Williamstown's Debate Over Housing and Land

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New documents on the
FEMA grant.

Packed Mount Greylock High gym votes decisively
Wednesday night to table
all articles on the special town meeting warrants.

Democracy Inaction: Williamstown Tables Land Articles

Wednesday, April 24
Special town meetings

Warrant for meeting
at 7:25 p.m.

Warrant for meeting
at 7:30 p.m.

Williamstown's debate over affordable housing, conserved land and farming

In the


On Aug. 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused the Hoosic River to overflow its banks and flood the Spruces Mobile Home Park, causing the loss of more than 150 homes, or two-thirds of the park.
Williamstown in 2002 agreed on a master plan that spoke to the need for more affordable housing. It identified a deficit of 164; the town has added 8 units since then but lost 150. Williamstown Rules Spruces 'Uninhabitable'

Disaster Center Set Up; Spruces Park Being Assessed

Patrick Calls for 'Swift' Response for Spruces...

Spruces Occupancy Projections Continue to Dwindle

Williamstown Expects Third of Spruces Homes Restored

Spruces founder Al Bachand saw the park as a community, or little village, for retirees. Over the years, the park became an attractive option for those over age 55 on fixed incomes as housing prices and rents in Williamstown rose around them.

Housing advocates and local church groups sought to help the residents and seek new opportunities for affordable housing.

Donations For Spruces Eyed For Long-Term Needs

Higher Ground Seeks Volunteers To Help Spruces

Williamstown Housing Panel Seeks New 'Spruces'

Williamstown Voters OK Affordable Housing Trust

Willliamstown Sets Housing Board, Fills Empty Seats

The town and Spruces residents have had issues with park owner Morgan Management. It began with debates over rents and, after Irene, lawsuits against the town and attorney general.

Morgan agreed to sell the property for $600,000, at a loss, to the town and drop the lawsuit.

Spruces Owners Sue Williamstown, State

Spruces Owners Lay Out Demands

Spruces Owners Drop Case Against Williamstown, State

A plan comes

The town applied for a grant from FEMA
to buy the Spruces, close the park
and build housing elsewhere.

Not everyone is onboard.

Hazard Mitigation Grant Program

Not yet approved by FEMA

The $6,248,475 grant includes:

* $600,000 to buy the park

* Up to $1.485 million for relocation

* $3 million for affordable housing.

* $1.2 million for demolition and cleanup

It identifies flooding at the Spruces as the town's No. 1 hazard.

It does not indicate where the residents would be moved other than "All residents will be relocated to decent, safe and sanitary dwellings."

Two options are provided:

• Completely redoing all infrastructure and jacking up or rebuilding all units above the floodline at a cost of $10.9 million.

• Construct a levee and a pumping system at a cost of $15.5 million.

Land Options
for Housing

There are four prime spots under consideration. Two are brownfields, two are farmland.

Lowry land,
Stratton Road

Town garage,
Water Street

The Affordable Housing Committee has been seeking appropriate locations for housing. While the Lowry land, originally purchased as a potential site for Mount Greylock Regional High School, is considered ideal, other locations under the town's control have not been ruled out. Higher Ground is also seeking ways to expand housing for seniors.

Lowry was purchased in 1956 for $29,000; Burbank was deeded to the town; Photech was taken for back taxes.

Photech Mill,
Cole Avenue

Burbank Farm,
Luce Road

The Planning Board suggested in 2010 plans for developing the town garage site, but geared toward a more affluent clientele.

Possible development of the Photech site. Assessment of Photech site.

'Irene' Cottages

 Williams College study of Lowry & Burbank

 The proposal for 41 "Irene" units at Lowry (click to open larger.) The original 2002 plan can be seen here.

The town is in a debate between not only residents but government committees that may or may not endorse plans if the FEMA grant is approved.

Williamstown Affordable Housing Groups Inquire About Conserved Lands

Williamstown Housing Panel Seeks New 'Spruces'

Williamstown Planners See Options for Affordable Housing

Williamstown Housing Trust Supports Spruces Plan

Williamstown Ag Panel: Housing Talk Premature

Williamstown Ag Commission Questions Housing Proposal

Williamstown Housing Committee Meets With Consultant

Williamstown Finance Panel Gets Details on Housing Needs

 The Reaction

Two groups - Save the Spruces and Friends of Williamstown Conserved Lands - are formed. While their focus differs, their goal is the same.

