Almanac

News - December 21, 2011

Woodside: Mounted Patrol, neighbors reach new deal

by Dave Boyce

A last-minute proposal at the Dec. 13 Woodside Town Council meeting almost unraveled a compromise between the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County and neighbors residing near the Patrol grounds, located on a 23-acre site along Kings Mountain Road.

A decade ago, the neighbors objected to a 2001 Planning Commission decision to allow the Patrol to continue events such as rodeos, dances, dinner parties and poetry readings. After appealing that decision to the Town Council, in 2002 the neighbors and the Patrol had worked out a set of criteria that, ever since, have regulated what Patrol members and visitors could and could not do on the grounds.

It's been a decade of peace, but the criteria were informal and a loose end remained: the council never ruled on the appeal. Now it has.

Town Manager Susan George, who is retiring in January, brought this matter back to the council for resolution. The council voted 5-0 on Dec. 13 to deny the appeal following a compromise based on more community discussion. The governing criteria now number 35, up from the original 25.

Councilwoman Deborah Gordon and Councilman Tom Shanahan did not participate in the decision. Mr. Shanahan recused himself because he is a member of the Patrol, and Ms. Gordon did so because she is a Patrol neighbor. She also participated in the community discussions that led to the list of criteria, and she spoke at the Dec. 13 meeting as a private citizen.

A few of the sticking points raised and resolved recently: trimming brush that is both a wildfire danger and an important privacy screen for neighbors; procedures for updating the Patrol's calendar of events; and the number of major events allowed.

A late request did endanger the compromise. Patrol spokesman Rick DeBenedetti asked to relax criteria 29, which forbids overnight trailer camping on Patrol grounds except in connection with the July Fourth rodeo.

Overnight camping would be helpful, Mr. DeBenedetti said, when towing horses to remote locations. Out of town friends could camp on the grounds, well away from neighbors, and avoid having to wake up at 3 a.m. to get themselves and their horses to Woodside for a 5 a.m. start.

No thank you, Ms. Gordon said, speaking as a private citizen. "I'm really concerned that, with this change, we don't have an agreement," she said. "In the past, (camping) turned into tailgating. ... I am sorry, but we are back to not agreeing."

In a break with protocol, Patrol Captain Dee Tolles borrowed a microphone from the Town Clerk and engaged in a dialog with Ms. Gordon. Visitors will go out to dinner, he said, then return to their trailers and go to bed. "I've got to believe that reasonable people can come to reasonable agreement about this."

Ms. Gordon replied that she and at least one other neighbor would see this change as a deal breaker, so Mr. Tolles dropped the idea, but added that he saw it as a possible amendment pending further discussion.

Mr. DeBenedetti, in a telephone interview, wondered if all residents should be living under restrictions on guests in campers.

Councilman Dave Burow noted his concern that one or two neighbors appeared to be confining the scope of council action.

Go to tinyurl.com/Patrol-123 and turn to Page 12 to see the list of criteria. (The 35th criteria, new on Dec. 13, concerns parking horse trailers in a meadow.)

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