Thursday, May 19, 2016

TEXT: Ex-planning board member asserts "clear pattern of bias" by moderator Adam Filson at Williamstown Town Meeting

The following is the full text of an email sent by Williamstown resident and former Planning Board member Patrick Dunlavey to Adam Filson, an attorney who serves as the town's current Town Moderator. A copy was also emailed to all selectmen, so it is a public record. The note refers to conduct of the May 17, 2016 town meeting. Full video of the meeting, captured by volunteers at staff at, the town's public-access cable service, can be viewed HERE.


Dear Adam,

I have lived in Williamstown for 28 years and have attended at least that many town meetings. I've seen meetings more contentious than the one Tuesday night, but I've never witnessed one where the way the meeting was moderated so directly contributed to the outcome.

As you know, or should know, a moderator should only vote to break a tie (or to tie - if by doing so the motion is defeated). I was far in the back of the room for most of the meeting, so did not observe this myself, but I'm told that you participated in the standing vote on the Waubeeka article, voting yes. 

But that is not what prompts me to write you. Rather, it is the way you managed the debate on this article. 

A zoning change requires a supermajority (for good reason). A minority controls the outcome, and that minority needs to have an opportunity to present its arguments, in an atmosphere that may feel overwhelmingly hostile to them. Your job is to ensure that both sides can present their arguments, and to fail or succeed on the merits of those arguments. 

But that's not what happened Tuesday night. As Ann McCallum tried to present her prepared remarks, laying out the reasoning behind the square-footage amendment, you repeatedly interrupted her, admonishing her about the time she was taking and the tone of her comments. This completely rattled her, leaving her to frantically figure out what to say and what to leave out. She was booed by some yahoos in the audience, but instead of sternly correcting the offenders and granting Ms McCallum extra time, you urged her to wrap it up. 

The result was a fiery train wreck for that proposal. Yes, she definitely should have edited down her presentation, and the tone was blunt, shall we say. But you made a decision as chair that what she had to say and what that might mean for the outcome of this vote was less important than how she said it.

You did not apply these same standards to Stan Parese, who seemed to have the microphone whenever he wanted it, for as long as he wanted it, to say whatever he wanted to say, in whatever tone he wanted to use. You permitted a re-vote on the sunset clause and clean CR language just voted moments before. (Town Counsel did not opine on whether you should permit the re-vote, just whether as moderator it was within your rights to do so.)

Everything I'm describing adds up to a clear pattern of bias in your conduct of the meeting. It almost certainly changed the outcome. This is unprecedented in my memory, and inexcusable. 

Pat Dunlavey
Oblong Road

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An "EDITORIAL" -- the owner of offers advice on the Waubeeka rezoning

A fellow town resident emailed asking for advice about how to vote at tonight’s Town Meeting regarding Michael Deep’s “citizen petition” effort to create commercial zoning in South Williamstown only for the Waubeeka Golf Links property.

 There is lots of background below and at that doesn’t need repeating and an unofficial “Voters Guide” too that is here: (Bill Densmore) has tried to present reportorial-style information about Mr. Deep’s proposal. But we are not a news organization and, like a newspaper, which publishes editorials, we have formed some opinions.

 It strikes us that our readers might like to know those opinions, in order to filter how you interpret our reportorial-style information.

 One take is here: 


One fellow townsperson asked if voting tonight will be by secret ballot. My reply: To do it by secret ballot, someone will have to make a motion and we will have to vote on it. I am certain someone will make that motion. I know from talking to Town Clerk Mary Kennedy that she is anticipating secret ballot(s) and has set up the infrastructure and people to handle it.

 As a point of information to individuals who work for Williams College, we posted this blog entry last night:


 A Williams College official replied to a query from, asking the school to comment on worries that its employees might feel concern at town meeting in voting contrary to the college's interests or positions. Said James Kolesar, a college spokesman: " . . . [C]olleges, including Williams, are by no means in short supply of public criticism from their employees, and that's how it should be." Williams is appealing to voters to approve an up-to-100-room hotel it proposes for the bottom of Spring Street, to replace the Williams Inn, which would be razed. 

 Here is the advice we offered today to that fellow town resident: 

 On Tue, May 17, 2016 at 10:53 AM, xxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

 Hi Bill - thanks for keeping us up to date on the important but shifting & confusing situation about Deep's request to change zoning at Waubeeka. I have a couple of last minute questions: 1. Why hasn't anyone objected to Parese as lawyer representing Deep serving as moderator at Town Meeting? Seems like a conflict of interest.


 But here’s is Stan’s view about the essential value of Town Meeting: 

 2. For people who think this proposed zoning overlay is too unspecific, too rushed and too fishy and for people who just this Deep is an untrustworthy sleazeball, any advice on how to approach the meeting tonight? 

