An update from our Monday meeting:
We kicked off the meeting with special recognition for the retirements of Public Works Director David Isenhour and Public Utilities Director Chuck Flowers and for their many decades of service to the City of Belmont. They both played no small role in making the City what it is today, and their presence will certainly be missed.
We also had a special presentation by the police department to recognize them for their recent CALEA accreditation and to introduce some of the new officers and promotions that have occurred this year. They also presented the results of a survey that they conducted of the entire department to gauge employee satisfaction. The numbers they presented were some of the most positive employee engagement scores I have ever seen, with upwards of 90% of the department indicating that they were satisfied or very satisfied across the board (including on things like training opportunities, advancement, their supervisor, and general job satisfaction). Belmont has a lot to be proud of when it comes to its police department, and I think results like these really just underline that fact.
The most significant business item on the agenda was consideration of an ordinance that would increase side yard set backs for alley lot and street lot single-family homes. The ordinance increases the total space between alley lot homes by four feet (to 10 feet total) and increases the total space between street lot homes by one foot (to 12 feet total).
Councilman Turner proposed increasing the set backs on street lot homes to create a total space of 15 feet (an increase of four feet versus the one foot in the proposed ordinance). He explained that he thought that the proposed one foot expansion was not as substantial as the four feet proposed for alley lot homes and that we should consider a more significant change. I agreed and seconded his motion, and we then had an extended discussion on what we were attempting to accomplish with this change.
For me, I think a change like what Councilman Turner was proposing helps ensure continued diversity in the type of housing that we have on offer in Belmont. The nice thing about Belmont is that it has a little bit of everything – from denser/closer housing in places like Eagle Park to the more spread-out/larger lots found down on the peninsula (and everything in between). My concern stems from the fact that the trend among the development community appears to be more focused on fitting as many houses as they can on a given piece of property – which would mean that people who want to live in a close-in community would have a lot of choices and people who want a little bit more space would have significantly fewer choices. I think it falls on the Council to ensure a balance, and given the current situation, that means ensuring that people who want more space between them and their neighbors continue to have those options available to them.
The motion did fail (by a 2-3 vote), but I think we had a very productive conversation about where each of us would like to go on this. The original proposal (which increases the space by four feet for alley lots and one foot for street lots) did pass unanimously, which to me suggests that the difference on Council boils down to a difference over scale versus direction.
Just as a reminder – we will not be having a workshop this month. But if you have any questions on anything, feel free to let me know.