Wednesday: How to continue Atherton town services while building civic center

Council meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 15

A plan allowing Atherton to continue to run its library, police department and other town services while it builds a new civic center will be examined by the City Council when it meets Wednesday, March 15.

A proposed staging plan put together by the civic center architects, WRNS Studio, moves the town's library and administrative offices into temporary on-site portables, leaves the main police department offices in place, moves public works into a renovated corporation yard shed, and puts police parking into a temporary secured lot during construction.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the town's council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road.

Accessory units

Also on the agenda is discussion of changes to the town's ordinances that govern what the town used to call second dwelling units, but will now call accessory dwelling units in order to use the same terms as a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1.

Changes required by the state law, designed to increase the supply of affordable housing, allow an accessory dwelling unit to be built in an existing garage that may not meet the town's current setback requirements.

The revised law allows accessory dwelling units to be rented, but only for 30 days or more. They can be up to 1,200-square feet, and adding an accessory living unit does not count against the maximum floor area allowed on a lot.

The state law also eases up rules for allowing existing accessory buildings to be converted to accessory dwelling units. Atherton's proposed law says each single family lot can have one accessory dwelling unit.

Under Atherton's proposal, an application to the town must be approved within four months, without requiring public hearings, if the proposed "unit is contained within the existing space of a legal single-family residence or detached accessory building or structure, has independent exterior access from the existing residence, and the side and rear setbacks are sufficient for fire safety. Accessory dwelling units shall not be required to provide fire sprinklers if they are not required for the main residence."

Lower garbage rates

It is rare for a public agency to announce it is reducing the cost of anything, but Atherton has proposed just that for its refuse-collection service. The proposed rates are down 10 percent from current rates, with the monthly cost of the smallest 20-gallon cart going from $27 to $25 and the largest 96-gallon cart from $157 to $128.

The reduced rates are recommended because the town has more than $1 million in excess revenues from previous years' refuse-collection payments in what it calls a "Rate Stabilization Fund." The council voted in February that the town could use the money in the fund to hire a consultant if it wants to try to negotiate its own refuse-collection service deal, or to reduce rates.

Drone regulations

The council is scheduled to consider final adoption of an ordinance to control hobby use of drones in Atherton. The ordinance prohibits non-licensed, or hobby, drones in Holbrook-Palmer Park. Commercial use in the park, such as for photography, will require a town permit.

The ordinance also prohibits using any sort of camera or recording device with a hobby drone. If the drone has recording capability, it must be disabled to use it legally in Atherton, even on private property.

Different rules apply to commercial and government use of drones, which are governed by the Federal Aviation Administration and require a license to operate.

The ordinance is on the council's consent calendar, meaning unless a council member or someone in the public asks to have it removed, it will be voted on with other routine matters without discussion. The ordinance will go into effect April 14 if adopted at the meeting.


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