Survey: 94 percent want Woodstock to preserve itself

Cooper Lake (photo by Dion Ogust)

Consultants presented results of the Comprehensive Plan survey at a community workshop October 23, while The Comprehensive Plan Committee extended the deadline for responses to Monday, November 6. The committee distributed postcards to property owners in town that provided a link and passcode to take the survey online and listed places to pick up a hard copy.

Michael Allen from Behan & Associates, the firm hired to help update the Comprehensive Plan, outlined some trends from the 625 responses gathered to date.

Allen described the Comprehensive Plan as a “policy guidance document” for future regulations and zoning changes. Woodstock’s plan hasn’t been officially updated since 1962.

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It was divided in to major sections called “Where Are We Now?” “Where Are We Going?” and “Where Do We Want to Be?” The process is now in the final section.

About 69 percent of respondents are year-round residents while 15 percent are weekenders, Allen said.

An overwhelming 94 percent selected natural surroundings as an attraction to living in Woodstock. Protection of water and natural resources were high on lists of priorities.

People also wanted to see more available starter and single-family housing, noted Allen.

In the freeform section of the survey, respondents touched on tourism versus localism, meaning the town should make sure it is providing adequate services for local residents while maintaining the tourist economy.

The majority of the workshop was devoted to splitting up into four discussion groups focusing on topics such as the central hamlet, housing diversity, future land use and making the town more bike friendly.

Hamlet issues

Those in the hamlet group as well as others pointed out the need to deal with rising rents that make it difficult to maintain a young and diverse population. The hamlet group noted streetlights are not adequate and perhaps could be replaced with lantern-style fixtures that are lower to the ground and provide more light while being aesthetically pleasing. Wayfinder signs might help people find certain attractions, such as the library and other cultural centers, some suggested, though others felt there are already too many signs.

The group also thought the town shouldn’t be reactive when dealing with parking issues, but instead should give careful consideration to solutions.

Making Woodstock bike friendly

One way of easing the pressure on traffic is to make the town more bicycle accessible by creating routes parallel to Tinker Street and Mill Hill Road, though the group conceded that would require cooperation from property owners, something that is rather difficult. A dedicated bike lane on the main thoroughfare may be an option.

Housing diversity

More affordable housing may be accomplished by making zoning regulations more flexible so property owners can subdivide small sections of their land to allow for structures known as tiny houses, which are small, single-person accommodations. Creative people are being driven out of town because they can’t afford to live here, the group noted.

Tackling future land use

This group said it wanted to preserve the character of the central hamlet. They wanted to keep avoiding strip development and suggested encouraging solar farms.

They observed that businesses who move outside of the town center tend to fail and said the town needs to explore why this happens.

Renters welcome

Survey postcards were sent to property owners, leaving out renters, but Comprehensive Plan Chairman Kirk Ritchey said that wasn’t intentional, since the panel was using tax rolls to come up with the mailing list. All, including renters, are still encouraged to complete the survey, either online or by hard copy.

Those who didn’t receive a postcard can go to https://survey.zohopublic.com/zs/cEB51m and use the generic password j94bq7r. The survey can also be downloaded and printed from the town website at woodstockny.org or hard copies are available at the town offices, 45 Comeau Drive or the library, 5 Library Lane. Completed surveys can be returned to those locations.

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