By Barbara Wood | Special to the Almanac
It took four years, but the Menlo-Atherton Little League has finally won permission to build new facilities on the baseball field in the town-owned Holbrook-Palmer Park.
At its Jan. 15 meeting, a divided Atherton City Council voted on the guidelines for the new field, which include covered seating for 200 people, covered dugouts, a permanent scoreboard and improvements to the field.
"We do make it hard to actually donate something to the city," said Bob Hellman, an Atherton resident representing the Menlo-Atherton Little League at the meeting.
The approval was over the objection of members of the town's Planning Commission. Philip Lively, vice chair of the commission, said after three public meetings the commission had decided that the Little League plans needed down-sizing. "Improvement is needed but the Little League plans are too monumental," he said.
City Council members Jim Dobbie and Bill Widmer agreed with Mr. Lively, and voted against the Little League proposal. Council members Elizabeth Lewis, Cary Wiest and Rick DeGolia voted to approve the plan, asking that the building be "consistent with the old-fashioned character of the park."
The town will now draw up an agreement with Little League, which will then go through the usual town approval process before beginning construction. The agreement will be for 10 years with two five-year extensions possible.
Among the features that were approved are:
● A covered seating structure.
● Backstop and dugouts.
● Permanent perimeter fencing extending along both base lines from the backstop to just beyond the bullpen areas.
● Removable perimeter fencing from the bullpen areas to foul poles.
● Permanent flag pole/foul pole in right field and removable foul pole in left field.
● Permanent electronic scoreboard.
● Grading, drainage and irrigation improvements to existing field area.
● Modification to existing path and walkways.
The Little League will pay for these facilities and agrees to donate $27,500 to a fund for repairing the park tennis courts, plus 5 percent of the final construction costs up to a maximum of $50,000 that will go toward "park beautification improvements."
In 2012, voters overwhelmingly approved the Little League project. But after the vote, debate arose over just what the voters had said yes to. Atherton City Attorney Bill Conners said that judges have found that details in the voter's guide arguments for and against the measure as well as the so-called impartial analysis of the measure are included in what voters approve when voting, not just the wording on the ballot. It was in the arguments against the project that the number of 200 seats had been raised.
"This is what the court cases say you have to look at all the information," Mr. Conners told the council.
The council on Jan. 15 also made two other decisions affecting the park:
● Hiring a catering company, Catering by Dana, to return large events such as weddings to the park.
● Reducing the fee that residents pay to use the tennis courts to $50 a year. It had been $150. The fee for non-residents remains at $200 a year.