Tuesday, July 04, 2006

SOURCE DOCUMENT: Planning-board majority's November 2004 email

Here below is a copy of an email sent by Bill Densmore to an editor and reporter of The Transcript on Nov. 28, 2004, (at a time when Densmore was not a columnist, reporter or editor) advising of an email announcement sent by Sarah Gardner to him. The email figures in a current controversy over failure June 26 by the board of selectmen to reappoint Gardner to a second, five-year term on the Planning Board.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 2004 19:40:49 -0500 (EST)
From: Bill Densmore <densmore@newshare.com>
To: Karen Gardner <kgardner@thetranscript.com>,
Noah Hoffenberg <nhoffenberg@thetranscript.com>
Subject: NEWS: Planning Board opposes water line

Four out of five members of the Williamstown Planning Board announced on Sunday their opposition to the Cold Spring Road water line. In a statement, they said the line will inevitably lead to development inconsistent with the town's master plan. They said Building Inspector Michael Card acted without their knowledge in presenting a build-out analysis to selectmen which different from the planning board's calculations. They said so long as other water options exist for Mount Greylock Regional High School, the line should not be built. Their full statement is below.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 2004 17:27:26 -0500
From: Sarah S. Gardner <Sarah.S.Gardner@williams.edu>
To: densmore@newshare.com
Subject: W'town Planning Board press release

Press release from W'town Planning Board is attached and pasted below.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Williamstown Planning Board, Nov. 28, 2004

Planning Board Opposes Water Main

Four of the five members of the Williamstown Planning Board today announced their opposition to the proposed Cold Spring Road water main extension. They are James Haskins (Vice Chair), Freda Bennett, Sarah Gardner, and Robin Malloy. The four said they were concerned that water main would undermine Williamstown's land use plans as stated in the Master Plan, and reiterated their confidence in the build-out analysis they presented to the Board of Selectmen last month.The four members of the Planning Board issued their statement in response to a revised build-out analysis presented at the November 22nd meeting of the Board of Selectmen by WilliamstownÂ’s Building Inspector, Mike Card.

Mr. Card's analysis is inconsistent with the analysis previously presented by the Williamstown Planning Board. While Mr. Card's analysis was limited to the development potential of lots with direct frontage on Cold Spring Road, the Planning Board took an approach that recognizes the full potential for development by including in its analysis the potential for subdivision development of those parcels. Although lots without frontage on Cold Spring Road cannot hook up to the sewer line as a matter of right, development of those parcels could be achieved by means of septic systems or the granting of an exception to the frontage requirement. Accordingly, the Planning Board determined that there is a potential for development of 54 additional residential lots along Cold Spring Road between the Captain's Table and the high school (this number does not include the potential lots to be created on Woodcock Road which were included in the original analysis).

In addition, the Planning Board thought it prudent to consider potential development beyond MGRHS, because the water main could be extended at private expense with Board of Selectmen approval. Examining the limited Five Corners area (extending to the southern and eastern boundaries of Waubeeka Golf Course and along a portion of Sloan Road) we determined that the potential of an additional 100 lots. It is important to note that in considering the potential for build-out along Cold Spring Road and the Five Corners Area, the Planning Board made reasonable concessions to its calculations to account for wetlands and topographical constraints that could affect the development. In addition, while Mr. Card considered only the potential subdivision of lots in the Tourist Business District pursuant to the ANR process, the Planning Board, at TownMeeting, presented an analysis of the potential for expansion of tourist-based businesses on the existing lots.

In that analysis we determined, with Mr. Card's concurrence, that one of the existing parcels, specifically the parcel that houses the 1896 House, could reasonably be built out to accommodate a 100 room motel/hotel (4 times the size of the existing structure) and that similar commercial development could occur on other commercially zoned lots if under common ownership. Finally, as we have previously stated, we cannot begin to speculate on the potential for development by 40B affordable housing projects, educational or religious uses, which are exempt from local zoning ordinances and therefore permitted in any zoning district.

In undertaking its analysis, the Planning Board strove to be objective and non-partisan on the issue of the proposed water line. Indeed, Mr. Card was present as an advisor during all of the BoardÂ’s discussions and deliberations and never advised the Board that our methodology was inaccurate in any way. We are, therefore, confused as to why Mr. Card felt it necessary to present another analysis and are further unclear about what assumptions he used to reach his conclusions. It is particularly disturbing to us that the Planning Board was not consulted and was not advised that Mr. Card would be submittinghis own calculations to the Selectmen. The Planning Board continues to support the build-out analysis that it unanimously approved and presented to the Board of Selectmen on October 25, 2004.

Our build-out analysis is objective and replicable by anyone using the same assumptions and methods. It is not a scare tactic. We reiterate that the Board's analysis reflects development rights that exist today in the absence of a water line and with the existing limited capacity sewer line. We believe the provision of municipal water services to the area will increase property values and therefore the likelihood of maximum build-out.

Most significantly, it must be understood that the Planning Board's analysis was based on the existing 2.5 acre minimum lot zoning requirement along Cold Spring Road. When challenged, Massachusetts courts have invalidated large lot size zoning requirements (specifically 2.5 acres) when water and sewer lines are present. It is not unreasonable to be concerned, therefore, that Williamstown's bylaw could be invalidated in a similar challenge that couldrequire rezoning for higher density (e.g. smaller lot) development, possiblyresulting in double the number of building lots along the Cold Spring Road corridor. Courts have consistently held that the preservation of a scenic view or preserving land in its natural state is not a valid basis for maintaining large lot (e.g. 2.5 acre) zoning. Neither the Planning Board nor the Zoning Board nor Town Meeting has the power to limit unwanted development in the face of such a court challenge.

For the foregoing reason, and based on the results of the build-out analysis, the following four members of the five-member Planning Board are concerned that the construction of and, as a result, based on the information currently available, we oppose the proposed water main extension:

James Haskins, Vice Chair (phone: 458-3459)
Freda Bennett (home: 458-5410, office: 662-5000)
Sarah Gardner (home: 458-1829, office: 597-4209)
Robin Malloy (home: 458-2607)

Quote from Sarah Gardner (other board members may be called for quotes).

"Under state law, Planning Boards are responsible for long range planning, including updating and adopting master plans. Planning is an important way for towns to develop a future vision for the town and to find ways to achieve that vision. But many towns never have the time or resources to plan. Williamstown, however, undertook a two year, thorough, and expensive master planning process that resulted in its 2002 master plan. It is the duty of the planning board and all town officials to use that master plan as a guide to decision making. I find it regrettable that so many town officials have already forgotten the goals of the plan in their rush to embrace development. And it is sadly ironic that the two big development projects that want this water main -- the Clark and NBHS developments -- are at the rural periphery of town where the plan calls for open space protection, not for development. New construction, according to the plan, should be in town where infrastructure such as water mains and sewers already exist. As long as alternatives exist to supply water to the high school, the town should install a water main only if it seeks complete development along Cold Spring Road because that is the inevitable eventual result."


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