Woodstock plan calls for protecting the city’s resources

WOODSTOCK – A new natural resource conservation plan in Woodstock proposes the city expand buffer zones, build bikeways and use several means to protect green infrastructure, among other recommended actions.

The Green Infrastructure Plan – the culmination of about a year of preparation – lays out recommendations and strategies in about 10 areas, many of which would require action by the City Council down the road for implementation. The council received the plan at Tuesday’s meeting.

Among the most thoroughly discussed priorities in the report is how to protect key natural areas and open spaces from development. The city has several options, including buying the land or providing incentives to private owners to protect the land long term through a conservation easement.

“By using this plan, we can actually go to those people and say, ‘You need to preserve this land, and if you do it this way, you can have certain benefits to you, and to the city, and to the environment,’ ” said Planning and Zoning Administrator Jim Kastner, who was on the project team for developing the plan.

Recommendations about trails and bikeways include creating trails that stretch not only throughout the city, but also connect with surrounding communities and current pedestrian walkways.

The plan also calls for protecting and expanding what the city deems “buffer zones” – natural open space between development in the city and other communities within the county.

Kastner said the project team kept in mind the economic times when developing the plan, suggesting action that would cost little to the taxpayers and, in some cases, save money down the road.

But a couple of council members raised questions about where preserving green infrastructure fits into the priorities of the city during a tough financial time.

Councilman Mike Turner noted the city is in intense competition for economic development with surrounding municipalities. He said he didn’t want to abandon the city’s green initiatives, but he wanted to see a greater focus on bringing in business.

“I think we need to make that a formal priority,” Turner said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilman Mark Saladin agreed.

“There has to be a balance in the future needs of the city for growth and the needs to satisfy and protect those needs of the area that need to be protected,” he said Friday.

Saladin added that on first read-through, much of the plan seemed to be covered by the city’s uniform development ordinance.

“I want to make sure I understand what the UDO currently says, and how this will apply to it,” he said.

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