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Shamus Heffernan is helping the Affordable Housing Committee as a local, volunteer liaison for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Here he shows locations where the committee could develop more housing.

Proprietors Fields Plans Expansion in Williamstown

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
10:03PM / Wednesday, November 09, 2011
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Local housing groups are planning a 20 -25 unit expansion of Proprietors Fields.

The Berkshire Housing Development Corp. and the current 60-unit complex's owners, the Williamstown Elderly Housing Corp., have begun planning the expansion in the wake of about 200 homes in the Spruces Mobile Home Park being destroyed by Hurricane Irene.

The groups are hoping to file an application for government funding to construct the additional housing by the beginning of the year. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the state Department of Housing and Community Development as well as local sources are being eyed for possible funding sources.

Council on Aging Director Brian O'Grady and Affordable Housing Committee Chairman Catherine Yamamoto announced the planned development at a committee meeting on Wednesday night while town officials were discussing using the site for development. The Affordable Housing Committee is planning on doing a feasibility study on multiple properties in town to determine its development viability.

Committee members each have been taking looks at possible housing developments for each meeting as it prepared to ask the Community Preservation Act Committee for money to perform the study on the top three plots of land. On Wednesday, the group was intrigued by the possibility of adding four additional units to the Spring Meadow development on North Hoosac Road.

Committee member Cheryl Shanks said she had spoken with the owner, David Carver, about a possible addition. Carver can use the same blueprints and a development should only take about six months. The 6.8-acre plot is appealing because it is close to public transportation, has on-site utilities and the correct zoning. However, the committee did not like that only four units would be developed.

The group also looked at the Burbank property, off Luce Road, and the Lowry property, off Stratton Road. The town owns both properties but those were set aside for conservation and therefore requires a lengthy process to become usable.

The Burbank property is the largest at 140 acres and there is access and nearby utilities, Shanks said.

"It's a big open space and a lot of it is dry," Shanks said. "There is a lot of road access."

While much of the land is swampland, there is buildable land, she said.

The Lowry property showed promise because a lot of the work had already been completed. A 2002 feasibility assessment had been done for the purpose of building housing. While that property does have buildable lots, committee members were nervous about why the previous development failed as well as trying to get the land back from the Conservation Commission.

Those ideas are added to previously looked at locations — including reusing the Spruce park — and the members each took additional properties to examine before it craft its proposal.

"We want to look at everything and evaluate it on its own merits," Yamamoto said. "The approach and the solution is not one project, not one focus."

The group is hoping for multiple development projects in different parts of the town.

Tags: affordable housing,   Spruces,   

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