Woodstock’s Housing Oversight Task Force is busy figuring out ways to change regulations to encourage more affordable housing, the panel explained as it gave a progress update to the Town Board on January 13.
The seven-member group has pooled the resources of different boards and committees to tackle the lack of affordable housing as it has reached a crisis point.
Housing committee members Deborah DeWan and Kirk Ritchey co-chair the task force. The other members are Councilwoman, Zoning Revision Committee co-chair and Complete Streets Committee liaison Laura Ricci, former Councilman and Short-Term Rental Task Force Chair Richard Heppner, Zoning Revision Committee member Jeff Collins, ZBA member Michael Castiglione and Planning Board member Judith Kerman.
“But we’ve been working very hard from our very first meeting on July 6, meeting every two weeks, and doing a lot of homework and collaborating well, together, and also with our consultant planner, Nan Stolzenburg,” DeWan said.
The task force also sought input from several different aspects of the community.
“We went out and did…close to two dozen interviews with different segments of the community, with the business segment, with the faith community, with realtors,” DeWan said. Stolzenburg, whose work is funded through a Greenway Communities grant, is working to rewrite zoning that will accommodate more housing. “We’re really fortunate to have Nan. She’s exceptionally skilled. She’s worked in dozens of towns in the Catskills and in the Hudson Valley, and has a very strong background in both environmental and land use planning,” DeWan said.
The task force’s work began in July 2021 and, working with Stolzenburg, produced a detailed audit of the current zoning. “Then she used that audit to basically educate the task force, and to bring the task force together to understand the details and the magnitude, frankly, of what we were dealing with,” Ritchey said. “One of the things that Nan pointed out to us is that the code is really one aspect of what the town will have, and then also, there’s a set of tools that we will bring to the town as well…Those tools are things like incentives for property owners that would help the property owners design or bring their property more aligned with us and of our town and the character of our town and, and maybe even also to make it more environmentally aligned with our values, meaning a more energy efficient home would be an incentive as well.”
One example is to use dwellings per acre instead of lot size, which would allow clustering and more efficient use of space, he said.
The task force is also looking at changes to the town’s accessory dwelling unit law. An ADU is a second small living space like an apartment above a garage, a backyard cottage or a basement converted into an apartment.
Updates to the zoning code will be reviewed in the coming weeks and completed by February for feedback in March.
“And then together working with you, and the other committees, we want to bring this to the communities so that by May, the town will have a really solid sense of where it wants to go, and will be able to submit to the county Planning Board for their review and comments,” De Wan said.
“So by June, you’ll have some feedback from the county, and you can move forward to proceed with revising the zoning code, in keeping with the work that we’ve been doing together.”
The update to the Town Board was the first in a series of meetings with other boards and committees, Ritchey said. “Essentially, what we’re doing is going to each of the town’s committees and boards and sharing this similar information as to what we’re doing. At that point, we’re opening up to each of them an opportunity to interface with us, the task force, on the aspects of the housing code that has directly to do with those committees.”