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Williamstown Selectman Presses Board's Role in Project Review

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Selectman David Rempell is stepping down at the end of his term.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A second veteran selectman announced his intention to step down after his term ends this year.

David Rempell, who has served on the board for three terms, said he had "a four-hour speech prepared for another meeting" but wanted any citizens interested in running to know he wasn't.

"It is an eye-opening exercise being on a board like this," Rempell said, in encouraging people to run.

Chairwoman Jane Allen announced her intention two weeks ago to step down after 12 years.

"We're going to miss David immensely," said Vice Chairman Ronald Turbin.

But before he goes, Rempell wants the board to be more involved in the decisions being made regarding upcoming affordable housing projects.

"The Affordable Housing Committee can do the work and then bring their recommendations to the Board of Selectmen," he said. "The other is we work in tandem in terms of evaluating these proposals, and then eventually, obviously, the Board of Selectmen needs to vote on them."

Rempell thought the latter option the best: "My preference is we would sit around the table together."

The deadline for requests for proposals for housing at town-owned Photech and Water Street sites is Friday, March 7.

Selectman Thomas Sheldon raised the question of process — the Affordable Housing Committee is leading the charge but the Selectmen will make final decision — during open comments at the end of the meeting.

Sheldon said he wanted to make sure the board would be prepared for the March 10 meeting, if that would be when RFPs would be presented.

Allen said she would be meeting with committee Chairwoman Catherine Yamamoto this week, and that the only agreed date in the timetable was for the committee to bring its recommendations to the Selectmen at its meeting now set for April 15.

"We have appointed a committee that has been working for a long time, that is very familiar with all aspects of this," said Allen, describing her position as the "opposite spectrum" from Rempell. "To me, it would be the expectation that they would review the applications, and make determinations about the applicants, whether they meet the criteria or not."

Then the committee would bring, hopefully, "multiple applicants" for each site to the Selectmen, she said, which would have a different standard based on a broader view of what's good for Williamstown.

Sheldon said a third possibility would be to appoint a liaison to the housing committee who could keep the board apprised of the discussions. Plus, he noted, the housing committee's meetings are open to everyone, including selectmen.

Rempell said his purpose was to prevent the two panels from working at cross-purposes, since some of the analysis would be subjective judgements.

"I would like it be as thorough a discussion as possible from the beginning so everyone has ample opportunity to participate," he said.

Allen thought the processes should be kept separate but would consider Rempell's request.

In a related issue, the board signed a limitation of activity and use at 330 Cole Ave., the former Photech. Tests have shown expensive remediation is not necessary, but any future use cannot include single-family homes or growing food. Multifamily, business and manufacturing will be allowed.

In other business, the board:

Received an update on the efforts of the Public Safety Building Study Committee by member Andrew Hogeland and appointed Charles Fox to serve on the committee to replace Daniel Gendron, who resigned.

•  Heard a presentation of the zoning bylaw changes proposed by the Planning Board from Planner Chris Winters and returned them to the board for a public hearing.

•  Set a public hearing to create a Williamstown Cultural District to the next meeting on March 10.

•  Approved a letter informing the residents of Spruces Mobile Home Park that the park would close in two years, as required by a federal grant.

Tags: affordable housing,   cultural district,   RFP,   

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