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Los Altos Hills

Residents consider initiative to give them a voice in the sale of town-owned properties

By Elizabeth Cloutman - June 12, 2002

Town Crier Staff Writer

A group of Los Altos Hills residents concerned about the city council's interest in selling town-owned properties, such as Westwind Barn, say residents should have a voice in such transactions.

"We are considering a ballot initiative to ensure residents be given the opportunity to vote on any sale of town-owned properties and open space lands," said resident Nancy Couperus, a group member. Couperus heads the 4-H Riding for the Handicapped program at Westwind Barn. The 13.5-acre facility is one of the properties that four council members have discussed selling.

The possible sale of the Westwind property has drawn the most opposition. Its supporters say it is the heart of recreational activity in the town. Each summer, the town's parks and recreation committee conducts two horse camps at Westwind and two Ohlone camps at the adjacent Byrne Preserve.

Friends of Westwind Barn operates the facility on a self-supporting basis. Residents and nonresidents board horses in the barn. However, the lease that Friends of Westwind Barn holds on the property is set to expire in 2004.

In a recent townwide letter, Mayor Toni Casey wrote, "For the council to consider gathering all the information that might make moving Westwind Barn and its activities to Byrne Preserve is a responsible action of the city council that should have occurred years ago."

Casey noted that no council member has suggested creating a park similar to Cuesta Park, but the council might consider "enhancing Byrne Preserve so that more Los Altos Hills residents can enjoy it."

Opponents have said that the restrictions placed on Byrne Preserve by the Nature Conservancy at the time it deeded the property to the town would not allow relocating Westwind Barn there.

Couperus told the Town Crier that 70-80 residents living adjacent to Westwind met in a neighborhood home during the Memorial Day week- end to learn more about the history of Byrne Preserve, Westwind Barn and the hiking and wildlife corridor that connect them to Hidden Villa and beyond. Couperus said the residents supported keeping Westwind as a town property. The following week, 60 members of Hills 2000, a residents' association, also met to discuss the issue.

Councilwoman Emily Cheng, liaison to the parks and recreation committee, told the Town Crier that while she believes it is important to assess the worth of town properties, she is opposed to selling Westwind or any other town property "unless our town is in desperate need of money." She called Westwind "an asset to our town ... I would like to keep the place the way it is."


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