Williams College's Jamie Art makes a presentation to the Board of Selectmen on Monday.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College hopes to start expanding the Spring Street parking lot as soon as this fall.
The college's director of real estate and legal affairs was at Town Hall on Monday to explain the project to the Board of Selectmen and ask its permission to seek a modification to a 2008 special permit on the site.
The college owns the parking lot but operates it in a cooperative agreement with the town as a public amenity.
With the Board of Selectmen's assent, the college will ask the Zoning Board of Appeals for permission to reconfigure the lot, creating a bay designated for a planned new Williams Inn at the bottom of Spring Street while slightly expanding the number of spaces open to the public.
Altogether, the total number of spaces will go from 125 to a little more than 200, according to the plan outlined by Jamie Art.
The expansion and reconfiguration of the lot will coincide with another project on Williams' schedule: the replacement of an underground culvert that carries Christmas Brook under downtown.
"There are two projects that come together in the municipal parking lot: the proposed inn project and the stormwater management project," Art said. "There are two things that hopefully will be going on at the bottom of Spring Street. No. 1 is the creation of stormwater structures under the parking lot. That will help collect stormwater and release it more slowly over time, evening out the peak flows.
"The other thing is the reorganization of the parking lot and creation of a new, connected parking lot to serve the proposed Williams Inn."
The inn's portion of the newly configured lot will include between 70 and 75 spaces, which will be available to the public during non-peak periods, Art said.
The year-round public section of the lot, as currently designed and pending ZBA approval, numbers 137 spaces, up from the current 125, Art said.
"The goal going into the design was to keep it at 125 and make sure the inn project doesn't mean there will be fewer spaces," Art said.
The project needs the approval of the ZBA to amend the special permit that enables the parking lot. It also needs to get a parking determination from the Planning Board for the potential use of the lot for the planned inn, and it will be before the Conservation Commission this summer for the full drainage project.
Pending those approvals, the college hopes to begin construction in late fall, Art said.
"The goal would be … to try to maintain the 125 spaces during construction," he said. "That may be a logistical challenge. We can't make any promises, but we're going to try to do that, to keep the parking supply there as best we can during construction.
"It may not look the same as big infiltration tanks are installed and then parking is put on top of them."
The project will involve tearing down three college-owned buildings: two at the south end of the parking lot and one along Walden Street. The college has offered both buildings to anyone who would like to move them from the spot but has received no interest, Art said.
"No one expressed interest in taking that," he said in answer to a question of one of the selectmen. "If anyone out there would like to move one of the houses, let us know. It's really expensive to move a house."
The house on the south side of the lot is currently home to two businesses: the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce and Lickety Split.
The latter concern could be relocated to a small location in the northeast corner of the newly configured parking lot, Art said.
"That's something that's going to be further refined," Art said. "We may be able to find something else in the Spring Street area that works for [Lickety Split]. But we wanted to at least keep a placeholder there for an ice cream shop to show townspeople we are committed to keeping ice cream at the bottom of Spring Street.
"When we talked to people about the zoning change [to allow an inn], the No. 1 concern was parking. The No. 2 concern was what's going to happen to Lickety and ice cream. We don't have the same detail for that answer now, but we have something that's more than just a plausible solution. There may be other viable options."
After congratulating the college on a plan that adds to the number of spaces available in the lot and verifying that activities like the Williamstown Farmers Market will be able to continue at the site, the BOS voted 5-0 to join Williams in its application to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
In other business on Monday, the Board of Selectmen approved a request from H.A. George Fuel to increase propane storage at Mount Greylock Regional School and OK'd two proposals to allow town employees to provide administrative support to other Berkshire County communities.
One proposal extended to another six months an agreement between Williamstown and Lanesborough that allows Town Planner Andrew Groff to work in with the Lanesborough Planning Board up to 10 hours per month. The second creates a new six-month arrangement with Great Barrington under which Williamstown Health Agent Jeff Kennedy provide 12 hours of supervision and training to a town employee in the South County town.
Lanesborough and Great Barrington will pay Williamstown under the inter-municipal agreements, and that money will be passed through to Groff and Kennedy in the form of a stipend, Town Manager Jason Hoch explained.
Selectmen Jeffrey Thomas expressed concern that the town may be asking too much of its staff, but Hoch assured the board that both Groff and Kennedy were enthusiastic participants in the arrangement, which he proposed to each while emphasizing that they were under no obligation to say yes.
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The board of the town's Affordable Housing Trust on Wednesday decided to move ahead with an emergency mortgage assistance program for residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, approved a solution for a problem vexing a different town committee and learned that one of its members will be rotating off after May's town election.
The board member in question is Anne O'Connor, who made her colleagues on that panel the first to learn that she will not seek another three-year term on the Select Board this spring.
O'Connor, who occupies the trustee position designated for a member of the Select Board, noted that she brings a particular perspective to her work with the trust and all her town service: that of a resident who is a lifelong renter and who lives in Williamstown housing that was created to be affordable.
"Hopefully, I've also brought some reflections and useful comments as much as possible," O'Connor said.
The chair of the town's committee on diversity, equity and inclusion Monday reported to his colleagues that he had a long conversation with the town's acting chief of police and that future dialogues between the committee and Police Department are planned.
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Six of the eight committee members in a virtual meeting selected Colliers, which has offices in Boston and Agawam and throughout the country, from among three firms the panel interviewed.
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Select Board Chair Jane Patton noted that an interim town manager would have the authority to appoint an interim police chief, presumably with the same community input that was anticipated when outgoing Town Manager Jason Hoch was heading the search.
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At one point, Hart pointed to the college's statements in the wake of the killing of George Floyd last May, but said those statements, like many others nationwide, ultimately ring hollow.
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