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Keith Davis of Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, left, addresses the Affordable Housing Trust last week. Andrew Hogeland, center, and Ruth Harrison attended the meeting in person. Three other members participated remotely.

Habitat for Humanity Plans Wednesday Info Sessions on Williamstown Development

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity will hold two information sessions this spring for residents interested in a planned five-home development off Summer Street.
 
The non-profit will explain more about the project on Wednesday, March 27, and Wednesday, April 3, at 7 p.m. at the Harper Center on Church Street.
 
The 1.75-acre lot currently is owned by the town's Affordable Housing Trust, which acquired it and a parcel at the corner of Cole Avenue and Maple Street for the purpose of developing income-restricted housing.
 
Northern Berkshire Habitat built two homes on the Cole-Maple site and has turned its attention to Summer Street, where it hopes to build a small road onto the property and divide it into five quarter-acre building lots.
 
"At these information meetings we plan to share a site plan and a floor plan and exterior building view of the proposed houses," according to a post on the Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity's Facebook page. "All houses will be a single floor ranch style house with a low angle roof to fit into the character of the neighborhood."
 
Last week, the president and project manager for the non-profit was in front of the board of the Affordable Housing Trust to talk about how the trust will distribute $120,000 to support the Summer Street project.
 
Originally, the board had talked about releasing the money to developer Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity in three installments: $60,000 to build the road, $30,000 for the first house and $30,000 for the second house.
 
Affordable Housing Trust Chair Andrew Hogeland told his colleagues he suggested a time frame that would have the last disbursement by the end of calendar year 2026 as a way to finish spending the American Rescue Plan Act funds in the AHT's coffers before the ARPA deadline.
 
NBHFH's Keith Davis came to the board at its March 20 meeting with a counter proposal: $60,000 for the road and $60,000 for the first house to be built on the site.
 
"We don't have a permitted project," Davis explained. "We don't know if the Planning Board will approve it. We have a site plan. We have a floor plan worked out. I'm not sure we'll be able to go to the Planning Board in May. It may be June.
 
"Until we have an approved plan, it's hard to ask contractors to build [a road]. So you can't go out to bid. I'm concerned we may not get the road done this year. … Putting the road in and trying to build two houses in two years will be difficult for us."
 
The board took no formal action, but the members present agreed in principle that a two-installment distribution would work.
 
Since the Summer Street land is still owned by the trust, the trustees on Wednesday took the formal step of approving Northern Berkshire Habitat's subdivision plan for the lot. That allows the non-profit to bring the proposal to the Planning Board for approval.
 
Hogeland said NBHFH could pursue the development through the commonwealth's Chapter 40B process, which provides relief from local zoning regulations for the purpose of building affordable housing, but getting town approval of the subdivision would be, "a faster way to go."
 
After the development is permitted, the trust will be able to transfer the property to Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, as it did with the Cole/Maple property, Hogeland said.
 
The trustees on Wednesday did agree to allow Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity to put a shed on the Summer Street lot before it takes possession of the land.
 
In other business on Wednesday night, the Affordable Housing Trust board approved the latest grant under its DeMayo Mortgage Assistance Program. According to the representative from lender Greylock Federal Credit Union, the recipient is a Berkshire County native currently living and working in the town.
 
Under the DeMayo MAP, first-time homebuyers who meet income eligibility requirements and qualify for a loan with a lender that has a physical presence in town can receive up to $15,000 toward the purchase. The homeowner repays the trust a prorated amount of the grant if they sell the home within five years of purchase.

Tags: affordable housing trust,   habitat for humanity,   

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Williamstown Town Meeting Passes Progress Pride Flag Bylaw Amendment

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Mount Greylock sophomore Jack Uhas addresses town meeting on Thursday as Select Board member Randal Fippinger looks on.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — By a ratio of nearly 2-to-1, town meeting Thursday passed a bylaw amendment to allow the Progress Pride flag to be flown on town flag poles.
 
The most heavily debated article of the 40 that were addressed by the meeting was decided on a vote of 175-90, amending a flag bylaw passed at last year's town meeting.
 
Mount Greylock Regional School sophomore Jack Uhas of the middle-high school's Gender Sexuality Alliance opened the discussion with a brief statement, telling the 295 voters who checked into the meeting that, "to many, the flag is a symbol that, in our town, they belong."
 
The speakers addressing the article fell roughly in line with the ultimate vote, with eight speaking in favor and four against passage.
 
Justin Adkins talked about his experience as, to his knowledge, the only out trans individual in the town of about 7,700 when he moved to Williamstown in 2007.
 
"Most people, when I moved here, had never met a trans person," Adkins said. "Today, that is not the case. Today, many people in this room are free to say who they are.
 
"LGBTQ-plus youth still face a world where their basic being is questioned and legislated. … Flying a flag is, really, the least we can do."
 
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