New management of The Lodge from Selina Woodstock, including the president of all Selina operations worldwide, assured the Woodstock planning board Thursday night, July 18, that they would do whatever was asked of them to bring their property into compliance and correct a string of bad building department permits that were vacated by the town zoning board of appeals earlier this month.
In addition, Selina president Yoav Gery said that his company has terminated its relationship with The Lodge’s previous owner, Michael Skurnick, who had been serving as general contractor on renovations at the property since selling it to Selina for $2.8 million this past spring.
The statements from Selina came after the planning board began its second sketch plan review of a Site Plan Review application for changes at the site that’s been in the news, off and on, for years as one of Woodstock’s more troubled lodgings and food establishment properties. Architect Jess Walker, who had represented Skurnick before the board several years ago when changes to the property were first proposed and then abandoned, opened his presentation by noting that “if we’re requested to undo work we will.”
Planning board members asked if there were any violations on site. Walker replied that there was only one, dating from Skurnick’s ownership, but it would require a new planning board site plan approval to be reversed.
Planning board consultant Matthew Rudikoff, who had recently updated a long memo on problems at the site, working from a document first prepared several years ago before Skurnick went around his planning board process to start getting building permits directly from the town’s building and code enforcement officer Ellen Casciaro, pointed out the amount of work that had been done on site without “proper approvals.” He further noted recent discussions he’d had with the county health department regarding outstanding permits Selina will be needing for its septic system, kitchen, and swimming pool.
Planning board attorney John Lyons reiterated that, given the property’s history of skirting regulatory oversight and rogue demolitions and building, it would behoove everyone to establish a “very good baseline” on current conditions and recent changes from which to start pulling everything back towards compliance.
All agreed that the property, which had been featured in a segment of the cable series Hotel Impossible as “Rotting Woodstock” at one point, had been a slum, and that any renovations would be good. But it was also repeatedly pointed out that years of grandfathered-in non-compliant uses need to be rectified as best as possible.
“Building permits were not meant to be the remedy for this sort of work,” Rudikoff said at one point after Walker spoke of repairs that led to complete demolition and replacement of a cottage. “Having this project stabilized in an up-to-date way is good.”
Planning board member Judith Kerman pointed out how non-conformity “can’t be added to.”
Rudikoff and Lyons explained to Gery and other Selina representatives how a full State Environmental Quality Review and similar town environmental review would have to be completed, and how the nature of the site and application upped the likelihood of that review needing to be strenuous.
Gery explained how as a company, Selina thought it had been doing due diligence on their purchase and were surprised at the controversies surrounding what it had thought were valid building permits.
“As soon as we got a stop work order on the property we shut it all down,” he added. “If something happened before us we want to fix it. We want to comply with all town codes moving forward. I can’t speak for the past; we’re here to work with you guys.”
Selina’s onsite manager Oz Zachovoy asked all in attendance for suggestions, problem areas, ideas; he wants to create a “punch list” to work from. Discussion moved to possibly tying in the property to Woodstock’s wastewater treatment system. Escrow accounts would be set up to cover town engineering and planning consultancy costs.
“Can we continue work,” asked Gery.
“No work until you get through this process,” Lyons the attorney responded. “Everything’s under one umbrella now…what you ran into with those building permits was a huge stumbling block.”
Rotron, Library, Sportsmen’s Club
In other planning board business last week, Rotron Manufacturing came forth for a sketch plan review for its impending application to construct a new 15,201 square foot building on its campus off Route 375 that would add workfloor space and conjoin two existing buildings.
Representatives from Rotron, which currently employs 265 at its Woodstock plant, said the expansion plans were a reaction to a corporate growth spurt from $13 million to $110 million in sales…and about six months behind schedule because of corporate financing mechanisms.
“Corporate wanted us to move to Mexico but I don’t want to move to Mexico,” said Bud Atkins, the company’s local point person of over 45 years experience. “We’ve had 51 new hires this past year and want this done next year so we can hire more.”
The entire planning board expressed its approval of what they’d seen to date, ready to move forward.
Next up, the Woodstock Public Library presented the same basic plans it was scheduled to present to the town board as part of a pre-sketch conference towards an eventual site plan review application. Architect Stephen Tilley of Westchester County presented elevations and schematics for his design, which elicited some concerns regarding parking, but praise for the library’s decision to do all it could to save surrounding trees, as well as the library lawn.
Finally, the Wittenberg Sportsmen’s Club returned with its proposal to move its clubhouse on Montoma Lane after a long hiatus caused by neighbor concerns regarding its original application. Their representative Paul Economos noted that plans had been reversed, and moved farther up the road. Courts had decided no special use permit would be needed. The planning board decided that the next step would be the reopening of a previously-closed public hearing on the plans, which would need new mailings to all neighbors. A tentative date of August 2 was set for the occasion.