Woodstock wants hearing of halfway houses

WOODSTOCK – The Town Council and Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7:20 p.m. March 6 to receive public comment regarding halfway houses.

The town has drafted new ordinance language that would make licensing a halfway house contingent on a special use permit, giving the town oversight over them, said town manager Angela Clem.

Woodstock treats halfway houses like boarding houses, which means the town has minimal control.

A special use permit would require a public hearing, a recommendation from the Planning Commission, notification of adjacent property owners and then approval from the Town Council, she said.

A halfway house moved into a building on the 200 block of North Main Street a couple years ago.

Clem said the existence of the home highlighted an issue with the town’s ordinances.

“That alerted us to the fact that we needed to exercise some control over the use in the zoning code,” she said. “We did not have any language in our code, so as a best practice, we added it.”

A new ordinance also defines a halfway house as:

“Halfway House means a residential facility for persons on release from more restrictive custodial confinement where supervision, rehabilitation and counseling are provided to mainstream residents back into society, enabling them to live independently.”

These homes would be allowed in areas zoned  both high density residential and the central business district, where the current halfway house is located. High density residential encompasses the most diverse housing types within the residential zones in the town and the central business district is in the middle of the town close to the resources associated with business and public safety, said Lemuel Hancock, Woodstock urban designer and neighborhood planner.