Sunday, September 25, 2011

Woodstock, NY: Taking The "Fun" Out Of Dysfunctional

As the architect for Woodstock Commons, a 53-unit affordable and senior living community, I thought I had seen and experienced everything a small town planning board could throw at a proposed mid-sized residential development, over an excruciating, mind-numbing, patience-testing, grossly over-regulated 5-1/2 year planning review process.

I was wrong.

Caving and capitulating to the constant, harping annoyances of provocateur Robin Segal and SAGE (Sensible Action for Growth and Environment)  ringleader, Iris York, Woodstock Planning Board chair Paul Shultis, Jr. called an unprecedented hearing AFTER construction was well under way - ostensibly due to violations committed by the developer.  I can understand that he had to react in some manner to the concerns of York, Segal, and several neighbors et al., but to react by threatening to revoke the S.U.P. (special use permit) was nothing short of reckless and ham-handed.

Where was self-described environmentalist Iris York when the wetlands behind Bradley Meadows (the small shopping center on Mill Hill Road) was being illegally dumped in during the years prior to Woodstock Commons being proposed?  Or when homeless people set up unhealthy camps, literally IN the wetlands?  I guess she found her true environmental religion only when it suited her own self interests.

Where was Robin Segal during the first three years of intensive SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) and Planning Board review?  Not living in Woodstock or anywhere near, for one.  As a very recent resident, she sees fit to slam the door shut after her arrival.  What a self-important hypocrite, dressing up her concerns of governmental oversight as a faux-intellectual wolf-in-sheep's clothing.

Where was Paul Shultis, Jr. in the year since unanimous, conditional SUP approval was issued, during which time detailed, final public funding and private financing logistics were being ironed out, and a building approval was being obtained?  More importantly, where was he since construction started in late July, and why didn't he go through the proper channels before calling a public hearing based upon the emotional, unsupported accusations of messrs. York and Segal?  Instead of knee-jerking, placating, and appeasing, Mr. Shultis, Jr. should have done some homework and consulted with the Town attorney.  He did not, and in the process poured fuel on an arbitrary fire, lending credence to complaints that bear no credibility.

The merits of Woodstock Commons have never been acknowledged by its single-minded critics.  Instead, they suggest "spreading out" affordable dwellings throughout town, seemingly unaware that this is an economically unfeasible approach, ill-advised for accessibility, creates excessive vehicle travel, and would take decades to address the affordable housing crisis that exists - and must be solved - today.  Not one existing property has been identified or suggested, because no such properties are technically "affordable" in Woodstock, a second-home enclave where real estate values are out of reach for most residents - both its renters and prospective home owners.  

The energy invested in combatting this benign housing is entirely misplaced.  The very few residents in direct opposition, together in concert with an overwhelmed, exasperated volunteer planning board, are determined to redefine the reticence foisted upon fair housing initiatives well beyond the NIMBY and BANANA banners ("not in my backyard," and "build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything").  It's so nice when you have your own comfy home, why worry about others who may be suffering, unable to find a home close to where they work, living in tight quarters with their families,  struggling to keep up with tax payments on a fixed income or after losing a loved one.  Better to feign great compassion for the Indiana Bat habitat than for one's neighbors in Woodstock, at least in the world according to York and Segal.          

Woodstock Commons will survive this latest barrage of arbitrary nonsense, and ultimately become an integral part of the larger Woodstock community.  I know a number of my old Woodstock neighbors - one in particular forced out of town due to no available housing - are looking forward to opening day.  I will rejoice, and take solace that perhaps Woodstock will be functional once again.  And fun, for the enjoyment and healthy living of ALL.   

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