  1.  Restrict the square footage of the hotel to an appropriate size that won’t impair other hotel/motel businesses in town, costing us tax revenues.
  2.  Define the 120 as "rooms" not "units" (units could be multiple rooms as in a timeshare) and
  3.  Adjust the Conservation Restriction language as needed to make its intent and application clear.
  4. Include language which states the clear intent of the voters is to save the golf course (that’s not anywhere in Mr. Deep’s requested language at present). 
 I believe Ann will make her motion to amend (as representing the majority of the outgoing Planning Board), AFTER Stan Parese moves the Deep-favored amendment.

 If the meeting fails on a simple majority vote to attach Ann's amendment to Stan's amendment (which would replace Stan's amendment), then I recommend that you first:

 (a) Support a motion to send the whole thing back to the Planning Board to start over again (which also requires only a simple majority), or

 (b) Defeat the zoning overlay article on its merits (which at that point will be bad). Only one-third of the meeting has to vote NO on the overall article for it to fail (it needs a two-thirds majority approval). This would be the worst outcome for Mr. Deep; a better outcome for him would be a vote to send it back to the Planning Board without a definitive defeat.

 - if there's a motion to table the vote to give the townspeople & the Planning Board more time to assess the proposal, should we vote yes or try to defeat Article 35? 


 - I guess there are 2 proposed amendments that I assume will be voted on first. Should we vote yes for the better (Planning Board's ) one or vote no on both and hope that the unamended article is so threatening that the people will vote it down? 


Sunday, May 15, 2016

A FRESH PERSPECTIVE: Read what a smart outsider has to say about the Waubeeka zoning proposal

(Posted by Bill Densmore)
On Friday, while visiting at my mother's house in Worcester, I shared the "Unofficial Voters Guide" document with a smart Worcester friend in his 70s who has spent most of his career in health care, but at one point in his life was in real-estate sales for a year or so -- in Britain.  I asked him after he had read the guide, and with no additional information from me, to describe the situation as he understood it.  This is what he said: 
Somebody has a special interest, the seem to want to avoid the normal procedure, which is going through the planning board. Because the citizenry needs the information from the planning board to be able to evaluate it -- and this is completely bypassing what would normally be a town procedure for a project, especially one that is reasonably large.

My other concern is the 67 acres bordering the golf course which is wetlands.  That wetlands would probably be threatened by the development.

It almost seems like they are in a hurry. Usually it is marry in haste and repent in leisure.  Whenever they do shortcuts there is somebody on the inside who is going to make quite a bit a money and it is just a matter of looking at who benefits from this, and I don't think it is going to be the citizenry.
The charm of a town like that is they don't have these big, almost semi-convention centers.
I did commercial real estate many years ago so I know how developers work. You can do a lot of damage changing zoning and you might not expect it. You may not see down the road, you can look at the way the zoning was as say it has worked this way for 50-100 years, why risk changing it? 

Sherwood Guernsey circulates one-page flyer asserting Waubeeka "myths"

South Williamstown resident Sherwood Guersney has prepared and is distributing a one-page flyer asserting "myths" about a zoning-change proposal supported by Waubeeka Golf Links owner Michael Deep.   The flyer may be read here:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Waubeeka resort lodging proposal: A lawsuit waiting to happen, says Langston

David Langston, of Williamstown, a retired Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts professor and former member of the Mount Greylock Regional School District writes to

When explaining the Waubeeka hotel proposal, Mr. Deep and his attorney have repeatedly deflected questions about the precise character of their plans by saying that such details will only emerge after they sign up a developer to build and operate the hotel -- business deals they say can only take place once Williamstown has amended its zoning bylaw authorizing the project.

It is difficult to think that any real
estate developer with sufficiently deep pockets for such a project would sign a contract unless there were powerful financial incentives that the investment would pay off.   It seems reasonable to think that a developer will direct a skeptical eye toward the prospect of building a very large hotel in a remote location where the already existing hotels are in constant financial difficulty;  it could  lead to driving hard bargains to justify the investment, and the incentives for that sort of development often take the form of  tax concessions and the elimination of limits on the scope of the project. 

The limits for the project prescribed by the zoning overlay district would be the obvious target that a developer would want to set aside.  And the well-worn path in Massachusetts for eliminating the constrictions of zoning laws is a lawsuit against a town with the  charge that the restrictions in the zoning code are illegal.  

Massachusetts courts have a notable track record of overturning zoning codes that unfairly restrict growth for some projects while permitting growth for other similar enterprises.   Whatever reasons the town might have for authorizing a development does not constrain the court in settling a developer's lawsuit.  

When  towns establish zoning that limits the character of development, those codes need careful scrutiny and drafting to ensure that the law meets standards of equal treatment for everyone and that conform to the often convoluted laws and legal precedents that govern land development.

