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The Williams Inn project falls into the Con Comm's jurisdiction because of the wetlands abutting the area to be developed.

Williamstown Con Comm OKs Culvert Replacement

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Conservation Commissioners Stephanie Boyd and Philip McKnight participate in Thursday's public hearing.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Conservation Commission on Thursday OK'd Williams College's plan to replace the culvert that carries Christmas Brook under downtown, and the panel took its first look at the final plans for the new Williams Inn.
 
The culvert replacement project will replace an existing, undersized pipe with a conduit that is at least 5 feet by 12 feet and hopefully eliminate the flooding that occurs during heavy rain events.
 
The senior project engineer from Manchester, Conn., civil engineer Fuss & O'Neill was on hand to answer any final questions from the commission in a public hearing continued from July.
 
The commissioners were satisfied that engineer Kristine Baker had addressed the concerns raised in the peer review the town ordered from Marlborough's Comprehensive Environmental Inc.
 
"His comments on the plan, most of them are about labeling," Baker said. "There are actually no design changes. The other thing that's nice about CEI's review is he reviewed the whole [hydraulics and hydrology] report. He did a very detailed review of the hydraulics of the culvert and looked preliminarily at the parking lot because it does tie in.
 
"When he gets the parking lot materials, he is very familiar with it."
 
The "parking lot project" is a complete redesign and rebuild of the municipal lot owned by the college and operated jointly with the town at the bottom of Spring Street. The lot is being expanded to create a bay designated for the hotel, and the college plans to install new water detention systems under the lot to handle runoff from the watershed to the north and west.
 
All that water eventually ends up Christmas Brook, which is why the parking lot work ties in with the new culvert, which runs to the east and carries the brook into the Green River.
 
The hotel project falls into the Con Comm's jurisdiction because of the wetlands abutting the area to be developed. Engineer Charlie LaBatt of Williamstown's Guntlow & Associates explained the college's plan to mitigate the impact of the hotel, plans that include the restoration of the nearby habitat by removing invasive species and replacing them with native plants.
 
Like the culvert replacement, notice of intent for the hotel project will be subjected to a peer review — ordered by the town but paid for by the applicant. The Con Comm hopes to have that analysis in hand so it can condition the project at its Aug. 31 meeting.
 
In other business on Thursday, the commission continued its public hearing on a notice of intent to build a residence and improve an existing driveway off Petersburg Road. The commissioners raised questions about the existing condition of the property — in particular whether the existing driveway is pervious — and the completeness of the application.
 
The commissioners also fielded a question from a potential applicant for a project on Cold Spring Road (Route 7).
 
Architect Martha Montgomery told the Con Comm she is working with the owner of Mezze, which wants to do work on the walkway leading from its lower parking lot to the restaurant.
 
Montgomery said she needs to design a walk compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and suspects that the Architectural Access Board in Boston would sign off on a plan that would bring the proposed path within 10 feet of a pond on the property (the current walkway is about 50 feet away).
 
The commissioners expressed sympathy for the restaurant's situation, and the chairman suggested that the pond in question may not even be a jurisdictional wetland for the body. In the end, it recommended that Montgomery take the issue to the access board first and then return to the commission with a request for determination of applicability to see if the project needed approval through the expensive NOI process.

Tags: conservation commission,   culvert,   Williams College,   

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Williamstown Charter Proposal Sparks Concern over 'Separation of Powers'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board and Planning Board this week clashed over a proposal that would add to the town charter a mechanism to ensure compliance with the foundation of town government.
 
The Select Board on Monday night finalized the warrant for the annual town meeting.
 
Most of the 42 articles on the agenda for the Thursday, May 23, meeting were recommended by the Select Board for passage with little or no comment. The primary exception was Article 32, one of five articles to result from deliberations of the Charter Review Committee.
 
The review committee spent about a year and a half reviewing the 68-year-old charter, which has not received a major revision over the last seven decades.
 
In consultation with consultants from the Collins Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston and after reviewing best practices from municipalities around the commonwealth, the Charter Review Committee developed a number of recommendations to town meeting.
 
Most of the proposed revisions clarify existing charter language and bring the document in line with town practices that have evolved over the last half century (Article 30). Two of the articles resulting from the CRC are not actually charter changes at all but town bylaw proposals (Articles 33 and 34).
 
Two proposals would make substantive changes to the charter: adding a recall provision (Article 31) and creating a mechanism to enforce the charter (Article 32).
 
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