Residents sound off on Woodstock Commons
By WILLIAM J. KEMBLE
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WOODSTOCK — Town Planning Board members on Thursday heard diametrically opposing views during a public hearing on the proposed 53-unit Woodstock Commons project.
The hearing attracted a standing-room-only audience of more than 200 people at the Woodstock Community Center.
Support for the project proposed for 27 acres behind the Bradley Meadows shopping plaza on state Route 212 came from residents who said there has been a long-standing need for affordable housing.
“Eleven years ago I first moved to Woodstock as a single mother of two,” resident Carol Buskey said. “In the first four years I lived here I moved three times. This was either due to substandard housing, houses that were expensive to heat because they were not insulated, it was due in some cases to being at the mercy of absentee landlords and eventually it was due to (a) rent increase that made it financially prohibitive to live there anymore.”
Resident Nadia Steinzor noted the proposed site was recommended by the town Affordable Housing Committee, which in 2003 invited the Rural Ulster Preservation Corp. to propose a plan for affordable residential units.
“Since that time the town has done virtually nothing to advance affordable housing or comprehensive planning,” she said. “Despite that Woodstock’s own zoning law includes guidelines to encourage the development of low- and moderate-income and senior citizens’ housing in the town.”
Resident Steve Yoder said concerns over additional vehicles were understandable but were not consistent with existing traffic problems.
“Our biggest traffic problems are not the result of full-time residents but of Woodstock’s status as a weekend and summer destination,” he said.
The project was proposed about five years ago and reduced to the current 53 units after opposition was voiced at past public informational sessions to an 81-unit proposal that included a community center and was later changed to a 63-unit proposal without the center.
Among consistent concerns was the effect on wetlands and wildlife due to traffic during construction.
Resident Andrea Newman-Winston said lighting needed for the project would shine onto her property.
“RUPCO’s need to put in proper lighting, which may resemble the lighting for Dietz Stadium, is understandable but it will disturb the dark of the uninhabited area, the wildlife that resides in that area and all the neighbors in the area and on the mountain that looks down on this area,” she said.
“If this project continues on the site now proposed my house will be all but destroyed,” Newman-Winston said. “The increased traffic will increase the vibrations my house needs to withstand. The traffic will increase the dust in the air opening up problems to my house and to my health.”
Ulster County Legislator Donald J. Gregorius, D-Woodstock, said anticipated problems with the project outweigh the proposed benefits and that property tax rates will increase because of breaks given to RUPCO.
“It is reasonable to believe that eligible at-risk people from surrounding towns and counties will be applying to live here and that (there will be a limited) window of opportunity for Woodstockers to get housing in Woodstock Commons,” he said. “Yet, other Woodstockers will be subsidizing the project.”
Resident Peter Remler also said the project is not expected to benefit people who currently live in the town.
“We began this venture with the express purpose of providing affordable housing for the people of Woodstock but since the project fell into the hands of outsiders its purpose has become subverted and now it serves their interest, not ours,” he said. “RUPCO’s selections will be chosen by lottery open to all. In fact, it’s quite possible not a single Woodstocker will ever live there.”
The public hearing, which heard from about half of the 90 people signed up for comment, was recessed until 6 p.m. next Thursday at the Community Center.