Williamstown Land Group Sets Meeting on Housing Proposal

'Save the Spruces' Group Dominates Conservation Meeting

Spruces Residents Worried About Their Unknown Future

Williamstown Board Hears Emotional Pleas For Spruces

Spruces Residents Ask for Army Corps of Engineers Review

The Debate From Different Perspectives

Williamstown Faces Question of Priorities Land Debate Looms Over Williamstown Farmer's Future Harvest Residents Divided Over Future of Spruces Mobile Home Park

  Decision Time

Voters will be faced with articles dealing with land & housing on April 24 and May 21.

Updates on other debate details:

The Army Corps of Engineers has rejected a request to study or involve itself in a project to alleviate flooding at the Spruces in part because the land is privately owned.

A number of residents have argued that since the Lowry land was voted by two-thirds vote to the Conservation Commission's purview in 1987, a similar vote is required to take it out. Town counsel's opinion is that the land was originally purchased for a high school, therefore it does not fall under the relevant state conservation law (Article 97) and does not require a two-thirds vote to be taken out of conservation.

Stratton Hills Condominium Association has provided a competing legal opinion that Lowry does fall under Article 97.

The Conservation Commission's not picking sides; it wants the state to weigh in.

WilliNet hosted a sometimes emotional community conversation on land versus housing. Read our story here and/or watch the two-hour event.

Putting it to a Vote

A group of citizens succeed in garnering 312 signatures to call for a special town meeting on April 24 to vote on whether to keep the 30-acre Lowry property undeveloped. The Selectmen offer a competing article directing 10.5 acres be used for affordable housing, with the balance conserved.

The special town meeting warrant is here.

Citizens Petition Calls for Vote on Williamstown Land

Williamstown Will Vote Land Issues at Special Town Meeting

Another petition that asks for taxpayer money toward helping Spruces residents buy the park has been submitted for the annual town meeting on May 21.

Swiatek, Spruces Group Seek Town Funds to Help Buy Park

Williamstown Sets Special Town Meeting on Land Vote

Williamstown Voters Face Questions on Land

Williamstown Special Town Meeting Rules Clarified

Wednesday, April 24
Special town meetings

Warrant for meeting at 7:25 p.m.

Warrant for meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Community Speaks Out:

Letters: Why Not a New Spruces?

Letters: HooRWA Supports Spruces Purchase

Letters: Spruces Residents Given 'Hobson's Choice'

Letters: Consider Other Options to Protect Spruces

Letters: Conserved Lands Needs Advocates

Letters: Housing Committee Working to Expand Opportunities

Letters: Things for Lowry Opponents to Think About

Letters: Using Lowry Property Strains Trust

Letters: Vote No on Article II to Use Lowry Land

Letters: Reuse Other Sites for Affordable Housing

Letters: Williamstown Selectmen Playing Games

Letters: Just Do the Math

Letters: Reconsider Trading Farmland for Housing

Letters: Give Housing Committee Chance to Study Lowry

Letters: Vote on April 24 & Make Your Voice Heard




Tags: affordable housing,   conserved land,   farmland,   

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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: Aug. 2-8

