A Woodstock panel tasked with finding ways to encourage more affordable housing in the town is poised to give its final recommendations May 31.
The report came about after the Town Board enacted a moratorium on development of so-called transient housing, or anything that is not long-term, such as hotels, motels and short-term rentals. This pause has given the housing Task Force, Planning Board, Zoning Revision Committee and other boards time to revise the town’s zoning regulations to make more housing available and give developers incentives to build it.
The Housing Oversight Task Force, having tackled the problem for the last 10 months, gave a progress update to the Town Board on May 10.
In its final report will be recommended changes to the town’s 300-page zoning code to include ways to make it more worthwhile for developers to build housing that people who work in town can afford.
The task force will highlight what changes were made and where to find them when it releases its recommendations on May 31. It will then allow some time for officials and the public to digest the changes. “And then we would like to come back and have a question-and-answer session that’s a little bit more rooted in the material, because it’s really a lot,” task force co-chair Deborah DeWan said.
She gave kudos to Ed Sanders and the team that worked on the last zoning code revisions.
“And we think we’re going to improve and bring up into the 21st century, things that we need in our town now, and we’re also trying to look toward the future,” DeWan said. “The main approach that we’ve taken from the comprehensive plan and your charge is all of our work has been really looking to harmonize the needs for housing, in our community, with protecting the environment, and putting that into the code, front and center and having it be there for the entire town.”
Part of the task force’s work was to bring in outside expertise, and that was done through cooperation with Nan Stolzenburg, principal consulting planner at Community Planning & Environmental Associates in Berne, N.Y. “So on the 31st, we will be able to give you a larger perspective, and then provide the entire call to the boards and committees at that point, Co-Chair Kirk Ritchey said. “And then they will probably be wanting to know more about how the Planning Board thinks about it and how the ZBA feels about it and such, and so those are the things that we will we will be interacting with after we meet with all of you on the 31st.”
Councilwoman Laura Ricci thanked the task force members for their countless hours of work. “Each individual has brought so much to the table, so much perspective and opinions,” she said. “And the way Kirk and Deborah have guided it, everybody gets a chance to speak. And we reached consensus, almost every vote has been a whole consensus on things because the disagreements get all discussed, and by the time we’re finished, everybody has a good feel for the same way to go, because everybody’s opinions get talked out.”
After various boards and committees review the recommendations and offer input, it will be given to the Ulster County Planning Board, which will provide input.
“At the end of the day, this will be an amendment to the zoning law, which will require its own separate public hearing,” Supervisor Bill McKenna said.
“This is going to be a four- to six-month process.”
The task force’s recommendations will be released at a special Town Board meeting May 31 at 7 p.m. and will be posted on the town website, woodstockny.org, the following day.
“I just want to remind everybody when we started this back in February or March, I said part of the goal here is to work to make development easier,” McKenna said. “Protect our environment, but make development easier. So we’re not trying to cut back on what people can do. We’re trying to make things fit into the community more…incentivize development so that we can get more affordable housing.”