The Woodstock Town Board may examine the former Zena Elementary School as one of many possible solutions to a crisis-level lack of affordable housing.
The 50,000-square-foot building was to be used for a music school run by Woodstock festival promoter Michael Lang and Rock Academy owner Paul Green, but that never came to fruition.
“That could be affordable housing,” Councilman Lorin Rose said during a discussion at the April 13 Town Board meeting.
“It’s got a kitchen that could take care of Meals on Wheels or Tables (The Table at Woodstock) or anybody else that needs a kitchen,” he said.
“It’s got a gymnasium. It’s got everything that you could need. And we could make public satellite parking out of some of it and get a shuttle bus that runs from there up through town. We could put satellite parking maybe up by the firehouse and eliminate some of our parking problems and our affordable housing problems,” Rose added.
“But it needs to be rezoned. And that’s the way the idea was presented to me,” said Rose. “And I, the more I think about it, the more I don’t think it’s completely stupid. So maybe it’s something for us to think about.”
Supervisor Bill McKenna asked councilwoman Laura Ricci to look into it as chair of the Zoning Revision Committee.
Ricci said she will examine the possibilities the property can offer. She noted the committee is looking at community housing, where the needs are looked at in terms of housing units, not just houses. Zoning could be modified so someone could take a building and divide it into apartments, for example.
“I think that maybe we have between 1500 to 2000 housing units in Woodstock now,” she said. “And so maybe the answer is like 150 to 200 more. So we’re using that. So as we do our zoning and our conversations, that’s kind of a vision we’re going with, and I’d love feedback from people. Is that a great idea or a terrible idea?”
Ricci suggested a ten percent density increase could help the town gain the number of housing units it needs. “We don’t want to go crazy with the density, but we thought that 10% bit could be a smooth thing to do,” Ricci said.
One way to accomplish this would be to look at areas where a property owner can have more than one living unit per parcel or an apartment attached to an existing home. “Or maybe you have an extra building. So that’s another thought,” Ricci said.