The proposal to change the zoning code as a special case just for Waubeeka carries several notable risks.  This particular warrant article was drafted by a self-interested petitioner, not by a neutral or disinterested agent, and if the town amends the zoning law for a specific project, it opens the door for lawsuits that could set aside the town's motives and wishes, whatever they turn out to be.   And the ramifications might not apply just to Waubeeka but to zoning everywhere in town.  

Once the zoning laws are changed by town meeting or by court judgment, the Zoning Board of Appeals is constrained by the new terms of the law;  it cannot set limits that are not authorized by the statute.

In the 90s, when Williamstown overhauled its zoning code, one principle that shaped the revision was "greater density of development in the center of town in exchange for more open space on the periphery."  The Waubeeka proposal abridges that principle

So ​
whatever the merits of the Waubeeka idea, the  amount of time in town meeting (the final article on a very long Warrant) will not likely produce sound legislation;  there has been too little research on the possible consequences and legal ramifications for development in the town as a whole and the potential impact on the pocket books of the taxpayers.  

With a new generation becoming our governors and with new people moving to town, perhaps the  time has arrived for changing those principles on which the zoning code is based, but making that move in response to the citizen's petition whose wording carries the potential for a chain of lawsuits seems ill advised.

Fwd: Letter regarding Waubeeka from Stephanie Boyd: We need to know scale

May 13, 2016

To the Williamstown Community, 
It comes down to uncertainty.
When we don't quite know how the future will unfold and we need to make a decision that will have long term impacts, we inevitably seek advice from trusted friends and colleagues; we read published materials; we attend meetings; we gather evidence; we reflect on our experiences and knowledge; we talk in a effort to understand the potential implications of the uncertainty. 
Today, the issue at hand is what to do with the proposed rezoning of the Waubeeka property. As a community, we have a lot of common ground. 
• We would like to have a viable golf course. 
• We would like to see some economic growth. 
• We would like to shore up the Town's coffers with additional tax revenue. 
• We would like to maintain our open space and unparalleled natural beauty. 
• We need a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting to revise the current zoning plan. 
• And we need a zoning plan that allows for enough flexibility for a profitable development. 
But the route to getting there isn't clear. We fear that if we make the zoning by-law too restrictive the developer will flee, and perhaps worse, we will send a message to others considering Williamstown as a base for business that they are not welcome. We fear that if we make the zoning plan too loose, a monstrosity will be created that will damage the natural environment we value and negatively impact our existing businesses. 
For months, our town's elected bodies have been discussing and negotiating with the current property owner of Waubeeka to determine if we can find a way to rezone the property from a single family home zone (with the golf course grandfathered in) to one that would allow for commercial development. We've made progress. The developer has conceded a conservation restriction, albeit with strings attached, and has defined some boundaries around the scope of the potential future development. 
It is important that we understand the implications of this proposal if we are to make an informed decision on Tuesday. Do we adopt Deep's revised Citizen's Petition as is? Do we amend it at Town Meeting? Do we defer our decision so we can reduce some of the uncertainty? 
What do we need to know so that we can proceed rationally toward an effective solution? 
1. The Scale: Deep's revised Citizen's Petition that will be presented at Town Meeting states that the development will occur on 10 acres of land, and be limited to 120 units and 3 stories tall. Since there is no square footage limitation, (and there is no description of what comprises a unit), the building size is virtually unrestricted. The developer argues that he can't provide the square footage because that would limit the flexibility and dissuade future developer interest in the property. Repeated requests for a building size estimate have gone unanswered. But 120 units is a limit of sorts, 3 stories high is a limit. 10 acres is a limit. And there is nothing inherently wrong with defining the building size too. It would help us better visualize the scale of the allowed development and provide clear guidance to future developers. 

2. The Zoning: All parcels of land come with restrictions on how they can be used. There are rules concerning uses (residential or commercial or industrial), there are guidelines about property boundaries, and height restrictions. There are rules associated with watersheds and surrounding land and vegetation. As much as individual may own a property, we recognize that the property is part of a community (local and global) and the community has the right to have a say in how it can be used. When a change is proposed, we also have a right to weigh in. Changing zoning can have significant long-term impacts, and we should take the time to consider those impacts. Recent zoning changes in Williamstown include Cable Mill property, and the proposed change at the foot Spring St to allow for hotel development. In both those cases, a concept plan for the development was available which facilitated understanding of the long-term impacts. This is not the case with the Waubeeka property. There is not a conceptual plan available to facilitate understanding and thereby reducing the uncertainty of what we are agreeing to. 

