Woodstock Planners find a path for Wittenberg apartment project

Town offices at Comeau. (photo by Dion Ogust)

The thing about legal planning tangles is that with will, there’s usually some way through them. Especially if they’re dealing with changed times and the intentions of a zoning ordinance written 27 years ago.

On January 5, Woodstock’s planning board took several steps towards a solution to the single biggest problem raising a ruckus with neighbors of Jim and Janet Nelson’s application to build a multiple family dwelling with eight rental units at the corner of Wittenberg and Glenford-Mt. Tremper roads in Wittenberg. They even passed a resolution stating their intention to grant the Nelsons conditional approval for the plans they’ve been presenting to planners for over a year now.

The key problem with what the Nelsons were applying for, which everyone agrees fits the letter of the law for the Neighborhood Commercial district in which it would sit, was the proposed structure’s size. It was just too big as one building, and zoning laws weren’t encouraging for two. Other challenges, from lighting on, stemmed from that singular size difficulty.


Several weeks back, planners agreed with the Nelsons that two buildings would be better than one. But to make that happen a zoning change by the town board would be required, an arduous process on its own. Then planning board chairman John Lavalle found a chink to shine some light through: an incorrect citation of zoning law in the town zoning board of appeals’ previous decision barring the Nelson’s from having two instead of one buildings.

“The focus they based their decision on was in terms of accessory apartments,” planning board member and former chair Paul Shultis explained. “If that decision’s not valid the Nelson’s can go back to the ZBA with a conditionally approved site plan.”

Before that could happen, the planning board agreed, they wanted to send Lavalle’s findings and their sample resolutions to their attorney, John Lyons, first. Also, they wanted to make sure that new drawings reflected the changes that the Nelson’s architect, Paul Jankovitz, would be making to meet needed equations for distances between buildings relative to roof heights, as well as previously-addressed concerns regarding lighting, landscaping, parking and access roads.

The application was tentatively placed on the planning board’s January 19 agenda.


Lodge inching forward

Also in progress, but tiptoeing forward, were the plans for MHS Worldwide Holdings III’s plans to fully renovate, upgrade and make habitable again the former Woodstock Lodge on Country Club Lane behind Woodstock Primary School (the site has also been known, over the years, as The Pinecrest). Attorney Ron Pordy and architects Jess and Les Walker noted how earlier plans for additional bedrooms had been dropped for the cabin renovations, landscaping had been upgraded and particularized (with parking downsized), and numerous walking paths included into plans.

The planning board said that as far as they could see, the sketch plan would likely be ready to schedule appearances before the ZBA after one more meeting to go over updated drawings and plans.


A sign too big? 

In other business, a situation came up involving the new Woodstock Healing Arts offices at Bradley Meadows, which apparently had put up more signage than allowed: both a sign on the building and the establishment’s name on its awning.

A motion was made to pass the matter on to town zoning enforcement officer Ellen Casciaro for an interpretation as to whether WHA was in violation or not.