Former valley real estate agent looks to fill rental-housing need

WOODSTOCK – The town of Woodstock is considering a proposal from a former valley resident to develop new apartments from unused residential lots.

Joel Soorenko, a retired real estate agent and construction contractor living in southern Florida, wants to build new apartment buildings in vacant, already developed residential lots in the Village Commons development along Lora Drive.

Soorenko, who used to live in Front Royal and previously worked for Weichert Realty, is looking to get the lines for 16 residential lots vacated. The lots were initially approved and developed in 2006 for the construction of 37 town houses. However, Soorenko said that development was never fully completed due to the recession.

“I feel that the highest and best use of the land in this economic climate is rent, because not everyone has a down payment to buy a house,” Soorenko said.

He added, “That’s what I saw … a higher need for rental property than building things for sale.”

Diana Crisman, of Holler Realty in Woodstock, is representing Soorenko as his Realtor in this matter. She said that she believes the area surrounding Woodstock, Toms Brook, Edinburg and Maurertown is in need of affordable renting options.

“It’s a hot area that people want to be in, and you can’t find enough rentals for people,” she said. “As a Realtor, I get at least three-to-four calls a day for a rental.”

Soorenko said the Village Commons development already has pieces in place for apartments to be constructed. It is zoned R-3 high density residential, which according to town code, allows for multifamily dwellings such as apartments.

Lemuel Hancock, the town’s urban designer and neighborhood planner, said the 16 lots in questions have infrastructure set up from when the site was initially approved.

“You can actually see where the plumbing and all of that kind of stuff has been … set up for those houses to be built as originally approved.”

The town allows for 25 housing units in cul-de-sacs. Hancock said the town granted the project an exception when it was first approved in 2005. The town would have to amend that exception for this proposal.

“If he wants to develop this in a different way, he’s going to have to rip up the infrastructure that he’s already put in,” Hancock said.

However, 16 of the 37 approved housing lots went undeveloped due the recession, Soorenko noted.

Soorenko said the apartments would most likely be three two-story buildings containing 34 units that would be a mix of one and two-bedroom affordable apartments.

“With 34 units as opposed to 16 units, that’s a lot more revenue for the town. It’s going to create more personal property tax,” Soorenko said.

The Woodstock Planning Commission will discuss the Village Commons lots at its Sept. 22 meeting, and will provide its recommendation to town council.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com