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Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee to Recommend RFPs

By Stephen Dravis
Williamstown Correspondent
06:06PM / Wednesday, January 08, 2014
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The Affordable Housing Committee is recommending two draft proposals to solicit developer interest in the former Photech and town garage sites.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After months of discussion and countless hours of meetings, the town is nearly ready to begin soliciting development proposals for a pair of brownfield sites.
 
The Affordable Housing Committee on Tuesday agreed to ask the Selectmen to consider two draft requests for proposals (or RFPs) on the former town garage site on Water Street and the former PhoTech mill property on Cole Avenue.
 
Chairwoman Catherine Yamamoto said Wednesday that the documents still need tweaking from the Amherst-based housing consultant hired by the committee, but the major decisions have been made.
 
The committee has asked for a place on the Selectmen's agenda for its Monday, Jan. 13, meeting, and Yamamoto was optimistic the board members would have copies of the RFPs to review over the weekend.
 
Although the AHC has taken the lead in developing the RFPs, the requests will be issued under the auspices of the Selectmen, to whom town meeting previously has given the authority to dispose of the properties.
 
"If [the Selectmen] approves them, they get posted on the Central Register and disseminated to developers," Yamamoto said. "The earliest it could be published is two weeks from today (Jan. 22), and then there would be six weeks for developers to reply."
 
Among the many questions examined by the Affordable Housing Committee over the last few months was whether to issue one RFP covering both properties or a pair of RFPs. Ultimately, it was decided to issue two separate requests, but Yamamoto noted Wednesday that the developer ultimately could marry the two properties.
 
"It can respond to one or the other, or it can respond to both in a combined proposal with an idea that addresses both properties and meets our goals in an aggregate way," she said. "We're open to any ideas that any developer has for the properties.
 
"We've been trying to draft RFPs so they're not so restrictive that they they eliminate any possible developer but at the same time convey our preferences."
 
And the committee has one overrriding preference at the end of the day.
 
"The more affordable housing, the better," Yamamoto said.
 
The lengthy documents include a number of criteria on which proposals will be scored, but the committee has throughout the process maintained an emphasis on providing the greatest number of subsidized units possible at the lowest possible cost to residents.
 
Yamamoto said that current drafts of the RFPs do not require a developer to pay for either parcel. The question of financial compensation to the town came up when the RFP development process was discussed with the Selectmen on Nov. 25.
 
Yamamoto said the board may decide to make compensation a requirement, but even without a "price tag" for the land, potential developers will know that proposals that include compensation to the town will be seen more favorably.
 
And whether or not direct payment is made for the land, the town stands to benefit from development at either site, she said.
 
"The bigger the investment [the developer] makes, the more real estate taxes come back to the town," she said. "These are properties that will be coming back on the tax role. If they make a good investment, the town will benefit from real estate taxes, as we are with Church Corner."
 
The Affordable Housing Committee fostered the development of eight subsidized housing units at the former St. Raphael's Church and rectory on Cole Avenue in 2011.

Tags: affordable housing,   RFP,   

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