Woodstock town councilman Jay Wenk is trying to get the whole town board to make a field trip to the Bearsville flats to visit the two former Simulaids buildings, which were recently bought by businessman Peter Vinci of Innovative Products of America (IPA). Vinci put a hold on much of the overhaul of the dilapidated buildings when he discovered that his plans for them may be prohibited by the aquifer protection regulations now under consideration by the town board.
A zoning change would create an Aquifer Protection Overlay District (APOD) covering an area between the hamlets of Woodstock and Bearsville that overlies the town aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than 700 residents. The APOD, like the five existing overlay districts in the zoning law, would contain district-specific regulations and requirements, including restrictions on development and other activities.
Vinci said his plans include a number of functions that will clearly have low impact on the environment, such as the creation of a business center that would offer affordable rental offices for small businesses. Other goals for the 27,000 feet of space may run afoul of the new regulations but were precisely outlined, he said, in the business plan that was approved by the town before he purchased the property. These ventures include long-term rental of outdoor parking space for vehicles such as boats, trucks, trailers, and RVs; a research and development area for designing tools; and a mechanic shop for rehabilitation of vintage cars.
“I’ve put almost $1 million into these buildings, and more is needed,” said Vinci, whose company has occupied the former Elna Ferrite building on Route 212 since 2009, providing jobs for almost 50 people. Employees are engaged in the assembly and distribution of tools he has invented for the automotive and trucking industries. “I was encouraged to buy [the Simulaids plant], and the land was zoned for it. Now they’re telling me, ‘By the way, we’re putting in an aquifer overlay.’ I feel manipulated.”
Wenk, who toured the buildings on June 28, is hopeful that the problems can be ironed out. “I’m very glad he’s getting these buildings rehabilitated. I’m also vitally interested in protecting the aquifer. He’s a very bright man, a strong businessman, and he’s clear about what he wants. He was assured that everything had been okayed, and that’s something I want to verify.”
Vinci explained that there had been no formal approval process, but he and his son Ian, IPA’s vice president, met several times with town supervisor Jeremy Wilber and zoning enforcement officer Ellen Casciaro. The Vincis were warmly received at each meeting, and they were assured that their plans were all permissible under the zoning code.
“I had an opportunity to buy these buildings at a good price,” said Vinci. “IPA is doing fantastically. I’m not buying this to make money. This is trying to help people out. But I have to make back my investment.”
Most of the property had been unused for 12 to 15 years, he noted, although some areas had been used for storage until about seven years ago, when Simulaids moved its operation to Saugerties. “When we first got here, you couldn’t stand inside, the mold was so bad,” said Vinci. He has replaced one roof and is in the process of replacing the other, in order to preserve the structure, but he is holding off on working on the electrical and heating systems until the issue of permissible usage is resolved.