Enjoy 18 different art shows featuring work by more than two dozen accomplished regional and student artists in Pittsfield's bustling Upstreet Cultural District during the First Friday Artswalk and all month long! 
In most venues, artists will be present from 5-8 p.m. A free guided tour begins at 5 p.m. at the Intermodal Center @ BRTA, 1 Columbus Ave.
The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts will host HAPPY, an abstract art show by Jesse Tobin McCauley for the month of August. There will be an opening reception during First Fridays Artswalk from 5-8 p.m. The exhibit runs through August 31.
Kids and teens, pick up the August 2nd Scavenger Hunt flyer for a chance to win a prize! Grab yours at the Artswalk table in Crawford Square, 137 North St., during the Artswalk or print one from the website.
Berkshires Jazz brings five of the most popular regional bands to the stage for the 2019 Berkshire Jazz Showcase, on the Pittsfield Common from 12-5 p.m. The wide-ranging lineup for this jazz extravaganza includes Gina Coleman and Misty Blues, Paul Green and Two Worlds, Andy Wrba's Berkshire Jazz Collective,
First Take with Mary Ann Palermo and the Kyle Murray Quintet. FREE.
Hancock Shaker Village welcomes Berkshire Opera Festival as they pay homage to American opera by composers such as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Carlisle Floyd. The recital, "Ain't it a Pretty Night," will feature soprano Caroline Worra, tenor John Riesen and pianist Lynn Baker will explore this essential part of the musical fabric of our country. 7:30 p.m. $18-$25.
FRI WordXWord Festival: Crosstalk at Tyler Street Lab | FRI Grahm Sturz at Hotel on North FRI Blue Light Trio at Rainbow | FRI Anthony Luchi at Rusty Anchor | FRI Sawyer Country at Proprietor's Lodge | FRI Karaoke Night at Friends | SAT WordXWord Festival: Accomplice[d] at Berkshire Museum | SAT Orin Swift Cellars Wine Tasting at Hotel on North | SAT Melissa Brinton at Rusty Anchor | SAT Jason & Trev at J. Allen's | SAT Uncensored Comedy Show at Uncorked | SUN Country Dance w/Spurs USA at Italian American Club | SUN-MON Marilyn Maye at Barrington Stage | MON Jazz Night at Mission | TUE Wintergreen at Springside Park | TUE Open Mic Night at O'Laughlin's | WED Live on the Lake: Generation X at Onota Lake | WED Gruppo Mondo at Rainbow | THU Deja Again at Mazzeo's | THU Abandoned Building Brewery Beer Dinner at Hotel on North | THU The Picky B's at Mission

Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animated film, Shrek The Musical is a Tony Award-winning fairytale adventure featuring all new songs from Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and a side-splitting book by David Lindsay-Abaire. Shrek brings all the beloved characters you know from the film to the stage and proves there's more to the story than meets the ears. The Colonial Theatre through August 9. $35 and up.
ONGOING Hansel & Gretel at Berkshire Museum FRI WeeMuse: Adventures at Berkshire Museum FRI Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum FRI Yoga for Kids at Berkshire Athenaeum FRI-THU Parenting Classes & Play Groups at 18 Degrees (formerly Berkshire Children & Families) SAT WeeMuse: Art Lab at Berkshire Museum SAT Health & Wellness Fair at 18 Degrees (formerly Berkshire Children & Families) SAT Chow Time at Berkshire Museum SAT Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum SAT Child & Family Yoga at Onota Lake SAT da Vinci After Hours at Berkshire Museum SUN Discovery Tank Program at Berkshire Museum | MON Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum MON Kindergarten Countdown at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Star Lab at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Cones with a Cop on The Common MON Stardust Cafe at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Swan Lake Dance Intensive at Cantarella School of Dance MON Auditions for Magic Tree House Kids at The Colonial MON+ KidsAct! at Barrington Stage TUE WeeMuse: Littlest Learners at Berkshire Museum TUE Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum TUE Princess Songs & Popsicle Party at The Whitney TUE Project SpaceCRAFT: Planet Pinch Pots at Be TUE Screening of Monsters vs Aliens at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Little Gardeners of the Galaxy at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Uncharted Wild Animal Show at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Tie Dye on the Terrace at Berkshire Athenaeum | WED Creative Healing Workshop w/Funky Phoenix at Berkshire Museum THU Farm Friends at Hancock Shaker Village | THU Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum THU Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum THU Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum THU Lego Lift Off at Berkshire Athenaeum
SAT Outdoor Yoga & Zumba at Onota Lake
Join Rachael from Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness every 1st and 3rd Saturday (June through August) for outdoor yoga and Zumba classes at Burbank Park on Onota Lake. Yoga begins at 9 a.m. and Zumba at 10:15 a.m. Come to one class or both! $10 suggested donation per class. Rain cancels.
FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Running Center | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Family YMCA | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness FRI-THU Various Classes at Radiance Yoga | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Salsa FRI-THU Various Classes at Pilates Fit | SAT Sunrise Yoga on the Deck at Rusty Anchor | SUN Guido's Great 8 Road Race | TUE Summer Fit Training at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness | THU Outdoor Yoga at Onota Lake
ONGOING If I Forget at Barrington Stage
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