Project budget. Verde Design will incorporate the feedback from the meeting as much as possible in the plans and return for final review by the Park & Recreation Committee for a recommendation to the Council. It is anticipated that a portion of the improvements will be underway at the beginning of FY 2017/18 as part of the 5-Year Capital Improvement Project Budget.
After discussion of the Pedestrian and Vehicle Circulation Project Plans and approving a quick consent agenda item, the Council moved on to the regular Study Session Agenda. The first up was a discussion of work within the town’s rights-of-way. It was noted by the City Attorney, that the Town’s current Municipal Code Section 8.20.050 for Public Nuisances, defines the following as a Public Nuisance: “....overgrown, dead, decayed, diseased or hazardous trees or other vegetation
...weeds and other vegetation likely to harbor rats, vermin or nuisances, that constitute a fire hazard, or vegetation that creates a vehicular, bicycle or pedestrian hazard or otherwise interferes with public circulation or which impedes drainage within the public right-of-way or watercourse
...” It was further noted that that same ordinance provides that abatement of such nuisance by the Town (with notice or without due to emergent circumstances) can be done by Town personnel or contractors. The Code is also explicit in that the costs of abatement are the responsibility of the property owner - not the Town.
Staff advised that past practice had been that the Town clears the right-of-way as needed without assessing the cost of abatement to the property owner; but, given the City Attorney’s advise on the Town’s ordinance, doing so may constitute a gift of public funds unless the Council finds that such work is a public, municipal purpose. Normal issues of negligence apply and damage caused by any tree felling would be the responsibility of the property owner. The issue discussed is the cost of clearing the path of travel in the Town’s right-of-way.
The Council discussed the various elements and past practice and took public comment. The Council asked what was done by neighboring agencies in these circumstances. After discussion, the Council asked that staff do additional research on the topic, in particular, what changes can be made to the Town’s municipal code to address this issue, if desired; and, how is the issue handled by adjacent jurisdictions.
Next up was the last item on the Agenda - short-term rentals. Staff presented a brief staff report noting that the Council had asked for an update on how short term rentals were addressed in Atherton and what the experience has been on the issue. Staff advised as to issues related to recent code enforcement activity as well as potential options for Council consideration if there was a desire to change current law. Staff noted that current law does not allow for rental periods less than 30 days (short-term). The Council discussed the various issues related to noise, traffic, and other issues in residential neighborhoods. Following discussion and public comment, the Council asked that staff do some additional research on impacts of short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods and opportunities to change the Town’s municipal code to address the ability of property owners to engage in short-term rentals.
Typically, at a City Council Study Session, no decisions are made or actions taken (with limited exceptions). All three of the major items on yesterday’s Study Session will ultimately return to the City Council for review in greater details. If you are interested in any particular item, let us know and we can send you an email when it returns to the Agenda.
Thanks for reading!
Town of Atherton