Woodstock Way, the 24-unit “eco cabin motel” that its owners hope will replace a half dozen Airbnb cabins beside Tannery Brook behind the Center for Photography in the hamlet center, was subject to several design compromises and matters of mitigation as set forth by the Woodstock planning board on November 4. The public hearing on the proposal is now set to continue at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, December 1.
When the project’s public hearing was last suspended on September 15, a number of neighbors from Neher Street and Hillside Avenue came together to back up Neher Street resident Chris Wanker’s complaint about how the proposed two story structure, referred to as Building 7, would limit the privacy of his home, and especially his back yard. Wanker had already bought a neighboring home to protect himself from “transients.” He referred to the planned Woodstock Way development as “Airbnb on steroids.”
On October 15, an attorney for Wanker, Victoria Polidoro, listened as the project’s architect Brad Will explained that Building 7 was being shortened and mitigated to minimize any invasions to Wanker’s privacy. The project developer’s attorney Ron Pordy said he felt a compromise was imminent. Polidoro, however, reiterated that her client wanted the entire structure relocated.
On November 4, Pordy and Will went over their design changes on Building 7 in detail, noting the movement of a stairwell away from Wanker’s backyard sight lines, as well as its complete covering. Polidoro said her client was adamant, though. Pordy talked about what could be allowed on the site were it developed residential, and several planners suggested moving the questioned building so its setbacks would match such a situation. The entire Woodstock Way team said they’d work to get new plans ready to reflect such mitigation.
Still, Polidoro reiterated her client’s recalcitrance regarding anything but complete relocation.
“My clients want to move forward and seek approval,” Pordy said.
“We feel we’ve compromised,” said Ryan Giuliani, the primary partner in the project, even before the final compromise involving the building’s pivot was agreed upon.
“The applicant has done something to mitigate,” said the town’s planner, Matthew Rudikoff. “It’s the board’s role to see if those mitigations are sufficient.”
A detailed review of an environmental assessment form for the Woodstock Way development was completed. It included planning board suggestions for map and other changes reflecting all matters discussed to date, as well as at the meeting. Along the way it was noted that Wanker had made similar objections during the project’s zoning board of appeals’ variance hearings. The ZBA had gone ahead and granted the variances.
“Part of the issue is that this is not a residence. There will be transient people,” Polidoro said. “They may be from Brooklyn with money but they’re still annoying…”
Rudikoff reminded the board that their decision was to be made in regards to “special use permit standards.” That included ensuring that what’s planned is no worse than what’s allowed, as one planner put it.
The December 1 date was set for restarting the public hearing process, which would put the board in a position to start moving towards declarations and approvals in mid-December. Polidoro noted that Wanker would be there to speak.
“Chris isn’t going to be happy with anything,” Giuliani said.
How to rebuild Lodge cabins
In other business, The Lodge at Woodstock and one of its owner/developers, Michael Skurnick, came before the board with architect Jess Walker and Pordy to discuss the zoning issues that had come up with their presentation of basic plans last month.
Pordy referenced correspondence he’s had with Rudikoff regarding his plans to expand the former Pinecrest’s “nonconforming structures and nonconforming uses” an allowed for 25 percent, while also replacing most of the actual structures. He noted the “logical point that when you expand structure you also expand use,” cited case law regarding intensification of businesses, and observed that “nonconforming status is not a death penalty…you can rebuild.”
Longstanding planning board member Paul Shultis, a builder by trade, noted how “neglect is a good reason” for rebuilding, especially when structures like those old cabins were never built well to begin with. Skurnick, Walker and Pordy said they’d be moving forward to get and renew whatever variances were needed to move forward with their plans.
At which point planning board member Jon Stark wondered if there were not “a better way to do this?”
“The right solution would be for the town to rezone the property,” Rudikoff said, adding that such a thing would be unlikely to happen given the fact that the property, while grandfathered, was in a residential neighborhood.
“What if everyone wants it to change,” Pordy asked after some discussion of current zoning restraints keeping the new Lodge from better distributing its cabins on its property.
“Figure out how to do this so it’s not spot zoning,” Rudikoff noted, referring to the golden no-no of land use legislation. “It’s a crazy situation.”
“What if everyone wants something?” Skurnick chimed in. “Can the ZBA grant something different?”
“Not if they have decent counsel,” answered his attorney, Pordy.
Wittenberg, Glenford corner project
Separately set for this Thursday, November 10, will be a continuation of a public hearing for a large structure of eight one bedroom apartments being planned for the corner of Wittenberg and Glenford roads proposed by Jim and Janet Nelson.
When talk of that proposal yielded discussion about how many miles one could get from a known rattlesnake den before it became irrelevant to an environmental review, those new to town and its planning process looked at each other askance.