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Archives for January 21, 2016

4 Under-the-Radar Wedding Destinations in the Southwest

When you hear the term “destination wedding,” you might picture a barefoot couple standing on a white-sand beach in the Caribbean. However, the Southwest, with its brilliant sunsets, striking backdrops and luxurious venues offers surprising, one-of-a-kind settings. Globetrotting couples seeking unique reception and ceremony venues shouldn’t discount these top knot-tying spots.

Las Vegas

Sin City is known for its quirky wedding chapels. Some of them, like A Little White Wedding Chapel, even offer couples the chance to get married via drive-through window. However, those seeking more traditional venues and grand reception sites will find a variety of options in and around Las Vegas. The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort Spa, which is just a 30-minute drive east of the Strip in nearby Henderson, features an outdoor venue overlooking a rare sight: a lake in the desert. The hotel’s stunning Lotus Court features fountains, fire pits and a beautiful landscape that is unique among Las Vegas wedding locations.

Whether you want to tie the knot at a fun and quirky chapel or at a high-end resort, finding the ideal setting for wedding photos shouldn’t be a problem in Las Vegas. Perhaps one of the most popular spots for photos is the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign, located at the southern end of the Strip. Be prepared for a busy parking lot and a long line of people waiting for their turn to take photos. However, this classic photo opportunity is worth the wait.

Palm Springs

The desert cities within the Coachella Valley, including Palm Springs and Palm Desert, offer a touch of classic Hollywood glamour. Green golf courses and colorful, flower-filled landscaping are juxtaposed with picturesque mountains and mid-century modern architecture, making Palm Springs an ideal option for couples seeking outdoor wedding venues. The Renaissance Indian Wells Resort Spa offers several wedding and reception venues, including the Rose Lawn, which features mountain views, palm trees and a carefully manicured garden. Inside, the hotel’s lobby makes the perfect setting for wedding photos, especially for large families and wedding parties, thanks to the grand staircase. Plus, the hotel’s duel, curved staircases give photographers ample space to accommodate large groups of people in its impressive venue.


Combining dramatic desert backdrops with metropolitan convenience, Phoenix and the neighboring cities of Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe, make ideal destination wedding locations. Scottsdale, in particular, is home to a number of upscale resorts that are popular among couples of all kinds. The Boulders Resort Spa offers several outdoor venues that capture the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. For instance, the property’s Promise Rock location features a green lawn set among rock formations and desert plants. For large wedding parties, brides and grooms can opt for the Presidential Lawn, which features golf course views and can accommodate up to 250 guests. The resort is also home to a 33,000-square-foot spa – the perfect place for couples to relax before the wedding festivities begin.

Grand Canyon

For adventurous, outdoorsy couples, no wedding venue can compare to the Grand Canyon‘s breathtaking backdrop. Small weddings can be held at several scenic overlooks throughout the park, although a permit from the National Park Service is required. Along the South Rim of the canyon, couples can tie the knot at Moran Point, which features a dramatic view and tends to be less busy than other parts of the park. Meanwhile, Lipan Point provides views of the Colorado River. Along the North Rim, couples can hold their wedding ceremonies at the Cape Royal Amphitheater or Point Imperial, the highest overlook on the north side of the Grand Canyon. However, couples will need to choose their guests wisely – Point Imperial can only accommodate up to 10 wedding guests.

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A native plant lover’s don’t-miss conference

Carol OMeara CSU Cooperative Extension

If you go

What: “Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants,” presented by Wild Ones — Front Range Chapter, Butterfly Pavilion, Colorado Native Plant Society, Colorado State University Extension, Denver Botanic Gardens, and the High Plains Environmental Center

When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. March 12

Where: The Ranch Events Center / Larimer County Fairgrounds, Thomas M. McKee 4-H, Youth Community Building, 5280 Arena Circle, Loveland

Cost: $90; $45 for student with valid student ID. Contact the organizers for information on trading volunteer help in setting up for a reduced ticket price

Info:Get more details or register at

Workshop and seminar planners have been busy this winter, planning an array of classes to expand gardeners’ minds and feed their souls. If you’re looking to change up your landscape by going back to natives, check out “Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants” on March 12 at the Ranch Events Center in Loveland.

The first conference of its kind in Colorado, this workshop features design, construction and inspiration for using natives in your garden.

