Woodstock Planning Board drops challenge for library lead-agency status

Woodstock’s planning board has agreed to drop its challenge to the Woodstock Library’s lead-agency status for the new building if it agrees to several conditions, including a review by the planning consultant. The library board and planning board approved the agreement during simultaneous videoconference meetings July 16.

The library board is preparing ask voters in November to borrow for a new 12,000-square-foot library building with an estimated construction cost of $4.4 million. That amount does not include ancillary costs such as furnishings, telecommunication equipment, moving and a temporary library.

The library board approved the services of municipal finance advisory firm Munistat and town bond attorney Hodgson Ross to prepare the bond documents.

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The planning board had argued it was the more appropriate agency to take the lead on the review required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Since neither party could agree, the planning Board brequested the DEC commissioner choose the lead agency. The SEQRA process results in either a negative declaration, meaning there is little to no environmental impact, or a positive declaration, meaning there is an environmental impact.

Under the joint agreement, the library can serve as lead agency provided the planning board as an involved agency is given a “full detailed preliminary set of plans to review as part of the SEQRA process.” The library must withhold any negative declaration until the planning board has reviewed the plans with consultant Matt Rudikoff. 

The library must pay a $2000 deposit to cover Rudikoff’s fee and must undergo site-plan review. The planning board reserves the right to have the DEC commissioner determine who should be lead agency should any dispute arise.

The planning board will dedicate its July 30 workshop meeting to reviewing the library plans. Some members remain skeptical the library can get the necessary approvals in time to get a bond vote on the November ballot. “We have between now and August 3. This is an insane time schedule. There are other agencies involved. I don’t see how we can possibly proceed,” planning-board member John LaValle said.

“We can give it a good old college try,” planning board chairman Peter Cross said, noting the library’s timing was not their concern. “Ours is health, safety, welfare, lighting, drainage, etc,” he said. “Main thing is to be sure everything is looked at or property examined. That is why the planning board is involved agency.”

LaValle thanked vice chair Stuart Lipkind for his work on the agreement.

“I’ll approve so we can move ahead, but I don’t know how we do this within the timeline,” LaValle said.

Normally, 90 days are needed to place an item on the local ballot, giving the library until August 3, but that may be shortened to 60 days because of the pandemic.

Library board member Jeff Collins told the planning board that consultant studies and “as many plans as are developed” will be available in time for review ahead of the June 30 meeting.

There are 4 comments

  1. Margaret Smith

    Even if the Library Board does manage to scramble in time to get the bond on the ballot, I doubt the voters will approve it. The 2018 campaign “Save The Library” – which the Board admitted was ‘divisive’ – was in many voters’ opinions actually ‘deceptive’, leaving voters with the incorrect perception that the actual existence of the Library itself was at stake. Many voters warned that the consequences would come due the next time the Library proposed a bond vote. In many voters’ opinions, the bill for that very unpleasant campaign has now come due.

  2. l & t lover

    So glad the Library will prevail. This is a labor of love to build a new Library for all to enjoy. It is long overdue and the people of Woodstock have voted to support the Library Board as the driving force to build a new library building.

  3. Bill H

    It’s going to be a beautiful library. The town needs something new, and this will greatly benefit the people.

    Please vote for this library bond based on its merits, not on what happened in 2018.

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