Williamstown Voters Decide to Take No Action on Housing Articles

Apr 25, 2013

More than 750 voters filled the gymnasium of the Mount Greylock Regional High School on Wednesday, with many expecting to vote on articles that would determine the future use for properties currently under conservation restriction.

Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

One article was included as the result of a citizen’s petition, which sought to place a permanent restriction on the 30.5-acre parcel of land known as the Lowry Property, and a nearby 140-acre parcel known as the Burbank Property.

Anoter article would have opened one-third of the Lowry property up for development for the construction of a future affordable housing complex.

Williamstown has yet to accept a $6 million FEMA grant to purchase the Spruces Mobile Home Park from current owners Morgan Management, relocate residents, and construct new affordable housing elsewhere in town. The Spruces sits on a flood plain, and most of the homes in the park were destroyed by flooding associated with Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

At the meeting, the town’s select board, Conservation Commission, and Affordable Housing Trust all supported a motion to table all of the articles up for vote. They all said any votes on the articles presented would be premature. The motion to take no action on the articles presented was overwhelmingly supported with 555 voting yes, and 172 voting no.

Stan Parese is chair of the Affordable Housing Trust….

Many of those who had submitted comments before the motion to table the articles was approved had said that the conflicts surrounding affordable housing issue in Williamstown had been divisive.

Stan Parese said that while the issues will be revisited, town residents and town government will have the benefit of becoming more informed on locations suitable for affordable housing.

But Ken Swiatek, of the Friends of Williamstown Conservation Lands, a group that had supported article to place the Lowry and Burbank properties into permanent conservation restriction, said he was disappointed that the voters chose not to take action at the meeting.

Swiatek had also pushed for a plan that the town reject the FEMA grant to purchase the park and relocate the Spruces residents, and instead the town provide funding to the Spruces residents to purchase the park, and find a way to control the flooding issues.

Peter Fohlin, town manager of Williamstown, said that  the although the town hasn’t yet accepted the FEMA grant, he warned that the clock is ticking.