Headlining the event is Susan Tweit, author and plant biologist, speaking on how a grassroots change evolved in her small town via landscaping in her talk, “The Ditch and the Meadow: How Native Plants and Gardeners Revived a Neighborhood and Changed the Culture of a Town” (

Participants can choose to attend three smaller breakout sessions, focusing education on what helps plan for success with native plants. Karla Dakin, of K. Dakin Designs in Louisville (, will speak on “Designing with Natives,” Alison Peck of Matrix Gardens in Boulder ( will talk about “Construction of Native Landscapes,” and Jim Tolstrup of High Plains Environmental Center in Loveland ( will explore “Creating and Maximizing Micro-Climates in Your Native Garden.”

“Edible and Medicinal Native Plants,” with Karen Vail and Mary O’Brien of Steamboat Springs and Hayden, respectively, offers information on personal use of your garden, while Susan Crick Smith of Front Range Wild Ones in Denver offers tips on how to help support pollinators, wildlife and our environment with her talk on “Habitat Gardens.”

Don’t miss Colorado State University Extension’s Irene Shonle for an overview of what you can do in her talk, “Native Plants for Every Situation.” Shonle, director of the Gilpin County CSU Extension office, is a passionate advocate of native plants for mountain gardeners (

Adding to inspiration are virtual tours of five native plant gardens every participant is encouraged to view. Take a virtual stroll through Carol English and Dave Elin’s rock garden in Morrison, Mimi and Larry Elmore’s Wild By Design garden in Lyons, Jan and Charlie Turner’s residential garden in Golden, Rick Brune’s prairie garden in Lakewood and Kenton Seth’s Paintbrush Gardens, a rain-powered landscape, in Grand Junction.

Lunch, drinks and snacks are provided with your registration fee, and vendor booths will be open during registration, lunch and breaks.

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Garden & Nature events: Jan. 25 and beyond


Gardening Tool Talk and Timely Advice: Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m., Charlotte Garden Club at the Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road. Pat Linton, owner of Living Color, who maintains gardens for the Mint Museum and others, discusses garden tools and plenty of insider advice. Free.

Overcoming the Challenges of a Native Plant Garden: Jan. 26, 10 a.m., Wing Haven Gardens, 248 Ridgewood Ave. Ed Davis, Supervisor of Horticulture at the Mellichamp Native Terrace at UNC Botanical Gardens, will discuss creating a functional, attractive, low-maintenance, cottage style garden of native wildflowers. Cost: $25/non-members $35,, 704-331-0664, ext. 101

Xeriscaping-Planting for Limited Water Situations: Jan. 27, 10-11 a.m., Charlotte Council of Garden Clubs, 1820 E. Seventh St. Laurel Holtzapple, principal of Greenworks Studio, landscape and urban designers, will discuss gardening in drought and low water situations. RSVP: 704-375-4373

Four-Season Garden Maintenance: Jan. 28, 10 a.m., Wing Haven Gardens, 248 Ridgewood Ave. Pat Linton of Living Color will teach an annual timetable, pruning techniques, best tools and how to use color in the garden. Cost: Members $25/Non-members $35,, 704-331-0664, ext. 101

Orchids 101: Jan. 30; 1-3 p.m., Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, 6500 New Hope Road., Belmont. Learn about orchid’s growth requirements, habitat and how to grow at home. Cost: $25, members receive a 15 percent discount. Register at, 704-825-4490

Landscaping Basics Class: Saturday, Jan. 30 at 9 a.m., Pike Nursery, 12630 N. Community House Rd. Learn basic landscaping techniques, from designing colorful annual beds to planting and caring for trees and shrubs. Free., 704-341-7453

Bringing Nature Home: Feb. 2, 7 p.m., H.A.W.K. at Levine Senior Center, 1050 DeVore Lane, Matthews. Habitat and Wildlife Keepers presents Dr. Douglas Tallamy, who will discuss the importance of including native plants in our gardens to replace wildlife habitat lost to development. Advance ticket sales now, this will sell out. Cost $6, HAWK members get priority.,, 704-814-0877


School’s Out Nature Days-Grades K-5th: Jan. 25, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., McDowell Nature Center, 15222 York Road. Each program features unique themes plus hikes, games, live animals, crafts, and much more. Cost: $15. K-5. Additional paperwork to be completed on the first day. Children will need to bring a lunch and snacks. Dress for the weather. Register online at, Nature Preserves Link, Program #36341 or 704-588-5224

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Experts offer gardening tips at Lowe’s – The News

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Pick up tips for the home, garden

  • Molly Fowler Photo: Anthony Rathbun / Sugar Land Home  Garden, Nikon Digital Camera User /  Anthony Rathbun -



Learn about this year’s biggest home trends at the sixth annual Sugar Land Home Garden Show at the Stafford Centre from Jan. 30-31.

