WOODSTOCK -- Plans for 70 condos, 32 townhomes and 8,400 square feet of commercial or office space along Woodstock’s Main Street will be further reviewed after facing fierce criticism from neighbors and concerns from the Woodstock Planning Commission on Thursday.
The planning commission voted unanimously to table the request for rezoning from applicant Pope & Land, citing unanswered questions regarding the privacy of neighbors, the amount of commercial space on the 7.38-acre property at 8859, 8959, 9021 and 9025 Main St., as well as other concerns.
The developers’ proposal calls for the 70 condo units and office space along the Main Street frontage, with the 32 detached townhomes -- standing about 40 feet tall, some three-story and some four -- pushing further back on the property.
Parks Huff, the attorney representing the developers, said because of a 2006 zoning approval, the development is already entitled to hold 54 condos above 30,000 square feet of commercial or office space. The density in that case was approved at 20 units per acre, and a height variance was also approved to allow 60-foot-tall buildings at Main Street and 70-foot buildings at the rear of a portion of the property. Huff also noted that the previously approved buffer between the property and area residents could be as small as five feet, but said developers understood area residents would want more privacy. The plan proposed on Thursday called for 15-foot buffers.
Twenty people spoke during the public hearing, most of whom lived in the adjacent Serenade subdivision and were in opposition to the plan as it stood. Concerns included an increase in traffic in the already congested area, sewer drainage and erosion, a call for more commercial and less residential, privacy of Serenade residents, lack of input from those residents and the preservation of a historic home that currently sits on the property.
An attorney representing Woodstock Funeral Home, adjacent the subject property, also spoke, saying that the funeral home is opposed to the current site plan’s suggestion that an entrance to be built as a continuation of Dupree Road across Main Street could serve as both the funeral home’s entrance and an entrance for the new development.
Christian Wulfers, president of the Serenade homeowners association gave a presentation during his address of the planning commission. Before he ran through his list of concerns, he asked the Serenade residents in the nearly full chambers to raise their hands -- nearly all the attendees did.
“We really need to get this right the first time. I’ve got some of the same questions that you’ve got,” Wulfers said, addressing commissioners. “We’re not trying to stop this development, but in its current form, it should be tabled to do a little bit more homework before we take a massive property in downtown Woodstock .”
He added that, though he had reached out to developers throughout their planning process, many of the Serenade residents questions and concerns had not been addressed until the evening of the presentation.
Two of the public’s speakers said they were in favor of the proposal, but still had concerns about certain aspects. One woman, a Serenade resident, said she thought the plan would be “very important” to diversifying the city’s tax base, but questioned why developers on the recently approved Mason Main development nearby thought 10,000 square feet of commercial could be viable when the night’s proposal only offered 8,400 square feet.
In his rebuttal, Huff said there was always room for improvement in communication, but noted also that developers had made certain aspects of their plans available to neighbors throughout the process. He reiterated the entitlements that the developers are allowed on the property and argued that increasing buffers or decreasing height of buildings could drop number of units and price points in the development.
Huff also said they he would be happy to continue working with residents to improve their privacy and better address their concerns.
During the commission’s discussion, it was apparent there was a consensus. Commissioners said they felt there were too many “holes” to confidently move forward with the project at this point, and they questioned the reason that 8,400 square feet of commercial or office space was what had been labeled “viable” for the property.
“I feel like there are a lot of unanswered questions. I agree that this is a prominent piece of property that needs to be done right one time. So I’m not comfortable putting it forward at this point. I would table it and get answers to a list of items,” said Commissioner Renee Gable.
Commission Chairman James Drinkard added a reprimand of Huff prior to a vote to table the case, saying that more should have been done to include adjacent property owners in the planning and to address their concerns.
The case is expected to return to the planning commission on Feb. 7. The Woodstock Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at the Chambers at City Center, 8534 Main St. in downtown Woodstock.