Meetings to shed light on the changing face of Woodstock

·4 min read

A trio of public events in the upcoming weeks will focus on the changing face of Woodstock development.

In his report to council at the Sept. 13 council meeting, CAO Andrew Garnett announced plans for upcoming meetings addressing significant changes to three prominent Woodstock properties.

The PAC will host a public meeting on Sept. 20 regarding variances needed to allow construction of a 75-unit apartment building on the site of the former Woodstock Baptist Church in downtown Woodstock.

On Sept. 26, Garnett noted, the town plans to host a funding announcement regarding upgrades to Woodstock's iconic Town Square in the heart of the town's downtown core.

On Oct. 4, the development company, which purchased the former Woodstock Middle School at the corner of Green and Elm streets, and the town will host an open house outlining plans for the property.

The PAC, which initially scheduled its Baptist Church-property meeting for Monday, Sept. 19, delayed it a day to respect the National Day of Mourning for Queen Elizabeth II. The meeting will take place, starting at 6:30 a.m., at the Woodstock Golf and Curling Club.

The PAC meeting expects to draw a considerable crowd to hear about plans for the large downtown structure housing 73 apartment units and two retail units.

The public notification notes PAC must deal with two specific variances required for developers to proceed with the project. First, Woodstock's Downtown Commercial Centre Zone regulations limit building height to 18 metres. The proposed building's average maximum height will reach 21.07 metres.

Deputy Mayor Amy Anderson, a council representative on the PAC, offered a detailed explanation on social media surrounding council's approval of the proposed plan, which addressed the variance requirements.

Regarding the building height, Anderson explained the number reflects the average height, noting it will sit on a sloped lot. While it requires a three-metre variance, Anderson said the former church was actually more than a metre taller.

The second variance addresses the number of parking spaces. While the proposed plan requires 95 under town bylaws, the applicant submitted 84 underground and above-ground spaces.

Anderson said a detailed parking study of the Main Street area, including the Woodstock courthouse across the street from the planned development, indicates ample parking to allow the variance.

The downtown property likely to feel the most significant impact from the massive apartment complex is Crossing Paths Guest House, which sits next to the development. Owner Shaun Albright, whose RFP proposed subdividing the church property and allowing him to build a six-to-eight-unit building with increased parking for Crossing Paths.

The proposal also included an entertainment venue fronting Main Street.

Albright's existing Crossing Paths building provides private party rentals, four rooms designed for short-term stays and one for full-time live-in tenants.

"Parking for me will definitely be an issue as I will be down to two parking spots on my property," he told the River Valley Sun.

He said the current plan basically eliminates future development for his business.

Albright said he plans to attend the Sept. 20 meeting.

Responding to Anderson's detailed social media post, Albright said he's not opposed to the approved development but wants to be heard about the lack of parking, which poses a risk to the future of Crossing Paths Guest House.

The Town of Woodstock post on its website announcing the PAC meeting asks that anyone wishing to make a written or verbal presentation should contact town staff by Frida0y, Sept. 16.

Written submissions of comments and concerns, including name and address, should be sent to the Town Clerk by noon Sept. 16. Written submissions are accepted via email at\

The public notice for the PAC meeting on the town's website includes drawings and details of the proposed 75-unit building.

The planned Town Square funding announcement on Sept. 26 should provide funding stability to the long-awaited enhancement at the corner of Main and King Street. Plans to upgrade Kierstead Court began in 2018.

Under the plan, the square will undergo structural and aesthetic improvements, including water and sewer upgrades, new sidewalk bricks, appearance changes and several other enhancements.

At previous council meetings, Garnett explained financing for the town square project would come from the town and the Regional Development Corporation (RDC). If the RDC takes on 50 per cent of the total costs as town officials hope, the CAO estimates the town's share to be in the $650,000 range.

The Oct. 4 Open House at the AYR Motor Centre Gallery Room will give the public a glimpse at the developer's long-range plans for the Woodstock Middle School, another prominent and historic Woodstock property.

The developers purchased the school, which sat empty since its closure in 2015, from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure last year.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun