Judge Rules Against Appeal of Woodstock Housing Project

Woodstock — The Vermont Supreme Court has affirmed its ruling that a neighbor does not have spring water rights on land planned for a 36-unit affordable housing complex, paving the way for the project’s groundbreaking next August.

In November, the state high court rejected numerous challenges over property rights and easements brought by neighbors who opposed the project, which will be located across the street from Woodstock Union High School. That ruling gave the project, previously known as the Grange Hill development, the go-ahead. Supporters of the project viewed last year’s ruling as the end of their legal battle.

However, abutters chose to appeal one issue related to spring rights. In the November ruling, the court rejected a neighbor’s claim to spring water rights on the property which is now owned by the Woodstock Community Trust. In a court order filed Friday, justices stood with their original opinion.

The justices in their order wrote that the plaintiff “has failed to demonstrate that he is successor to a chain of title to this land — the spring itself — to which the spring ‘rights’ are appurtenant.”

Twin Pines Housing Trust Executive Director Andrew Winter welcomes the justice’s decision.

“We were victorious in November and the court reaffirmed their decision in January, and we can now move forward with the development,” Winter said. “The outcome is totally the same.”

The project, now called Westfield Meadow, is a joint effort among the Woodstock Community Trust, Twin Pines Housing Trust and Housing Vermont. The $8.5 million development will sit on an 8 acre parcel and provide 10 one-bedroom units, 18 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom dwellings for residents. Fourteen new buildings will be constructed and the Grange Hall will be redeveloped. Eight of the dwellings will be market-rate condominiums, while the other 28 units will be affordable housing apartments.

Construction bids will be solicited within three to four months. Construction is expected to take about one year.

Winter said he hopes the legal challenges are now behind them.

“Our hope is that this puts the litigation to an end so the project can proceed,” Winter said. “Our hope is that people will now understand that the project is happening, and people will focus on making it the best project it can be.”

One neighbor in the lawsuit declined to comment for this story, while phone messaged for others were not returned.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.