WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Planning Board is moving forward on its objective of opening up housing options in the Village Beautiful.
Earlier this month, the panel developed a narrative outlining its concerns to submit to two Eastern Massachusetts consultants who hope to work with the town.
The Massachusetts Housing Partnership wants to hire Boston's CoUrbanize and Brookline's Civic Moxie to work with the town on potential zoning bylaw changes to address housing needs in the 21st century.
At Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, Community Development Director Andrew Groff told the panel that MHP is developing the contracts with the consultants. He warned the planners that they may need to schedule a special meeting next month if there are any questions back from MHP or the consultants.
The 215-word narrative drafted by the board lays out its concerns in broad terms.
It opens by mentioning the population decline in Berkshire County and asserts that both nationally and statewide people are "looking away from traditional models of housing."
"Trends show that folks are looking at smaller places to live, different and more efficient ways of living, and how to leave a smaller footprint," the Planning Board writes.
As evidence of this trend, the board cites the success of the Cable Mills apartments on Water Street, where more than than two-thirds of the units were occupied within three months of the ribbon cutting.
The board told the consultants that it wants to make sure the town's zoning bylaws meet the needs of the "next generation of workers, employers, families and seniors."
At a meeting last month, Groff told the board that the consultants will help the town's planners collect input from the community and use that data to help craft bylaw changes that can be brought to town meeting.
"With the cooperation of our friends and neighbors, the board hopes that the town can institute some forward thinking and unique zoning changes to respond to broader changes that are occurring, all while protecting what makes Williamstown a unique community," the Planning Board's narrative reads.
In other business on Tuesday, the Planning Board discussed a regular schedule to hear reports from its members on various planning projects — ranging from agriculture to parking — that each has agreed to tackle this year.
On the parking front, Groff told the board that Town Hall has not been fielding the same number of complaints this summer as it did in 2015 — either from Williams College’s construction project near the Village Business District or the Clark Art Institute, where last summer's wildly successful Van Gogh exhibit led to consistent use of South Street for on-street parking.
"We haven’t seen any major [construction-related] issues, and it seems like the college’s logistics plan is working quite well," Groff said. "We have had a couple of minor complaints, but they’ve been handled immediately."
The Clark, meanwhile, has been trying to more actively manage its parking demands by focusing on when it schedules special events and where its employees park, Groff said.
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