Letters: Give Housing Committee Chance to Study Lowry

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To the Editor:

Williamstown's Affordable Housing Committee, which I'm a member of, has one goal, which is to increase the amount of housing that people of below average income can afford.

Our central task for the past few years has been to evaluate all of the building sites that seem to be candidates for construction. Because the town owns 59 Water (old town garage site) and Photech (down Cole Avenue), we have been able to take some of the money that voters gave us at last year's town meeting and pay engineers and chemists to look at those sites.  

If Lowry (adjacent to and southeast of the Eastlawn Cemetery on Main Street) had not been overseen by the Conservation Commission, we would have paid engineers and chemists to evaluate it as well, at the same time. Because Lowry is managed by ConCom, we have needed to get permission from that committee to do this basic evaluation work.

We cannot pay for engineering and drainage studies, let alone real plans, before we get permission because we can't legally spend public money to evaluate a site that we cannot, legally, build on.

The question before the town now is whether Lowry's conservation status may be suspended so that the Affordable Housing Committee can pay engineers, chemists, and other professionals to see whether building any housing on the site is feasible. Right now, we know a lot about 59 Water, and we know a lot about Photech. We don't know anything about Lowry except that the town owns it, and it is within the town water and sewer district.

It is, unfortunately, possible that we will hear discouraging news about Lowry as we have about other sites. Williamstown has been inhabited for a long time, and a lot of people have left junk behind them.  

I live on White Oaks Road, "way up there," as the election clerks always say, "even past the church." A previous owner of my house diverted a stream to run into a swimming pool, whose concrete he poured himself, and then, when it cracked, not only moved the stream even further off course, but also filled the pool with bed springs and lead pipes before chucking some clay and rock on top.  

You'd never know unless you tried to dig a vegetable garden there the summer you moved in. Even people are buried where you'd least expect it. This experience is why AHC pays for studies. We are asking the town to allow us to pay professionals to evaluate Lowry.  

If the drainage and gradients and so forth are discouraging, we will not advocate building there. We are, however, hoping that engineering results will give us a green light that will enable 25 to 30 units on 59 Water, 25-30 at Photech, and 40-50 on Lowry. But if the town builds 100 units of housing that is affordable to people with incomes of 30 and 60 percent of the area mean, we will be halfway to our goal. One hundred would be halfway.

Cheryl Shanks
Affordable Housing
Committee member
April 13, 2013

Tags: affordable housing,   conserved land,   lowry property,   

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Mount Greylock Committee Hears Concerns About Turf Field Plan

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Rubber infill from the turf field at Weston Field adheres to a reporter's leg after a minute lying down on the surface to take a photo.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock School Committee last week declined to slow plans for installing an artificial turf field at the middle-high school but members noted that there is still time to weigh health and environmental concerns before shovels go into the ground.
The full School Committee earlier in the spring authorized the Phase 2 grounds subcommittee to put the turf field out to bid this summer.
Since that time, committee members have heard from a number of residents concerned about studies that have linked "infill" materials in used in turf fields to higher rates of cancer and environmental contamination due to runoff from those fields.
"Some of the chemicals found in crumb rubber are known to cause cancer," a fact sheet from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at University of Massachusetts at Lowell reads in part. "Because of the large number of chemicals present in the infill, as well as the health effects of individual chemicals, crumb rubber made from recycled tires is the option that likely presents the most concerns related to chemical exposures."
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