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An architect's sketch of the planned Williamstown police station from Simonds Road (top) and looking south.
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A site plan for the planned police station. Simonds Road (Route 7) is at right.

Williamstown Zoning Board OKs Police Station Plan

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Plans for a new police station remain on track after the Zoning Board of Appeals last Thursday granted a special permit to expand the former Turner House veterans home at 852 Simonds Road.
Town Manager Jason Hoch was in front of the board with members of the design team planning the renovation of the site, which includes a two-story addition at the back or west side of the home.
The chief sticking point for the zoning board was the town's request for relief from noise limitations in the bylaw.
The station's backup power generator, per the manufacturer's specifications, has to be exercised once per week for 20 minutes, and at its maximum load, the generator creates 75 decibels of noise. Per the bylaw, the town would have been allowed that level of noise for 10 minutes.
Hoch said the town was willing to consult neighbors to see what time of day and day of the week would work for the testing. But the ZBA discussed several alternatives to mitigate the noise.
"We hold the other large entity in town to standards without granting variances," ZBA Chairman Andrew Hoar said, referring to Williams College. "They come up with ways to attenuate that sound. Why aren't we doing that?"
"The blunt answer is they have $2.5 billion in the bank," Hoch said. "This would push our cost significantly higher. We're willing to consider it. It comes at a substantial cost."
Later in the hearing, telecast on the town's community access television station, WilliNet, Hoch said the attenuating housing for the planned generator would cost an addition $30,000 on the planned $5 million project.
The ZBA pressed the town to look at less costly alternatives, including moving the generator farther from the property line and installing fencing or using plantings to help block the sound.
The board also discussed the fact that while the generator may produce 75 decibels of noise at its source, the manufacturer did not give the town any information about how much of that noise would carry to the property line.
In the end, the ZBA approved the special permit with the condition that "the applicant enclose the generator with a sound attenuating fence or show evidence to the Community Development Department that the standard is met off-site."
The ZBA also reviewed the drainage plan for the site, and architect James Hanifan of Chicopee's Caolo & Bieniek Associates Inc. explained that the addition and renovation of the former Turner House have been designed to stay in keeping with the neighborhood.
Elements of the station that would be considered "critical uses," like dispatch, cells, mechanicals, and records and evidence rooms, will be housed in the addition, which will be joined to the existing Turner House by a "knuckle" that includes a new elevator. The former rooming house will be used for offices and locker rooms while the lower level of the current structure will house a squad room and fitness room.
The town previously obtained a parking determination from the Planning Board for the site. Since the property is not near wetlands, the Conservation Commission has no jurisdiction. That means Thursday's ZBA decision marked the last review by a town committee for the project.
Hoch said he hopes to put the project out to bid next month and have bids in hand when he asks town meeting for funding in May.

Tags: ZBA,   police station,   

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Letter: Residents Repudiate Neighborhood's Racially Restrictive Origins

To the Editor:

Residents repudiate neighborhood's racially restrictive origins in a commitment to inclusion.

In July of 2020, residents of the Williamstown neighborhood comprising Berkshire Drive, Colonial Avenue and Orchard Lane came together to address, in a united way, the racially restrictive covenant which was filed on the land records by the subdivision founder in 1939, and subsequently referenced in many of their property deeds. Though the racially restrictive clause had been deemed legally unenforceable (1948 Supreme Court Shelley vs. Kraemer), unlawful (Civil Rights Act of 1968 ), and void (1969 Massachusetts General Laws), a range of voices expressed the ongoing pain caused by the presence of the covenant.

To acknowledge and directly confront this racist history, its associated harm, and continued impact, and to clearly express this neighborhood's commitment to inclusion, both now and in the future, the neighborhood has taken the following actions:

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