Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Tweets" with questions about Spruces solution; eight points to consider

The following is an email sent today by Bill Densmore to Peter
Fohlin, town manager in Williamstown, Mass.

Hi Peter:

Please forward these comments to appropriate town boards/officials as you consider warranted.

At last week's forum on the Spruces housing situation at MGRHS, I shortened my remarks and said I would submit questions after the fact. I tweeted them later in the meeting, and have posted them here:

It's of course easy to drop in as a sidewalk superintendent, sweep one's hands and say here's the solution. Given that, here' what I've been thinking about:

1) As I did say at the hearing, we all want to avoid this turning into an either/or decision between affordable housing and agricultural open space. These are both vital values.

2) First, what would it take to make ready a portion of the Spruces property for quality agricultural use -- for growing food, or grazing cows?

3) Build the cost of No. 2 into any proposal.

4) Commit by amendment to any pending Town Meeting motion to replicating any land taken on the Lowry property for housing with an equivalent amount of land for growing and grazing on the former Spruces site. We're reclaiming that. Think of this as "replicating wetlands" as developers were once allowed to do when of practical necessity they needed some wetlands.

5) Second, if this hasn't already been done, identify a neutral rsearcher to conduct a survey of former Spruces residents who still wish to relocate back to or remain in Williamstown. Identify their preferences in terms of **types** of desirable housing -- mobile home, detached single family, congregate, appartment, co-operative, walking-distance to services, rental, ownership,

6) Respecting No. 5, it's important that we not have an emotional debate around creating types of housing that some former Spruces residents don't even want. Similarly, it's important not to have emotional debate about housing-types creation that is out-of-bounds expensive or otherwise not supportable by regulation or funding.

7) Based on the results from No. 5, and the realities documented for No. 6, let's work to create as much diversity as possible in housing options, with an eye toward **minimizing to the greatest degree possible** any use of Lowry land, while still **meeting the desires of Spruces residents still in transition.**

8) Once we have accommodated the needs of Spruces residents still in transition, then let's try to create the most innovative, energy-efficient, earth-friendly, resource-re-using housing possible within economic realities. My impression is that this would likely not be single-family dwellings on the Lowry property, but I'm no expert.

I rent office space next to the old Town Garage site. Nevertheless, I would strongly favor reuse of that site for housing of any kind, in a mixed use including a little office space and a little retail.

Also, are their various single-family lots open around the town which could be taken for infill affordable housing? Would land costs make this completely prohibitive? I wonder.

-- Bill Densmore
1182 Main St.
Williamstown MA 01267


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