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Supervisor to hold meeting on Woodstock school project

By Alex Bridges

A proposal to build housing at the former Woodstock School for elderly residents comes before Shenandoah County leaders later this month.

A county supervisor says she worries the school -- no longer under consideration for development by a nonprofit agency -- could fall into further disrepair if left abandoned.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey plans to give constituents a chance to weigh in on the issue at a town hall meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Monday in the government center boardroom at 600 N. Main St., Woodstock.

People Inc., a nonprofit group based in Abingdon, has proposed to build housing for elderly residents on the smaller of two lots that make up the Woodstock School site. County leaders a year ago endorsed a plan to transfer the smaller parcel to People Inc. after the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging pulled back on a plan to develop the entire school site. But, as Bailey pointed out, she and some other county residents did not realize that transfer no longer included the school lot.

Bailey went door-to-door on Court Street in town Thursday and spoke to three residents who live adjacent to the old school, she said. They told her they did not know the new plan with People Inc. did not include the school site.

"They were for the project if the old school was going to be used," Bailey said. "They are not for the project if the old school is not going to be used. They do not want just houses down there. They want that school to be used."

The school has been vacant since about 2000. But as Bailey noted, the building has fallen into disrepair. She said Court Street residents also see that building each day. Bailey said that, according to information she has received, the county has not spent much money on maintenance or repairs on the building.

Residents expected People Inc. to renovate the school interior and put it to use as the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging had planned and the county approved in 2009. The SAAA fell on tough financial times and couldn't move forward on the project. People Inc. was able to take grants awarded to SAAA for the elderly housing construction project. People Inc. did not pursue renovation of the school.

"They want us to find someone who is going to use that building," Bailey said. "If we're not going to use it for what we said originally, then let's come up with a new plan, and that's what I'm hearing," she said.

Bailey also has questioned whether or not the need for elderly housing exists and asked if People Inc. had conducted a market study. People Inc.'s Bryan Phipps said the SAAA had a study done about four years ago when the agency pursued the project.

At the board's Jan. 2 work session, members agreed to set a public hearing for its Jan. 28 meeting on the partial transfer of the county property. Bailey had asked the board to allow her time to hold a town hall meeting at which residents who wish to speak would not be limited to the three minutes usually allowed at public hearings.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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