Downtown Woodstock residents speak out against rentals
by Michelle Babcock
December 11, 2013 11:45 PM | 2408 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — A group of downtown Woodstock residents is speaking out about concerns that rentals at a condominium complex would hurt their neighborhood.

Three downtown residents spoke out at the Woodstock City Council meeting Monday against the idea, it would harm their community.

Wayne Spencer, spokesman for the downtown Homeowners Association and a resident for three years, said during the public comment portion of the meeting Monday allowing the condo to be rented would impact the community HOA’s ability to maintain the area.

Spencer said he spoke for the entire HOA and their disapproval of the neighboring condo being used for rentals.

“The intent was for that to be part of the master community,” Spencer said Wednesday. “We’re asking to change the zoning to make it ‘condos for sale.’”

The condo building in question is situated in the heart of downtown Woodstock, next to two already occupied condos, above the retail strip between East Main and McAfee streets. The gray-colored condo building is not occupied yet.

Jessica Guinn, Woodstock community development director, said that rentals and owner-occupied residences are permitted in the central business district, according to downtown ordinances.

City Manager Jeff Moon said the facts are straightforward.

If the city were to rezone the land it could face a lawsuit, and Moon said that the city would lose because the building owner, Southeast Capital Companies Inc., had an understanding the condo could be used for rentals.

“They have a vested right, because the building is already there. If you go back to the original, where the zoning was approved in 2004, it doesn’t say ‘condos’ or ‘apartments,’ it simply says ‘residential,’” Moon said Wednesday. “If somebody has built a building based upon that, and then we take that away and tell them they can’t do it, we will be sued and we will lose.”

Moon said if the building hadn’t been built yet, there could be a case for rezoning. However, since the company has moved forward utilizing the existing zoning, the city can’t take away the company’s right.

“But if they’ve even filed a permit, that gives them a vested right. And in this case, there’s an existing building,” Moon said.

But Spencer said that if the city doesn’t rezone the area, they should at least vote on it.

“I don’t want to get into a suing contest with the city, but I think they should at least vote on it so we have public record of where our five city councilmen’s support is,” Spencer said.

Spencer said the main concern with having renters in the condo next door is the increased need for amenity maintenance.

“At our Homeowners Association meeting, we all voted and had a unanimous agreement that we didn’t feel like rental was the intent of the building. When we all moved in we thought that would be part of our master Homeowners Association,” Spencer said. “The current residents that live in the condo, they contribute, they pay a certain percentage per square foot and those dollars go toward the amenities.”

Spencer said the area’s amenities, including a park and landscaped areas, as well as a pool, are a big draw to the community and it takes HOA contributions to keep them maintained.

“As rentals, they won’t contribute to the homeowners, and we all thought that was going to be a shared expense,” he said.

Moon said the HOA’s issue with renters not paying dues is a private matter, not a city matter.

“The HOA is formed by a restricted covenant of the property owners and the city is not involved in that,” Moon said. “As the city attorney said Monday night, if the folks that are the renters in that building are not part of the HOA then all the HOA has to do is restrict their access.”

Spencer pointed to the city’s now-lifted moratorium on new apartment complexes being built, saying if the city knew there were already enough rentals in Woodstock, why hasn’t the city “addressed this zoning issue?”

“Especially when we’ve got 67 homeowners in the condos and probably at least another 100 homeowners that are concerned about the economic impact of that being zoned for rental,” he added.

But Moon said the zoning that allows for rentals is not a surprise to the homeowners in the area.

“What we advised them months ago was that they need to consult with their HOA’s attorney to look at the restrictive covenants and the HOA documents and see if there’s anything in there that would prohibit these from being apartments. Because there’s nothing at this point that we can do from the zoning ordinance,” Moon said. “Even if the zoning ordinance has changed, that wouldn’t affect this particular situation.”

Moon said the issue will be placed on the agenda for the council’s special called meeting and work session next Monday.

“We’re going to put it back on the agenda and present the same thing that we did this past Monday,” Moon said.

The meeting will be at The Chambers at City Center at 8534 Main St. in Woodstock, on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.

In other news, the council unanimously voted to appoint Val Harty and Dr. Damon Bond to the Woodstock Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

The council also announced Waste Management will not service customers on Christmas or New Year’s Day, and said if regular pickup day for a customer falls on either of those days, or the days following, service will be pushed back a day.

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