Aided by favorable conditions including mild weather, construction of the Woodstock Commons affordable housing complex is proceeding on pace for completion by the end of the year, reported officials of the project’s developer, the Rural Ulster Preservation Company.
RUPCO’s director of community development, Guy Kempe, and the company’s director of real estate and construction, Chuck Snyder, updated the project’s progress in a January 30 telephone interview and ensuing visit to the development’s 28-acre site, behind the Bradley Meadows shopping plaza at the eastern end of the hamlet. According to Snyder, the project is roughly 25 percent complete in terms of its construction budget. The general contractor is Affordable Housing Concepts, based in Gardiner. The project’s total budget is $15,988,000.
Since the 53-unit project broke ground last July 22, foundations have been laid for six of the design’s 13 buildings. Grading work is largely complete. Most water lines have been installed, with sewer lines to follow. When the entire infrastructure is in place and its components inspected, RUPCO expects to receive approval for connections to the town’s water and sewer systems.
Framing work is expected to begin soon, Snyder said, crediting “extremely cooperative” weather and “beautiful sandy soil, both compactable and absorbent” with spurring the pace of progress. Kempe estimated that 30 workers are typically involved in the on-site construction, which has followed a five-day-a-week schedule, with a sixth day added if weather permits.
When complete, Woodstock Commons will comprise 24 one-bedroom units, with monthly rents ranging from $325 to $650 (as compared to a market rate of $828, according to figures furnished by RUPCO); 16 two-bedroom units, renting for either $655 or $780 (market rate: $992); and 12 three-bedroom units, with rents of either $765 or $890 (market rate: $1,257). The on-site manager will occupy an additional unit. Twenty of the units will be reserved for senior citizens and a dozen for artists.
An architectural model of the complex has not been produced. “A three-dimensional model constructed out of foam was never contemplated,” said Kempe. “The Planning Board requested, and we provided, a visual representation.” A “cementatious,” or cement-based, type of board, resembling traditional clapboard, will be used for the buildings’ exterior siding, which will follow a “palette of colors” approved by the Planning Board and the Commission for Civic Design, he explained. The buildings will have roofs that are mostly metal, but are “accented” by fiberglass shingles, said Snyder.
New York State residents who meet income and other criteria are eligible to apply for housing in the development. Although the application process is not yet under way, Kempe reported that he receives several inquiries weekly. “There has been a big demand for this housing,” he said. Between June and August, when two-thirds to three-quarters of the construction work has been completed, RUPCO plans to open a satellite office in Woodstock where applications can be submitted.
Construction access moved to Playhouse Lane
Work on the project got off to a rocky start when RUPCO initiated construction activity at the western entrance to the site, off Elwyn Quarry Road, contrary to the sequence outlined in a special use permit issued by the Planning Board, which stipulated that major work would begin at the site’s eastern access point and main entrance, off Playhouse Lane. When the project is completed the Elwyn Quarry Road entrance will provide emergency access only.
In September the Planning Board considered revoking the permit, but eventually elected not to do so. At public hearings convened by the board, neighbors protested that construction vehicles had disrupted life in the vicinity of Elwyn Quarry Road, while project opponents maintained that RUPCO had removed trees in contravention of a state agency’s directive.
On November 1, however, the installation of a bridge over Ferguson Creek off Playhouse Lane allowed construction to proceed as planned from the eastern end of the site, Kempe said. The precast-concrete bridge, measuring 42 feet from one end to the other, links the site with the northern terminus of Playhouse Lane. The Elwyn Quarry Road entrance to the parcel has been closed to daily traffic since the bridge opened, with substantive work in that area deferred until springtime, according to Kempe.
Major construction often proves burdensome, or worse, for neighboring property owners. In an informal conversation while walking her dogs, one Playhouse Lane resident, who is a longtime opponent of the project, lamented the transformation of a densely wooded, marshy landscape into a cleared plot where heavy equipment moves earth and concrete.
The development’s most contiguous neighbor is Eugenia Macer-Story, who has lived at 36 Playhouse Lane, directly opposite the recently installed bridge, since 1998. “The project does affect what I’m doing, and I’m not happy about it,” said Macer-Story, a playwright, artist, and author of books on the supernatural, in a January 31 interview. “I hear large trucks coming and going in front of my house. The trucks have made my walks to and from town very strenuous.” In addition, she said, the foot of a crane used to hoist pylons for the bridge left a depression at the bottom of her driveway, and the proximity of her house to the project has dashed her hopes of selling or renting it.
Across the creek, during the recent site visit, Kempe and Snyder envisioned an amenity-rich, environmentally responsible housing complex in an attractive setting beneath Overlook Mountain. Landscaping will employ only native vegetation. A geothermal system will heat and cool the units. Residents may pass the time at a three-quarter-acre park with a gazebo, or even on a bench next to one of the retention ponds that will filter stormwater runoff through indigenous vegetation. In addition to a community building that will serve all residents, three buildings housing senior citizens will each contain a common space for activities such as card games and poetry readings.
The project was initially proposed in 2003. Long delayed, much revised, ardently supported and bitterly opposed, it appears poised for completion a decade later.++