The show’s dual cooking stages will get a workout from a slate of professional chefs, including Amador Soto, Molly Fowler and Namita Asthana.

Joining the lineup of home improvement and design vendors is Texas Trash and Treasures, which HGTV viewers may recognize from the “Junk Gypsies” series. Tuff Shed returns to the show and will build and display one of its Pro Series Ranch Storage buildings on the premises. Color expert Kate Smith returns to the show to offer private color consultations by appointment as well as to walk-up attendees.

Show hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Jan. 30 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Jan. 31. Tickets are cash only and are $9 for adults and $8 for seniors. Children 12 years and younger attend for free. Parking is available at no cost.

For show and ticket information, call 832-274-3944 or visit, where a downloadable discount coupon for $2 off admission is available. The center is located at 10505 Cash Road in Stafford.


Book sale at library

The Friends of Sienna Branch Library will sponsor its winter book sale from Jan. 21-23 at the Sienna Branch Library. Thousands of gently used books, CDs, and DVDs will be for sale. Hours are 6-8 p.m. Jan. 21, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 22, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 23.

The library is located at 8411 Sienna Springs Blvd. in Missouri City.


Learn about guardianship

Brazos Bend Guardianship Services is hosting a guardianship and alternatives to guardianship information session on Jan. 21 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Meeting Room 2 at University Branch Library.

The session is designed for families who need information on obtaining legal guardianship of an incapacitated loved one. Alternatives to guardianship will also be discussed. An attorney will be present to answer any legal questions. RSVP to Kirk Monroe at 281-232-7701 or by email at For more information, visit

The library is located at 14010 University Blvd. in Sugar Land.


Science offers fun for families

Have you seen a 3-D printer or the inside of a computer? If not, come and experience fun and amazing science at the fourth annual “The World of Science” from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 22 at Sartartia Middle School.

This free family event is sponsored by SMS Science and Robotics Club in conjunction with Kalpana Vaidya’s Gold Award Project, and its goal is to introduce families to science and how much fun it can be.

The event will feature hands-on activities focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Activities are designed to engage children (ages K – 5th grade) and their families in science exploration. Concessions will be sold. All proceeds from this event will be used to support the activities of the SMS Science and Robotics Club.

For more information, email Kalpana Vaidya at or visit The school is located at 8125 Homeward Way in Sugar Land.


Library hosts family game day

Bring the family out to the Sugar Land Branch Library on Jan. 23 for a fun afternoon playing games together. Beginning at 1:30 p.m., the library’s Meeting Room will be set up with a variety of board games, Wii video games, cards, Legos and puzzles. Families are welcome to bring their own favorite games as well.

The afternoon’s activities are free and open to the public. For more information, call 281-238-2140. The library is at 550 Eldridge in Sugar Land.


Get photography tips from pros

A panel of award-winning photographers from the Fort Bend Photography Club will share their expertise and experience at a special program, “Getting the Shot: Photography,” at the University Branch Library on Jan. 23 from 2-4 p.m. in the Large Meeting Room of the library, located at 14010 University Blvd. in Sugar Land.

The panelists include nature photographer Dixie Spurling, wildlife and portrait photographer Don Shackleford, and retired photojournalist Russell Autrey. Spurling will talk about being prepared to take a photograph on short notice. Shackleford will discuss photo-shoot preparation, and Autrey will share his experiences with news and feature photography.

Photographers of all experience levels will gain insight into what it takes to capture a great photo. Get tips on composition and editing, learn about editing software, and get advice on how to make the best use of digital photography equipment.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call 281-633-5100.


Libraries host club for families

The popularity of Fort Bend County Libraries’ Summer Reading Clubs for children, teens, and adults inspired the library system to add a similar program for families during the winter season. The Family Reading Club begins Jan. 24 and will continue for six weeks through March 5, at all branches in the Fort Bend County library system.

