The prospect of a new eight-unit complex of single bedroom rental apartments in what has sometimes been considered the hamlet of Wittenberg met with “some volatility” from its neighbors on Wittenberg Road at a Woodstock Planning Board public hearing for the long-under-review project Thursday, November 17.
“Nothing unexpected…complaints that they were here first. One property owner is worried about lights,” explained the proposal’s developer, Jim Nelson, of the response, noting how he’d bought the property a decade ago based on its location in a zone that allowed for development of just the sort he’s proposing. “One of the neighbors back behind it is a lawyer. People expressed concerns about it becoming a haven for Airbnb rentals, bringing in a slew of Brooklynites. I’m not going to allow that sort of use on my property.”
According to planning board secretary Therese Fernandez, the hearing was recessed to “the call of the chairman” so information for the application can be updated. A tentative date of December 15 was talked about for that continuation, although the needed info would have to be in by December 5 for that to happen.
“The board wants more landscaping details,” Fernandez continued. She added that more information would also be needed in regards to possible construction impacts on endangered species within a mile of the site, including timber rattlesnakes.
“You get the same issues for anything occurring on Overlook,” she added. “It’s about habitat.”
Fernandez said the neighbors’ concerns were focused on issues of lighting, noise, visual impact and “worries that the apartment complex will not be in character with the rest of the neighborhood.” She added that since what Nelson was proposing was an allowed use in the neighborhood commercial district set up in Wittenberg back when the zoning law was written in 1989, it had needed no variances.
“The Woodstock Nation didn’t rise up,” commented Nelson, who added that he didn’t want to share any images or further details of his rental apartments until he received his approvals. “Everyone knew each other; they were concerned about the size. There were worries, too, about how the rattlesnakes on Tobias could be coming. We’re going to mitigate that.”
In other business before the planning board:
The plans for a complete renovation of what is now known as The Lodge at Woodstock continued to inch towards actual plans as the complexities of fixing unfixable cottages and okaying nonconforming uses in a residential district were discussed. The project still has weeks before it even moves forward into “concrete plans,” according to Fernandez, as well as town zoning board of appeal variance applications.
A scheduled December 1 continuation of the public hearing for a proposed 23-unit Woodstock Way eco-motel along the Tannery Brook between Tinker Street and Hillside Avenue is also still on track.
Jess Walker, the architect for renovations and new restaurants at the sites of the former Gypsy Wolf, Joyous Lake, and a new planned martini bar behind the Bank of America in Bradley Meadows, said that all “are proceeding as planned but we have no public statement at this time. None of the projects are ready for press.”
As for community questions about the parking at the new Reynolds & Reynolds taproom in what used to be the Woodstock Walk In Doctor’s Office adjacent to Playhouse Plaza on Mill Hill Road, Fernandez reiterated that the new business received its site plan approvals last spring, with its parking based on previous site permits (which at one time included an okay for valet parking) augmented by a state Department of Transportation request that existing parking spots be parallel parking only now. The business paid for several in lieu of parking for additional spots from the town in exchange for its permits.
Talk of such parking payments, as well as planners wish for more parking in Woodstock, especially on its main street’s increasingly busy eastern and western ends, was recently the focus of zoning amendment discussions at the town board.