Downtown Woodside can be a tough place to find a parking spot, make your way around town, have a picnic, or put on an art exhibit. These and other concerns have been grist for some recent brainstorming by a task force of 30 residents, half of them volunteers in town government and half citizens at large.
With some 15 months of work ahead in this effort to update the Town Center Area Plan, the Town Council meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 23, in Independence Hall to discuss a schedule and the preliminary steps of hiring of a facilitator.
Task force members have been asking questions that, for the moment anyway, do not have answers: Should there be buildings downtown that combine commercial and residential purposes? Should there be bicycle parking and restrooms for the public? Should parking be eliminated along Mountain Home Road in front of Roberts Market? Should the town consider adjusting the geometry of where Woodside, Mountain Home and Canada roads meet to remove the quirkiness of the intersection? What should be the scope of the update?
The primary concerns for downtown -- the area between Whiskey Hill and Canada roads -- are parking and getting around, or circulating, according to a staff report. Merchants have reported seeing potential customers drive away after a fruitless search for a parking spot. Circulation issues directly affect the interests of motorists, equestrians, cyclists and pedestrians, including children getting to and from school.
A May 28 staff report proposes a schedule for the task force through the fall that includes three facilitated charrettes -- workshops that are collaborative, time-limited and highly structured -- so as to move beyond brainstorming and consider possible plans. Illustrations of the proposed plans would follow in early 2014, with the whole process punctuated along the way by public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Town Council.
"An established schedule would not only result in a product at the end of the process, but can also assist in maintaining momentum and interest," Planning Director Jackie Young says in the report. Some may complain that a schedule moves things along too fast, but "advantages usually far outweigh the disadvantages," Ms. Young says. "The schedule should be presented to the Task Force participants for their review and modification, so that they are actively involved with consenting and committing themselves to a schedule and the process of working toward consensus at the outset."
A parallel consultant-based process involving technical studies may be necessary to address traffic and environmental issues, Ms. Young says.