By Mary Lee Camp
Special To The Standard
Longtime Woodstock resident Al Sorrentino recently announced he has signed a purchase agreement for the Bill Alsup property near the current Windsor County Sherriff’s Office in Woodstock. The land, informally known as “The Jungle,” is in Woodstock’s East End. The agreed upon price is as of yet undisclosed, but the asking price for the one-plus acre lot was set at $750,000.
Located opposite the Wasp Snack Bar, on Route 4 coming into the Village, the property is a major factor in creating an economically viable spot in the community. The location has served as the depot site of the historic Woodstock Railroad, as a John Deere dealership and more recently as a ski lift manufacturer owned and operated by Alsup.
There are some contract contingencies, including the positive results of an environmental impact study, which is currently underway.
Sorrentino, who is on the Woodstock Planning Commission, said in an exclusive interview this week, “While sitting at the Planning Commission table, I have suggested many times that the Village should purchase this property – giving it the opportunity to develop it as it sees fit. It doesn’t look like that will happen and after pushing the notion for so long, I thought, ‘why not me!’ The time has come, change happens slowly in Woodstock and if we don’t react now, we may never again have the opportunity.”
Sorrentino continued, “Revamping this blot on the landscape in one of the most beautiful small communities in America is absolutely essential if Woodstock is to continue to be a Mecca for visitors who come from all over the world. Even if we simply beautify the area and don’t place it under commercial development, I will be pleased.”
He added, “Imagine turning the corner at Maplefield’s someday and looking across the river to Billings Farm, Mt. Tom and the hills of Pomfret, instead of the blight we have been forced to live with for decades!”
Without the efforts of Sustainable Woodstock’s East End Action Group’s proposal for relocating the so-called “Village snow dump,” Sorrentino said, the purchase of the Alsup property wouldn’t even be on his radar screen.
“The existence of the snow dump is the reason a viable buyer hasn’t come forth.” He commented that under current regulations, a residential development could take place. “But no one wants to buy a high-end condo or town house, despite the beautiful view across the river, if all winter long, beginning at 5 a.m., trucks begin dumping masses of dirty snow near their front doors.”
Other than securing the property currently for environmental stewardship, Sorrentino says he has no definite plans for development – only ideas. His ideas include retaining some of the salvageable existing structures, create a Vermont-made industrial park, with possibly a microbrewery, a cheese company, ice cream, cider or crafts – something that has the local sustainable, we-all-love-Vermont feel, but not be competitive with existing downtown shops. “The development should attract not only vacationers, but regular visitors from, say, West Lebanon, Hanover and Killington resulting in an additional boost for the local economy.” If, however the right business came along, Sorrentino would consider renovating a space and leasing it to it.
The “East End” is described by many as beginning at Tribou Park and ending at about where Pizza Chef and Woodstock Home and Hardware are located. Sorrentino, whose business office is located at the end of Tribou Park, says, “I look out the window and watch people on foot turn around here and return to the center of town.” He claims that with an East End development, walkers would continue on – and in the process, patronize the several small businesses along the way.
Sorrentino is a businessman, a land developer (Tanglewood Development Corporation) and a high-end home designer, builder (ACS design/build, Inc.) and would of course enjoy making money on the project. But he lives in Woodstock, raises his children there and says he hopes to do what’s best for the community.
His primary goal for the project is to begin the process of revamping the East End – cleaning up the Alsup site, opening a vista for travelers entering or exiting Woodstock and if he can develop it commercially without compromising his priority, so much the better. He said, “When you drive from West Lebanon, NH along the Route 4 corridor to Whitehall, NY, you know when you’ve entered Vermont and you know when you left Vermont. We need to do what we can to protect that.”
Sorrentino is scheduled to meet with appropriate community officials and boards during July to move the projects forward. If the outcome of these meetings isn’t what he hopes, he won’t be deterred – he says he’s in it for the long haul.
“I would like to get as many people talking about this and as I can. My short-term goal is to get the place cleaned up and bring it to where we could identify what will be the best use for the land. I am very interested in any kind of community feed back, insight – anything we can do to get people talking about it. Come on you guys, it’s time – we’ve been at this for 40 years and I think it’s something people can grab on to,” Sorrentino emphasized.
Special Meeting Linked to Snow Dump Plan
Library Endorses Riverfront Plan
Snow Dump Plan Surfaces
Taming the Jungle the East End Project
East End Ridgeline Top Village Zoning talks
Village Town Seek snow Dump Options
Video: Proposed East End Park
This article first appeared in the July 8th print edition of the Vermont Standard.