Letters: Just Do the Math

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To the Editor:

The controversy over the removal of conservation land for the purpose of development of affordable housing in Williamstown continues to ratchet up.

Many letters have raised the question of at what cost. Equally as important as being good stewards of conservation land it is likewise as important to be good stewards of those monies that will allow Williamstown to provide the greatest number of affordable, fiscally responsible and ecologically sensible housing to those in need.

The development and infrastructure costs of the conceptual plan to create 41 building lots on the Lowry property would approximate a $45,000 to $50,000 land cost per unit before any vertical construction of housing. That is an infrastructure cost alone approaching $2,000,000.The other vacant town sites, Photech and 59 Water St., along with a third privately owned vacant site referenced to as Cable Mills South, would only require development and infrastructure costs approximating $10,000 to $15,000 land cost per unit before any vertical construction.  

That represents an opportunity to create affordable housing in Williamstown at a ratio of 3 to 1 on these alternative sites. Not to mention the economies of scale in the construction of mixed-use housing as opposed to single family dwellings that will not provide the same long term economies of maintenance, upkeep and energy efficiency. With 35 years of career experience in the acquisition, development and marketing of real estate, including affordable-housing site selection and more specifically land development in no less than 25 different states, myself along with most anyone who has developed property would tell you that those numbers just don't work to the favor of developing the Lowry property when considering other alternatives.

Putting aside all of the controversies spinning around the issues of affordable housing and conservation land, I ask town officials and the public at large, "just do the math."

Robert J. Scerbo
April 13, 2013

Tags: affordable housing,   conserved land,   lowry property,   

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