A third sketch plan for a proposed seven-unit motel at 1, 3 and 5 Calamar Lane in Woodstock was presented to the town planning board on September 7. A devastating 2018 fire at the site had destroyed a home and apartment buildings and displaced families.
Michael Arnstein, who purchased the property from Peter Walker, had planned to build single-family homes there, but last year changed course, deciding instead to seek approval for a motel spanning five buildings.
Brad Will, the project architect, had last appeared before the planning board in January. Since then, professional planner Nan Stolzenberg has reviewed the proposal for the town and made several recommendations. Stolzenberg has also consulted with the town on a sweeping series of zoning changes.
“We’ve reviewed that carefully, and took a lot of what she had to say to heart and responded to that,” Will said. “We have also engaged with the New York State DEC for stream disturbance for the rebuilt cottage, which was razed earlier that had originally overhung the Tannery Brook, and for the remaining pedestrian suspension foot bridge, since we took one out and we took the tent platform out and we moved the fire pit much more centrally.”
Will noted a study conducted by Creighton Manning had shown no significant traffic impact. “If I could just say in just a very brief summary, the traffic report shows no impact really beyond what was there before the 2018 fire. So it’s very low to no impact in terms of more or less traffic,” Will said.
Michael Arnstein’s son Sam provided a bit of family history. “I’ve been coming here since I can’t even remember how long,” he said. “Since I was a little kid, my family has been coming to Woodstock, and it’s been really nice to come out here every fall, sometimes in the summers, if it’s not too hot. But the fall foliage is what really keeps bringing us back.”
He said he had been working with his dad on the project and was really excited to get into it.
“It’s a nice father-son bonding project that we’ve been working on,” he said. “And I’d really just like to have the opportunity to kind of share this with people. I brought my friends out here a couple times, and we had to camp out because there weren’t really lots of accommodations out here.”
The site proposal includes a comprehensive plan for lush flora on the property, including vegetable gardens. The Arnsteins have enlisted Lisa Taranto, who specializes in ecological landscape design, to help.
“To me, what’s really exciting about this project is that it’s a blank slate in a town center, where we have an opportunity to really rebuild an ecological system that has been compromised by human use and by buildings being torn down,” Taranto said. “And right now the soil is just compacted, and it’s full of invasive species, which is a normal thing that happens after a disturbance. Invasive species is a really big issue, a really big problem. And so we have an opportunity here to create a landscape in an environment that really integrates human use and use for all living things.”
A bocce — lawn bowling — court with an adjacent pergola is planned. Bocce, Taranto said, “was not a very rowdy game, but really fun, and all levels and all ages can play.”
Guests could also avail themselves in the bounty of a fenced-in vegetable garden.
“There’s a little kitchenette in each motel, and they can go out and pick veggies, probably three and a half seasons available of food being produced here,” Taranto explained. “The real kind of mood or tone that we are intending to create here is a really quiet, contemplative place for people to just really come and be quiet and calm down and enjoy nature and recharge.”
Taranto said the plants were going to need a significant amount of water for the first three to five years, but a lot of that could be captured from rainfall.
The project detractors consist mainly of a group of neighbors concerned about increased noise and traffic. Several homes in the area have “No Calamar Lane Motel” signs in their yards.
Some would have preferred a plan for long-term housing instead of lodging for tourists and visitors.
Will has indicated the Arnsteins do not plan to permit large-scale events on the property.
Some neighbors expressed concern that foot bridges would encourage increased foot traffic on and near the Comeau property. The latest plan has eliminated one of the foot bridges.
Stolzenberg will review the revised plans and submit recommendations to the planning board.