Founders Crossing halted again

Plan Commission recommends denial for controversial development

The Woodstock Plan Commission members remained largely unimpressed with the proposed Founders Crossing housing development plan Thursday.

Developers Kenneth and Rhonda Rawson have been trying to gain traction on a dense housing development near the Square since February and have been met with resistance. The father-daughter team wants to build 82 single-family homes and two apartment buildings on 11.5 acres.

The commission has recommended the project be denied twice in the past and voted the same way at Thursday’s special meeting, with only Commissioner Don Fortin voting against the negative recommendation.

The plan originally called for
92 homes with no apartments, but commissioners said they wanted higher-density, compact housing and commercial or retail space for the prominent site, located off Clay and First streets near the railroad.

The developers didn’t have designs for the freshly added apartment buildings at Thursday’s meeting, which provoked criticism from the commission.

Commissioner Doreen Paluch said she felt the developers were trying to dupe the city.

“You are dangling these apartments in front of us with no specific plans,” she said. “I don’t feel you are sincere in your desire to build those apartment buildings.”

The developers currently are negotiating a development agreement with the city that would address that concern, Building and Zoning Director Joe Napolitano said.

The apartments are planned for the last phase of the Founders Crossing development and one option would be for the city to revoke the $1.6 million in tax increment financing district funds offered to the developer if the apartments aren’t built, Napolitano said.

The goal is to complete the project in four years, with the apartments coming in the final, fourth phase, Kenneth Rawson said.

The four-story apartment buildings would have parking on the first floor with six 1,100-square-foot apartment units on the second, third and fourth floors, according to planning documents. There would be 27 required parking spots a building, according to planning documents. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments would be “higher end” with extra storage space and in-unit laundry, Kenneth Rawson said.

Some commissioners expressed support for the plan concept but critiqued how crowded the layout seemed.

“I don’t think we are trying to be difficult. I think we are trying to do the right thing for the city,” said Commissioner Arturo Flores. “You are going in the right direction but for some reason I feel there is more work to be done. This is just too much.”

Residents voiced concerns about drainage problems and potential flooding, traffic, narrow streets and alleyways, and whether the development would have a negative effect on the area.

Resident Allen Stebbins said most important was the prominence of the site.

“I come back to the fact that this is the most significant development site in the city of Woodstock,” Stebbins said. “It is – and I have never heard the Rawsons mention this – in the historic district. … Whatever is built there should age gracefully in the context of the downtown.”

Residents and commissioners have in the past expressed concern about traffic effects, density, the overall layout of the development and whether the project is right for the property. Developers heard more of the same at Thursday’s meeting.

“There has been very little positive reaction to this proposal. Actually none,” said Commissioner Erich Thurow. “Due to the inconsistencies and incompleteness of this proposal I am not in favor of it.”

The Plan Commission is an advisory board. Its recommendation for denial will go to the City Council, which has ultimate authority to approve or deny the plan.

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