This six-week program is designed to encourage families to read, learn, and have fun together. Families participate in the program by reading books and completing optional “challenges” that can be done at home. All Fort Bend County families are eligible to participate.

Families that complete the program by reading 36 books or for 6 hours – 6 books per week or for 60 minutes per week – are eligible to receive a book bag for the family, and will have their name entered into a drawing for a $50 dining gift card.

A single registration is required for each participating family. An adult (parent or guardian) is asked to register the family online by going to the library’s website ( and clicking on the “Family Reading Club Sign-Up” image, which will become available Jan. 24. Families may also register at any of the libraries in the Fort Bend County library system. Upon registering, families will then have their own online page on which to record their books or reading time.

There is no charge to join the Family Reading Club. For more information, call 281-633-4734.


Garden club marks 25 years

Brightwater Garden Club recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a reception attended by five past presidents. The club, established in 1990 by local resident Janet Love, continues to grow and play an important role in educating backyard gardeners in the Missouri City area.

The Brightwater Garden Club will meet Jan. 25 at 6:45 p.m. at 2410 Brightwater Drive in Missouri City. Master Gardener Paula Goodwin will present a program entitled “Garden Redesign: How To Create a Backyard Oasis.” All are welcome. Visit or call 281-403-9269.


Good feng shui at your house?

Feng shui, a tradition that dates back more than 3,000 years in China, uses the everyday interior- and exterior-design elements of lighting, mirrors, colors, shapes, furniture arrangement, and landscaping to design a home or work environment that is in harmony with nature.

Chao-Chiung (C.C.) Lee, a registered architect and feng shui master, will present some of the basic, time-honored techniques of this ancient philosophy at a special program, “The Way of Harmony: Feng Shui Western Design,” on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room 2 at the University Branch Library.

Anyone interested in creating more environmentally balanced spaces is encouraged to attend this informative program. The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call 281-633-5100. The library is located at 14010 University Blvd. in Sugar Land.


Clay shooting tournament set

Rotary Richmond TX will host the Rotary Sporting Clays Classic II on Jan. 30 at American Shooting Center in Houston. The Richmond Rotarians welcome shooters from all over Fort Bend County and the Houston area at this tournament to benefit Fort Bend area charities.

Individual entries are $125 with mulligans available. Each shooter shoots 50 targets at 10 stations. Prizes will be awarded to top shooters, teams and individuals.

The center is located at 16500 Westheimer Parkway in Houston. To learn more, call 281-968-9476.


Officer to give self-defense tips

Veteran law-enforcement officer Lt. Wayne Hastedt from the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office will demonstrate basic self-defense techniques on Jan. 30 from 2-4 p.m. in the Meeting Room of the Missouri City Branch Library.

Hastedt will demonstrate real-world, practical techniques that anyone can use to protect themselves. Learn how to develop a sense of awareness in different circumstances and how to avoid trouble.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call 281-238-2100. The library is located at 1530 Texas Parkway in Missouri City.


Fit Marathon registration open

There is still time to register for the Memorial Hermann USA Fit Marathon. The event is for all athletes, no matter their run pace. Medical staff from Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital will provide medical support to participants.

The race is scheduled for Jan. 31 and will start and finish at the University of Houston-Sugar Land campus. There is a 4:30 a.m. for full marathon participants taking six or more hours to complete the race, as well as a 6:30 a.m. start. A half marathon and family-friendly 5K are also available.

For more information and to register, visit The campus is located at 14000 University Blvd. in Sugar Land.


Learn about Barbados

The city of Missouri City will host “Cultural Exchange: Barbados” at 2 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Recreation and Tennis Center.

This free, informative presentation about the country of Barbados will teach guests the cultural customs of the Caribbean nation. The seminar will end with a sampling of snacks and a QA session. Residents may RSVP at the Recreation and Tennis Center or by calling 281-403-8637. Residents who are interested in sharing about their own culture can contact Recreation Specialist Krista Alford at

The center is located at 2701 Cypress Point Drive in Missouri City.


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Garden tips: 2 ways to watch out for birds this weekend

Your chances of spotting a female cardinal in your yard will be improved if you have plenty of clean, fresh seed and melted water on hand.

