Woodstock Town Board will oversee renovations to town offices

Artist’s rendering

Woodstock Town Supervisor Bill McKenna surprised some town lawmakers by announcing at the end of the regular meeting February 11 that he’s stepping back from the Comeau renovation project and leaving it largely up to the Town Board.

Councilmen Richard Heppner and Lorin Rose will continue to work with Walker Architecture to fine-tune the design for the main offices at 45 Comeau Drive. Councilwoman Laura Ricci and Reggie Earls will also discuss the designs with the Walkers ahead of an upcoming public presentation to the board so everyone is on the same page. “It has come to my attention there are questions about the process and the design,” McKenna said.

This came as a surprise to Heppner who said he had spent time in McKenna’s office and this had not come up. McKenna said he thought about it more today and decided to let the board become more involved.

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“I believe the whole town feels like they own the Comeau,” said Ricci, who wanted to make sure the public knows the details of the project.

With past town projects, the board had been more hands-off and let the architects largely make decisions, McKenna said.

Rose raised concerns the current design does not fit with the rest of the building and the public may not be receptive to it. “If we put it up for a referendum and it goes down, then what do we do?” he said.

McKenna said he has heard some, but not many objections from the public.

The Town Board last year hired Walker Architecture to design a $2.3 million renovation of the town offices at 45 Comeau Drive and the Supervisor’s Cottage. The main offices will be brought onto the first floor through an addition, allowing them to be accessible to people with disabilities and freeing up the second floor for meeting space and offices for the Town Board. In the plans, the original building will get new insulation, energy-efficient windows and a new geothermal HVAC system as will the Supervisor’s Cottage. 

The project is subject to permissive referendum, meaning, once the Town Board approves bonding, it is put on hold for 30 days to allow for a Woodstock resident to file a petition demanding a public vote. But the Town Board will likely bypass that process by authorizing a public bond vote at the town offices.

In a roundabout way…

Given increasing traffic woes in the summer months, Cornelia Rosenblum of the Commission for Civic Design arranged for traffic planner Georges Jacquemart to give a revised version of a presentation he gave at the Woodstock Public Library in 2008. He said there are smart parking strategies the town can employ to deal with on-street and municipal spaces.

Jacquemart suggested encouraging shared parking instead of a set amount of spaces per square footage or per residential unit. Offices that need daytime parking can share a lot with apartments, where more of the parking demand is at night, he said. He noted on-street parking and nearby municipal spaces should be prioritized for short-term to allow people to patronize businesses.

While Woodstock does not charge for on-street parking, it could do so through more modern parking kiosks where people pay and place a pass in the windshield. The same is a possibility in the Mountain View parking lot, which is now free. Jacquemart said parking should be priced so that there is always about 15 percent vacancy.

To improve traffic flow, the intersection of routes 375 and 212 “could lend itself to a roundabout,” he said. Pedestrian crossing at the intersection could be made safer by pulling back the crosswalks so they are about one car-length from the entrance to the roundabout. Jacquemart is a big proponent of positioning crosswalks so the pedestrian is in front of the motorist instead of to the side. 

A mini-roundabout might work for the intersection with Rock City Road, he said. A mini-roundabout features a slightly raised middle “button” that directs cars around it but is low enough so trucks, buses and emergency vehicles can safely drive over it. That would help with traffic flow and pull back crosswalks to make pedestrian crossing safer, he said.

“Not only is the speed limit terrible, the pedestrians cross in between the crosswalks,” CCD Chair David Eckroth said.

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