After Woodstock’s planning board reversed a previous decision, an Easton Lane property owner will get to harvest trees from his 87-acre woodlot, despite objections from neighbors. “We have put more restrictions on this timber harvest than any I’ve ever done before,” planning board chair Peter Cross said at the January 5 meeting, when the board voted in favor of the permit. Cross said the timber harvest had been a DEC-permitted operation for more than 30 years, and the planning board had to approve it.
Planning board secretary Melissa Gray said her extensive research on the matter had found that more than three-quarters of timber harvests in the state did not have permits, while this operation has been under DEC jurisdiction for three decades. “These are the people you want,” she said. “If he doesn’t abide by what he signed up for, he is fined.”
A review by the town highway department had provided more information, according to Gray. A letter from forester Anthony Del Vescovo, who manages the timber harvests, had also requested reconsideration.
The board granted the permit for only one year.
One Easton Lane resident, Adam Snyder, joined the January 5 meeting via Zoom after being tipped off that the timber harvest would be discussed under unfinished business. He said neighbors weren’t objecting to the timber harvest itself, but wanted to make sure their concerns about safety and noise were taken into consideration.
On November 3, the planning board had deadlocked at three to three on granting a six-month trial run on November 3. Those opposed cited a dramatic change in the neighborhood since the land was first logged. “There was a time when these type of permits were logical. Harvesting timber in certain areas of town made sense,” said planning board member John LaValle in November. “I do not think it makes sense any longer for Easton Lane.”
Resident Snyder echoed LaValle’s sense of a changed neighborhood. “There are houses [that] have been built, houses have been improved upon, and houses have been added to,” he said. “And also, like, a lot of people moved up from the city and invested a lot of money in it. It’s not like little shacks there. These are primary residences now.”
Chair Peter Cross saw the situation in narrower terms. “The issue is it’s a public highway, and it falls under all the regulations of any public highway,” he said. “If somebody’s going to build a house there, there’s going to be a cement truck. The town police can deal with any issues. The planning-board issue was: Is the landing safe, which we looked at twice. It’s a safe landing, and we really can’t deny it.”
Restrictions, also proposed in November, limit the hours of operation to weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., allowing only truck loading on the weekends. Trucks are required to use four-way flashers and limit speed to ten miles per hour on Easton Lane. Trucks cannot use Easton Lane during school bus pickup and drop-off hours. Logging can only be done when the ground is dry, frozen or snow-covered, and in order to minimize erosion when water levels are low.
With the resignation of Conor Wenk and the expiration of vice-chair Stuart Lipkind’s term, the five-to-one vote to approve the Easton Lane project came after two new members, Jennifer Drue and Graydon Yearick, were appointed. Brian Normoyle, who voted against the permit in November, voted against it this time, too. John LaValle was absent.
Adam Snyder seemed reconciled to continuing changes of the Woodstock landscape through future development.
“The concern on the street is that they’re going to develop it, anyway,” he said. “I kind of see the writing on the wall. Every square inch of Woodstock that that isn’t built on already, somebody’s angling for it and you kind of can’t really blame them. It’s an attractive place. People want to be here and do things here, so it’s just a matter of kind of making it done in such a way that it doesn’t despoil the environment or encroach too much on people who are already here.”