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How to use visual tricks to design a more satisfying garden

SCRIM PLANTS, like tall, slim grass spikes or willowy sunflowers, create mystery by partially obscuring parts of the garden. They can be as effective at drawing you along the garden path as a walkway that curves just enough to hide its final destination.

Such tricks, along with placing unplanted, oversized pots as focal points and planting in masses (even if that means in groups of three, five or seven plants in smaller gardens), are visual illusions used by good designers to create rich and satisfying garden experiences.

Garden design has been called the slowest of the performing arts. And it does require patience. Creating gardens is about so much more than how plants grow (or don’t) over time. How about functional concerns, like drainage and where to stash the compost bins?

I’ve been lucky enough to hang out in a wide variety of gardens over all these years of writing about them. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing designers, and hearing from gardeners what they love best about the spaces they tend.

Here’s a smattering of what I’ve learned, from smart planning to design tips, while spending time in other people’s gardens:

• Try not to focus on nursery pot or seed packet in hand, but rather look ahead to what you want the garden to look like five years from now. Most of us plant for near-instant effect, which means that in a few years you’ve got a jungle. Remember how fast plants grow in our nurturing climate, and don’t be taken in by an innocent-looking little conifer in a gallon pot, unless you covet a garden that’ll soon enough be shrouded in deep shade.

• Designers look beyond what’s right in front of them to consider what is overhead and underfoot. This means putting a lid on parts of the garden; pergolas, arbors and tree canopies create human scale as well as patterns of sun and shade. With shelter above and variety in paving or ground covers underfoot, you’re well on your way to a garden that’s a delight not only to look at but also to walk through at all times of the year.

• Not everything needs to be planted. Beds filled with black stones or river rock are effective, especially when used under the eaves, or in flowing rivers to direct drainage or provide visual relief from intensely planted areas.

• Like scent and sound, color creates an atmosphere or mood, and defines your experience of place and time. Some colors are soothing, others invigorating, while still others stir strong memories or emotions. Color is immensely personal and very fun to play around with. Good designers look beyond flowers and foliage to use color in infrastructure, containers and art so as to continue the color play through the seasons.

• Which brings us to colorful and textural foliage, the foundation of an easier-care, year-round garden. Contrast big-leafed, floppy plants near finely textured conifers, spiky plants next to ones with rounded leaves. Gray and golden foliage plants play off each other; even more dramatic are purple or black leaves mixed with chartreuse foliage.

While designer tips and tricks add to the pleasures of gardening, the only way to have a truly satisfying garden, one well worth all the work, is to express your own taste and vision. The rest is nothing but details.

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Cool Spaces: Architect builds modern dream home in Cleveland Heights (photos)

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — People assume that, just as young women keep a wish list of ideas for their future wedding, architects keep a file for the day they’ll build their own dream house. That wasn’t the case with Cleveland architect John Williams.

He did not have any pre-existing ideas, other than knowing his dream house had to incorporate modern architecture. Williams let the site determine the home’s design.

After he purchased a half-acre empty lot in the historic Ambler Heights district of Cleveland Heights, he’d often bring a lawn chair and just sit there, getting a feel for the neighborhood and communing with the trees. It was time well spent. It inspired ideas for how Williams, a self-avowed “die-hard modernist” with Process Creative Studios, could design a new house in step with its old-school neighborhood.

“Everything around you informs what the house will be,” he said.

Williams’ home doesn’t put on a Victorian lady’s airs, but neither does it jar the eyes of passersby. Cedar wood siding and a boxy shape – really two flat-roofed rectangles –melt into the tree-strewn landscaping.

“I didn’t want (the house) to be in your face,” he explained. Pointing to two enormous oaks, he said, “The whole house was designed around them.”

Yet, there is a modernist twist. When you stand outside the house, you notice two blue metallic squares that outline window seats, adding visual interest. On the home’s interior, the squares are deep window seats configured for use by humans and Williams’ pets.

Neighbors were relieved to not find a McMansion in their midst. “I really, really wanted to be a good neighbor,” said Williams, 56, who has lived elsewhere in Cleveland Heights for 30 years.

