Woodstock ZBA to make Lodge decision on Thursday, May 23

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

A recessed Woodstock Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing on the legality of new building permits granted for Selina Woodstock, new owners of The Lodge (formerly the Pinecrest), was closed last Thursday, May 9, following another courtroom-like flurry of opposing statements from attorneys for the restaurant/inn and a neighbor. A decision was set to be made by the ZBA’s next meeting on May 23.

Whether any of this will have stopped work at the property located behind the Woodstock Elementary School is still anyone’s guess, given that no formal stay on the work allowed by the permits in question, as well as more recent ones granted by Woodstock Building Inspector Ellen Casciaro, was still in question as of press time. 

Town supervisor Bill McKenna said on Wednesday that the last he heard, “There was a disagreement I and the town board had with our building inspector. We feel she made an error in granting these permits.”

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At the May 9 ZBA meeting things started with attorney Victoria Polidoro speaking on behalf of Selina Woodstock, new owners of The Lodge. She argued that the neighbor who appealed the building permits had not appealed the rescinding of any stop work orders, that those rescissions did not need to be “manually typed” as the neighbor’s attorney had argued, that work had stopped before starting again anyway, and that it would harm her clients if work is held up any longer. She added that it might be better for everyone to start thinking in terms of remedial actions instead of stopping work.

John W. Furst, attorney for the neighbor, Paul Cohen, replied that the matter before the ZBA was entirely about building permits, and about proper procedures and not wished-for construction timelines. He added that there was a complicated application history involving the property, a possible segmentation of work, which is not kosher under zoning ordinances, and the appearance of an applicant, or at least an application, “with unclean hands.”

Furst further noted that the building inspector has been continuing to issue building permits for The Lodge site even while “issues are still pending,” and that her argument that she was acting properly involved the granting of permits before proper planning board applications had been made, as required. 

“I think there’s a lot of issues that have to be worked out and worked through,” he concluded. 

Polidoro answered that she was representing a new owner, so any reference to “unclean hands” was incorrect. She added that “they were told by the building inspector that there were no violations or issues on the property. 

After Polidoro objected to the mention of new permit issues related to Casciaro’s most recent actions, ZBA member Gordon Wemp noted that any addition of such new permits into consideration would necessitate an entirely new ZBA application. The hearing was then closed, with a decision recessed until the ZBA’s next meeting.

Stainless roof and clearcutting on Tonshi

Also recessed was a longstanding case involving property on Tonshi Mountain owned by Thomas Auringer, who is also going before the Town of Kingston planning board regarding a large business application for Route 28 this coming Monday, May 20. At issue is Auringer’s clearcutting around his mountaintop home despite scenic overlay legislation against such matters, and his placement of a stainless steel roof on his home instead of the zinc one he’d had approved by the Woodstock planning board…and visible, with glare, throughout the area.

ZBA chair Maria Mendoza said the issue was “with the lawyers” and couldn’t be discussed for now.

McKenna said that as far as he was concerned, they’re to decide whether the roof and tree cutting are separate issues. “The man’s just trying to get his certificate of occupancy.”

The supervisor added, when asked whether such building department decisions were opening the town to liability, that, “This is not a building permit issue as far as I’m concerned. He could have painted his roof fluorescent green…color isn’t subject to building code. The only reason any of this is an issue is because the man cut some trees down.”

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