Apartment proposal downed

WOODSTOCK – The Woodstock Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the town deny a proposal to vacate property lines for a possible apartment development at its meeting Tuesday night.

Former area resident, realtor and contractor Joel Soorenko submitted a proposal to the town this past summer to vacate 17 lots in the Village Commons development on Lora Drive on the southern end of town.

Soorenko has said that he is looking to possibly develop between two and three two-story apartment buildings that could house up to 50 additional residents.

With the commission’s vote Tuesday, town council now has to decide whether to approve or deny Soorenko’s proposal at its Oct. 6 meeting.

The planning commission’s recommendation came following a lengthy public comment period in which 10 residents of Lora Drive unanimously spoke in opposition of Soorenko’s proposal.

The residents voiced concerns of constant power surges, break-ins, water and sewer overflows and safety concerns for the children of that neighborhood.

Resident Crystal Delawder began a petition against the proposal, and stated Tuesday night that it has garnered 73 signees on Change.org and 42 physical signatures.

Delawder urged the town to “consider the families and consider the children, because the safety of allowing this number of people on a cul-de-sac really concerns us.”

Resident Nancy Santry spoke to the town about water and sewer back up that she has experienced in the development.

“I had, on March 19, 2008, a sewer back-up in my basement, which was determined to be the fault of the town,” Santry said, noting that she was told by a town official “there was too much building for the sewer” in that area.

Santry added that she has also experienced flooding on her side yard during rain – which she noted was caused by water running down the neighborhood into her yard.

Chris Sibert, also a resident of Lora Drive, said that residents of that street experience power outages two-three times per week.

“It’s a little spurt, about 10-15 minutes or maybe an hour,” Sibert said. “We’re not on the right circuit already, and you want to add in a couple of apartment complexes with at least … eight apartments in each building.”

Two realtors with Holler Reality – the firm representing Soorenko in this situation – spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.

Alisa Eberly, a realtor with Holler, said, “One thing to think about, there’s 16 lots there that are two to three bedroom each. (Soorenko) is looking at one bedroom to two bedroom apartments.”

Eberly added, “If they went on with the development of the units, really you’re not looking at a whole lot of extra folks if you are looking a one- to two-bedroom unit.”

Diana Crisman, a Realtor with Holler and Soorenko’s representative, noted that Soorenko does have a mortgage on the property and that if the proposal is not approved, that it would go up for auction.

Town Manager Dr. Reid Wodicka addressed the residents’ concerns at the meeting, stating, “We felt that, since this was a fundamental change to the development … that it was appropriate to have a public process.”

Wodicka expressed a concern that the town “has very little knowledge what is actually going to occur” if the lot lines were vacated.

“The appropriate way to go through this process would be for the developer to follow the subdivision ordinance,” Wodicka said, noting that a developer could present commission with an optional sketch plat.

“It gives the opportunity for planning commission to give comments back in a certain amount of time … and then it would go to a preliminary process, where we would talk about how we would deal with water and sewer,” Wodicka added.

Walter Mills, a resident of Lora Drive, also presented planning commission with covenants restrictions that were in place when he first purchased two units in June of 2004.

Mills noted the restrictions state, “no lot shall be used for any purpose other than construction of residential dwellings, single-family detached, duplex, triplex or quadplex.”

Town Attorney A.T. Mitchell said that, even if the town approves Soorenko’s petition proposal, it would have to deal with the restrictive covenants – which he added can be enforced by the landowners.

“The town has no interest in restrictive covenants – those are put on each lot that’s sold in that entire development and it’s there for the protection of each land owner,” Mitchell added.

Pending council’s decision on Oct. 6, Planning Commissioner Keith Lantz said, “The developer’s going to have to come back with his plans and show us what exactly (he) wants to do.”

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