Empty lots are rare in this inner-ring suburb. While visiting friends, Williams saw a for-sale sign on the last parcel of a former estate. He bought the half-acre parcel in 2010 but was too busy with client projects – such as designing the downtown Heinen’s supermarket in the Ameritrust Rotunda – to design his own house.

His house project finally broke ground in June 2014, and was ready for occupancy about a year later. The 2,500-square-foot house has three bedrooms and 2½ baths, as well as an open floor plan uniting the kitchen, dining room and living room.

Friends have dubbed it the “AAA House” because of the way it so perfectly reflects Williams’ passions.

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The first A is for art. Williams, a past president of Spaces gallery and avid photography collector, has hung his walls with prints by Diane Arbus, William Wegman and other notable photographers. A 500-volume library has custom shelves for limited editions and signed first editions of photography books.

The second A is for automobiles. The spacious garage includes a workspace where Williams tinkers on a 1969 Porsche 911 he’s converting into a race car.

The last A is for animals, specifically his Weimaraner dog Senna and cats Franchesca and Neco. Williams’ dream home includes cushioned window seats for both humans and animals to enjoy and a doggie mud room that opens into a fenced dog run. A glass cube projects outside from a living room wall, creating a tiny observation deck for Franchesca and Neco. They sit in the box watching chipmunks that, tauntingly, nest right below it.

Walls are painted Sherwin-Williams Pure White. “It helps show off the art,” he said. Selecting all white walls and maple floors also kept the construction timetable ticking along.

Windows nearly 9 feet high open up the dining area and living room to floods of light and views of the outdoors. Sometimes Williams spreads out his sketch paper and books on the dining table to take advantage of the open feeling and natural light. The home’s clean, simple aesthetic makes window treatments superfluous.

The living room is furnished with pieces from various decades. A 1955 vintage Eames rocking chair pairs nicely with tables from the 1920s and a contemporary sofa.

Friends love his house so much, they ask when he’ll be ready to move because they want to buy this one. They better be prepared for a long wait.

“This is the house I wanted. This is the house I could afford,” he said. “I feel very lucky to have found this property.”

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Langley council picks Emerson to join its ranks

Dominique Emerson became Langley’s newest city councilwoman on Tuesday.

Emerson, a longtime city resident and business owner, was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Robin Black earlier this month in a 3-1 vote during the council’s regular meeting. She was nominated by Councilwoman Rene Neff, got a second from Councilman Bruce Allen and final support from Councilwoman Ursula Shoudy, who was elected to her first term in November.

Councilman Thomas Gill was the only one who didn’t vote for Emerson, instead casting his supporting for Aaron Simpson. He and Frank Rose were the other two people who applied for the vacancy.

“This was gut wrenching,” Neff said to the candidates and small crowd of about a dozen after the vote.

“I almost thought about resigning myself so two of you could join,” she added.

All three candidates — Emerson, Rose and Simpson — were well known to the council. Emerson has served on the planning board since 2012. Rose has led the Langley Arts Commission since its inception in 2014. And Simpson served on the planning board until resigning for work commitments last year.

The selection process was largely open to the public, with council members interviewing the candidates in open session. Each were asked 10 questions about their backgrounds, temperaments, thoughts on the council’s role in the city, and visions for the next 10 to 20 years.

Emerson spent most of her professional career in the computer engineering industry, having run a consulting company out of Langley between 1989 and 2000. She then turned her attention to landscaping as the owner of Langley-based Custom Landscape Solutions.

Her experiences in Langley shaped her vision for the city for the next 10 and 20 years; she wants to focus on limited growth within city limits and improving quality of life for residents. One of her main ideas was to make it a more pedestrian-friendly city where families want to settle for their home and place of work to “get out of our cars more.”

Related to that vision, Emerson said affordable housing, business growth and utilities expansion in city limits were some of the most pressing long-range issues for Langley.

“Really start to focus on getting the sewer, stormwater services to especially the Decker/Furman area,” she said.

She joined the city’s shoreline advisory committee to help draft the shoreline master program which was approved in 2013. Emerson was appointed to the planning board in 2012, which has worked diligently this past year to update the city’s comprehensive plan.

“I’m a hard worker,” Emerson said. “I get on a board or committee and I’m in for life.”

Langley Mayor Tim Callison, who is also new to office since his election this past November, said one condition of her council appointment is that she must resign from the planning board.

