Williamstown Con Comm OKs Senior Housing Project

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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Highland Woods is being built near Proprietor's Field senior housing.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Highland Woods senior housing project has cleared its last major regulatory hurdle.
Now, the project needs to be financed.
The 40-unit project planned for land off Southworth Street being donated by Williams College came before the town's Conservation Commission on Thursday evening.
In a 5-0 vote, the commissioners present approved the project with conditions they discussed with Highland Woods' representative, engineer Charles LaBatt of Guntlow & Associates.
LaBatt was joined before the commission by the project's attorney, Donald Dubendorf, who told commissioners that Highland Woods is proceeding on schedule.
"There are mostly administrative permits left," Dubendorf said in a meeting telecast on the town's community access television station, WilliNet. "The biggest unkown is the balance of the financing for the project.
"We think if this commission approves, we'll be past the greatest bulk of the permitting uncertainty."
The project is in line to receive nearly $3 million in financing from town sources ($2.6 million from the proceeds of a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant). But organizers hope to pay for much of the estimated $12 million cost of the project from low-income housing tax credits awarded by the commonwealth.
Those credits could come this spring, allowing for an anticipated summer start for construction of the project.
The Highland Woods project has been "fast-tracked" because its non-profit consortium (Higher Ground, the Women's Institute, Berkshire Housing and Williamstown Elderly Housing) hope it will provide some replacement housing for the residents of the Spruces Mobile Home Park when it is closed in early 2016 under the terms of the FEMA grant.
On Thursday evening, the town's Conservation Commissioners, who did a site visit in the fall, questioned LaBatt about specifics of the drainage plans and use of rain gardens on the site.
Commissioner Henry Art encouraged the project designers to take strong measures to preserve mature trees on the site.
The commission also sought information on plans for a failing town-owned drain pipe that runs through the property.
"One way or another, as part of this project, it will get [replaced]," LaBatt told the panel. "We're permitting it. It could be our contractors under [the town's] supervision."

Tags: affordable housing,   Higher Ground,   highland woods,   

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