Residents express concern over apartment proposal
WOODSTOCK – Several residents of the Village Commons development are voicing their concerns over a possible apartment development that has been proposed by former valley resident Joel Soorenko.
Soorenko is looking to get the town’s approval on the vacation of 16 lots in that development in order to potentially construct new apartment structures.
Crystal Delawder, a resident of Village Commons, created a petition on Change.org (http://chn.ge/1NzSyVp) to present to town officials at upcoming meetings. She indicated that the neighbors in the development are unanimously against the proposal.
“I’ve haven’t come across anyone who has said, ‘oh no, it’s a great idea,” Delawder said, noting that the online petition has garnered 32 signatures so far – with around 50 more physical signatures.
Delawder, 33, said she moved into the development in 2010 “initially because it was a beautiful area when you drive back there, (it’s) close, centrally located for everything in town.”
Soorenko has indicated that he is potentially hoping to develop around two or three two-story apartments with 34 single and double-bedroom units.
“I have a daughter who is going to be a year old,” Delawder said. “There are a lot of children in that development … personally, I really think that it’s just not safe to put that many housing units in a cul-de-sac.”
She added, “That’s just my primary concern, is just the safety of the neighborhood.”
Delawder, like many of the other residents in the development, said she also moved there because she was under the impression that it was going to be completed as a town housing development.
The same is true for Walt Mills – a 69-year-old retired funeral director who moved into Village Commons nearly 12 years ago as its first resident.
“I bought in this neighborhood under the assumption that the builder would complete the project – that it would be finished with all duplexes on this cul-de-sac,” Mills said.
He added, “I feel like (Soorenko) has abandoned this project for 10 years now, and he has come back now with another plan to unload the property for some other developer.”
Mills, 69, indicated that, due to the size of the neighborhood, adding 100 residents with new apartments would be “disastrous” and cause major congestion issues for the residents.
“It’s too tight. It’s not that long of a cul-de-sac and it’s too many people in this condensed area,” he said. “If the street went through and came back on (U.S.) 11 … it would be a different story.”
On top of the congestion issues, Mills said he originally purchased two units in Village Commons, with the goal of leasing the additional house as a way to make money.
Although he said the units have been occupied, Mills noted that he recently sold the second unit and took a $20,000 hit – after investing a total of $175,000 on the property.
“Of course, nobody anticipated the bottom falling out five years ago,” Mills said, referencing the 2009-2010 recession and subsequent housing crisis.
Soorenko has cited the recession and the tumbling housing market as major factor in the development’s incompletion. He also mentioned that he believes an apartment complex would fill a need for rental units in Woodstock – cited possible benefits in the form of personal property tax revenue.
Delawder said, “I’m not disputing that at all, I’m sure that both of those are valid. My concern is just that, since the town presently says that 25 units on (a) cul-de-sac … is sort of the guideline right now – we would be more than doubling that.”
In order for Soorenko’s proposal to be approved, the town would need to approve an exception to its ordinance of 25 units per cul-de-sac.
That exception was approved in 2005, when the project was slated to include 37 housing units. Only 21 of the houses were actually completed as planned – leaving 16 vacant lots.
The Woodstock Planning Commission will be discussing this proposal at its Sept. 22 meeting. Delawder indicated that she and several other Village Commons residents will be attending the meeting.
She said they are hoping to get a few more signatures before handing a copy of the petition to the Woodstock Planning Commission at the end of this week.
Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org