(First appeared in the July 29th edition of the Vermont Standard)
By Gareth Henderson
The two sides on the Grange Hill affordable housing debate will meet in court yet again this October.
The upcoming hearing at the environmental court in Barre will address both appeals stemming from the Grange Hill project’s Act 250 approval and a previous approval from the Woodstock Town Development Review Board, according to Kaveh Shahi, attorney for the abutting neighbors.
“Appeals take typically about a year or two to get decided,” Shahi said, “so on both fronts, we’re still tangled up.”
Housing Vermont President Nancy Owens, who has been the project’s spokesperson, was out of the office and not available for comment this week.
The 36-unit Grange Hill affordable housing project was formally proposed almost five years ago, and from the get-go, it has garnered opposition from the neighbors immediately abutting the project’s site in West Woodstock where the Rock Church once stood. The neighbors’ main contention has been that the project is simply too big and would permanently change the character of the neighborhood. Proponents have said the project is perfectly manageable and would provide much-needed affordable housing in Woodstock.
This fall, the Grange Hill debate is scheduled to continue in environmental court – despite the fact that Grange Hill has won Act 250 approval and local zoning approval. Woodstock residents who support the project have often balked at the continued appeals from the project’s opponents.
Last week, Shahi said his clients have always supported the concept of affordable housing.
“They just want to see this done in a size that they feel will maintain a reasonable size for that hamlet,” Shahi said.
Shahi said the latest version of Grange Hill – the one approved by the TDRB – simply condensed the project more and did not address the impact of the project’s size in West Woodstock.
“The primary issue here is size, something where we’ve tried to talk to them all along, and they’re just not interested,” Shahi said.
In the past, proponents have said they made a good-faith effort to talk to the neighbors about these matters, but were unable to reach a compromise.
In other Grange Hill news, a civil dispute involving the neighbors’ water rights is ongoing at Superior Court.