Woodstock Way, the 23-unit ‘eco-hotel’ that’s been before the Woodstock Planning Board for the past year, announced that it had reached a consensus with its neighbors on Neher Street and Hillcrest Avenue and was moving forward towards approvals following the closing of a two and a half month long public hearing on December 1. The project is tentatively slated to return to the planning board at its next meeting December 15 for discussion of a draft SEQRA declaration and draft resolution to grant site plan reviews.
“We seem to have a lot of community support,” said project attorney Ron Pordy of the breakthrough, which came when proposal opponent Chris Wanker said he was agreeable to an amended plan that saw one two story structure directly behind his Neher Street home redesigned for an increased setback and lowered roof.
“When you feel someone is making some sort of concession, you become neighbors; and they did that,” said Neher Street resident Kristen Eberhard of the moves made by developers Tannery Brook Real Estate LLC after a large group of people from the Hillcrest Avenue/Neher Street neighborhood came out at the application’s first public hearing September 15. “We were all pleasantly surprised…It felt like a Christmas Miracle to me.”
Wanker, Eberhard and others had expressed misgivings about the size of “building seven,” which would include lodging rooms and an office/supplies store for the new enterprise, to be accessed from Tinker Street with an egress on to Hillside Avenue. Other complaints had focused on the closing of a pedestrian right-of-way many had used to get to the village center over the years, as well as fears of a situation that might turn into “Airbnb on steroids.”
Woodstock town historian Richard Heppner, who’s lived on Neher for decades, said he attended the meeting in his official status to ensure that the plans up for approval still included the retaining of an historic tannery wall on what has been known over the years as Waterfall Way. He affirmed that Wanker expressed satisfaction at the ways in which plans were mitigated, and expressed hope that the sense of compromise reached would serve as a prototype for future developments in Woodstock.
Tannery Brook principal Ryan Giuliani noted that the meeting was “positive all around; the neighbors were appreciative that we mitigated to meet their concerns. It was a collaboration and even the planning board was very excited at how things turned out.”
Among concerns raised at the meeting were several addressed in September. Some wanted to keep conversation open with the Woodstock Way owners about maintaining a “cut-through,” with the possibility of a some agreement after construction was completed. Others, though, just came out to laud what Giuliani and his partners have proposed.
According to planning board secretary Therese Fernandez, the planning board has an official 62 days to complete its review of the site plan application from the point of the public hearing’s closing last Thursday.
“I’m not excited about living through three years of construction, but I’m not opposed to the evolution of the town,” added Eberhard, who’s lived on Neher Street for ten years. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see about some things, but it felt like the developers were listening to us, and more neighborly. It’s better than everyone lawyering up.”
“It’s been a learning experience but the process has been exciting,” Giuliani said after the hearing closed. “We’re happy to be where we are.”
He added that he’s hoping to break ground on Woodstock Way come the Spring.
‘Go to’ region?
In other Woodstock planning board business December 1, discussions continued regarding the complete renovation of the recently bought The Lodge at Woodstock, once known as The Pinecrest. Town planner Matthew Rudikoff has been working with the attorney for The Lodge’s new owners, Pordy, on legal issues related to the property’s having been a noncomforming use grandfathered into a residential district ever since the town’s zoning ordinance was approved 27 years ago.
“We need to hear from the planning board’s attorney before we complete our site plan,” Pordy said. “We want tacit approval for our layout before we proceed to the zoning board of appeals.”
Pordy, a Woodstock resident, added that the combination of the two projects he’s working on demonstrate his town’s increasing attractiveness on a regional basis.
“We’ve become the ‘go to’ region for young people in Brooklyn now,” he said. “Both these projects, with their investments, are a plus for Woodstock.”
Heppner, wearing both his historian and neighborhood hats, later expressed caution about such unadulterated optimism. He noted how important it was for Woodstock to think deeply about its growth patterns, and limits, as it moved forward.
“If we encroach on the neighborhoods, we have to remember that that’s where the living, the raising of our kids in this town happens. They’re essential,” he said. “Otherwise we end up as a mall in a pretty setting. There has to be a balance as we move forward.”