The council and Callison met for a 30-minute executive session to discuss the three candidates who applied to serve in the recently vacated position. After which the council voted in Emerson, who joined the other four members at the table.

The position to which she was appointed will last until 2017, at which point she will have to seek election to fill out the four-year term. Black previously held the position, but resigned as part of a campaign promise that if her husband, Callison, was elected mayor she would step down to alleviate voiced concerns about a conflict of interest.


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Palo Alto backs away from new landscaping ordinance

Facing criticisms about inadequate outreach to the greater community, Palo Alto officials on Tuesday retreated from a proposal to tighten local landscaping rules and agreed to refine the proposal in the coming months.

The council voted unanimously not to pursue at this time an ordinance proposed by Development Services Department staff that would have required residents with landscaping projects to comply with new “planting restrictions” that prohibit turf and other high water-using plants.

Those who choose not to limit their landscapes predominantly to native plants would have been allowed to submit detailed worksheet prepared by a landscape architect showing how much water the landscape would use. The new ordinance would also create a new permitting process for landscapes, allowing customers to obtain their building permits before proceeding with a separate process for landscapes.

The local ordinance was prompted by a state mandate that all California cities either adopt a local landscaping ordinance or be automatically subject to a state ordinance crafted by the state Department of Water Resources last year. With the deadline to adopt new restrictions fast approaching (the due date is Feb. 1), staff was under a time crunch to get the local ordinance in place, Director of Development Services Peter Pirnejad said.

Palo Alto officials also worked on a regional ordinance with the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), a coalition of agencies that draw water from the Hetch Hetchy system. Ultimately, however, they recommended a proposal that would be more restrictive than the one proposed by the state or the one recommended by BAWSCA.

While all ordinances seek to limit the amount of non-native plants, the state and BAWSCA ordinances limit the restrictions to new landscapes that are at least 500 square feet. For rehabilitated landscapes, the threshold is 2,500 square feet under the state ordinance and 1,000 square feet under the BAWSCA ordinance. The city’s ordinance has no thresholds and would apply to any project that requires a building permit (if someone simply wants to replace plants in his or her front yards, it would not apply).

“The only thing we did that was different from BAWSCA was lower (the threshold) so all projects would be required (to comply),” Pirnejad said Tuesday.

The City Council lauded staff’s effort in meeting the tight state deadline but ultimately agreed that the ordinance tries to do too much too fast. Council members also echoed the concerns from local environmental groups that the new rules don’t adequately consider impacts on the urban forest and local ecosystems.

Catherine Martineau, executive director of the nonprofit group Canopy, urged the council to do more community outreach and consult the city’s arborists and landscape experts to improve the ordinance.

“I don’t really understand it and I think we need to understand it in order to get buy-in from stakeholders and the community,” Martineau said.

Shani Kleinhaus, environmental advocate for the Santa Clara Audubon society, urged the council to launch a broader conversation about building a resilient community in Palo Alto by integrating ecosystem into urban settings. And Hamilton Hitchings, a member of the citizens group working on updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan, said he found some portions of the new local ordinance confusing and wondered about its impact on local trees.

“We have a lovely urban forest,” Hitchings said. “I hope whatever we do, (the ordinance) will continue to support the trees.”

The council agreed and directed staff to spend the next few months reaching out to groups such as Canopy, Acterra, the Audubon Society and other environmental nonprofits. Councilwoman Karen Holman also specified that the new ordinance should specifically reference and integrate concepts from the city’s new Urban Forest Master Plan and the soon-to-be-approved parks master plan.

It’s important, she said, to consider the landscaping ordinance in the context of those documents to avoid “unintended consequences.”

Her colleagues generally agreed that more outreach needs to occur before a local ordinance is approved.

Councilman Eric Filseth said he believes banning lawns in new projects altogether would be too restrictive while Councilman Tom DuBois wondered how limiting landscapes entirely to native plants would affect local nurseries and would it push the city toward plant monocultures.

“Part of the Palo Alto way here is really looking at saving water, for sure, but having a healthy ecosystem at the same time and exploring some of those options,” DuBois said. “We’re in alignment with our green ideas, but let’s also be in alignment with our Urban Forest Master Plan.”

The council voted to have staff come back later in the year with a revised proposal. In the mean time, the city would be one of many across California that would be subject to the state ordinance.

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