By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
The town says Woodstock’s new luxury resort is violating its permits, while residents say it’s upsetting their peace and quiet.
506 On the River Inn’s restaurant and landscape is in violation of its original permit applications, according to Town Zoning Administrator Michael Brands. In its original testimony, inn representatives said: “The facility would serve breakfast and only to guests. Although the regulations allow a more ambitious restaurant, the applicant desires to start slowly.”
The inn, which spans 50,000 square feet, opened earlier this year, but it’s been getting bigger and bigger. The inn has submitted a total of eight permit requests to the town for expansions. The restaurant now has a 32-seat restaurant open to the public, but the permit request for the restaurant hasn’t been approved because the inn doesn’t have enough parking spaces.
It received a notification from the town last month, asking it to take correction action in seven days, but the town has yet to hear from the inn, Brands said.
“They’re ignoring that violation,” said Brands.
Also, a faction of neighbors that call themselves the West Woodstock Community Group has formed. The group says the inn is negatively impacting the character of their neighborhood.
“As a group we wanted to come together so we could support one another for our concern,” said Karen DePrizio, one of the group members.
The group of about 10 neighbors has noticed increased traffic and more noise coming from the inn, which sits along the Ottauquechee River.
“We’re basically an echo chamber with the river,” DePrizio said.
DePrizio, who owns an apartment building near the inn, said she was supportive of the establishment when the original plan was first proposed, with 27 guest rooms and a private restaurant. But the inn has expanded its plans — it’s currently in the process of seeking a permit to open the 32-seat restaurant to the public and to have up to 10 outdoor functions between May and October. There was a public hearing held last week.
One of the group’s bigger issues, however, is that the inn doesn’t have enough parking spaces.
“We don’t want them to become a giant wedding venue with uncontrollable rooms and unlimited parking,” DePrizio said. “That’s not what we signed up for.”
The group’s mission is to maintain the character of the neighborhood, connect with other neighbors and stay informed of changes and events in their neighborhood.
John MacDonald, a local farmer who owns pigs and cows and lives next door to the inn, said this is the second biggest change that’s come to West Woodstock in his 60 years — the biggest change since Woodstock Union High School came to the area.
He thinks the inn will have less impact than the high school and he said it’s simply a Vermont landscape change.
“I don’t think we would have wanted them to grow something too small to succeed,” he said.
The property has been a motel for 50 years. It was formerly the Pond Ridge Motel, which residents called much less intrusive than On The River.
“How I enjoy my property has been affected greatly,” said Steven Holt, whose property is directly to the east of the inn.
The town also says the inn has also violated its original site plan. In original testimony, the owners said they were going to plant hedge to screen the parking lot from the road.
“The applicant was reminded the planting plan needs to be maintained over time,” the testimony said. “If any plants die, they shall be replaced with like-size plants.”
But the trees have died in front of the property have yet to be replaced, said Brands.
“More than half the trees they planted were dead and they had to remove them,” Brands said.
On the River General Manager Josh Hardy said the restaurant has been open to the public since the inn opened. It is working with a lawyer to address concerns.
“We want to be great neighbors,” Hardy said.
Hardy said the inn has “every intention of making the property look as good as possible.”
The community group has a website, www.westwoodstock.org, where it invites anyone who is interested in the topic to share comments and stay informed about permits.
The group doesn’t want the establishment to fail, but it wants it to be compliant.
“I’m just concerned that they do everything legitimately, by the book,” Holt said.