3. The Tax Revenue: At this point, we can't say what the tax revenue implications of a hotel development will be. At the recent Finance Committee meeting, the committee decided not to vote when asked to support the Waubeeka zoning proposal. It was unclear to the Finance Committee whether the proposed zoning change would lead to increased revenue or not. This is partially due to the fact the tax revenue for hotels is based on a complex net income revenue formula. Increased revenue at one hotel could lead to decreased revenue at another, with the net result being no increase in tax revenue to the Town. Without a business plan that supports the proposed (but undefined) development, the finance committee decided not to weigh in. 
4. The Details: There are clauses in Deep's zoning proposal that put limits on the conservation restriction – allowing for wells to be constructed, photovoltaicsto be installed, and forestry to be undertaken. These caveats then affect how the 'conserved' land can be handled legally in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It wouldn't fall under typical legal definition of Conservation Restriction and will be more difficult to manage in the future. And the developer has stipulated that if the hotel fails, he could decide to surrender his permit and the land would revert back to residential zoning. This type of decision should be left for future Town boards to decide. 

5. The Town Officials' Advice: We elect people to represent us on town boards. We ask them, and are grateful to them, for taking the time to delve deeply into issues; to research current topics; to deliberate; to represent us; to advise us. This particular issue is difficult and there is not a consensus among our community's boards or among our elected officials. The Planning Board is leaning against Deep's Citizen's Petition 3-2, the Select Board is standing on the side of the petition 4-1, and Finance Committee has declined to take a stand. The only thing we can conclude from our elected leaders is that this proposal is not ready for adoption as it currently stands. It doesn't clearly support the principles of smart growth or move us toward sound economic development. It doesn't, in its current state, support the needs of our Town. 
Let's work together to make any changes to the Waubeeka property zoning express our desire to welcome developers to our town, while also reflecting our collective desires for balanced growth and a long-term sustainable vision for our town. 
With best regards, 

Stephanie Boyd 
26 Waterman Place, Williamstown, MA 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Cynthia Payne posts to her Facebook site: Don't buy Deep's pig in a poke

Williamstown resident Cynthia Payne -- who just ran for a seat on the Board of Selectmen -- has posted this to her Facebook page and forwarded it to Here is a large excerpt, but you can read the whole thing on her page:


Waubeeka is the second hot topic at town meeting. When we first heard of a proposal to build a country inn at Waubeeka I think we were all happy and excited at the prospect. What a great idea! Revitalize Five Corners! Save the golf course and the beautiful open space at the entrance to our town! But wait..... How big will it be? What about the golf course? What about all the land? Will it just be an inn or will there be other buildings as well? 

Mike Deep has not answered our questions. His supporters put up a Facebook page - Save Waubeeka - but it's interesting to note his name is nowhere on it. Those of us who have lived here for a while know about Deep's reputation . . . .

We don't know how big the "country inn" will be. Stan Parese has said the "concept" for the inn project will be 115,000 sq feet. But how big is that? For comparison, the Orchards is 51,346 sq feet and the Williams Inn is 70,491 sq feet. 115,000 sq feet for the Waukeeka inn? Good heavens, that's HUGE! That's almost as big as the two hotels combined!

How many rooms in a unit?

Do we need that many new hotel rooms? The proposal for the new Williams Inn that the college wants to put up has said it will be smaller than the current inn because there's no demand for a larger space. There are currently three motels in town that are for sale because there's no demand for the rooms. Oh yes, rooms. Waubeeka talks about "units", not rooms. A "unit" in a hotel can be up to four rooms including kitchen facilities. Is Deep thinking of time shares there? Make a quick buck with shoddy construction and then move on?

What kind of jobs? 

A big Waubeeka development is being supported by some people in town because it will provide jobs. New jobs in town! Maybe my kids will move back here if they can find jobs. But what kind of jobs are we talking about? Waitstaff, lawn mowing, and chambermaids. Low income, minimum wage jobs. I don't think I can talk my kids into coming back for that. They can stay in the city and wait tables.

Gateway to town -- viewshed

You have all heard that it's important to make a good first impression. Route 7 through South Williamstown is known for its open space and beautiful scenery. We've all seen cars parked by the side of the road taking pictures. Waubeeka is known as a beautiful golf course. Like it or not, we have turned into a tourist town. We no longer have industry here to provide jobs. What brings tourists to an area? The views. It's not an elitist, NIMBY stance to want to preserve our beautiful open spaces. 

Logging and solar panels?

Currently, Waubeeka is a small building surrounded by beautiful open land. Deep has fought having any open space restrictions on his land. He finally gave in and agreed to put 67 acres at the back of the property, away from the streets, into conservation restriction in exchange for being able to build on 10 acres at the front of the property along the road. Even then, he's not talking about open land conservation. It's currently wooded land with springs. He wants to be able to log the undeveloped land that's under conservation restriction and put up solar panels there to power his new inn. That's not protecting anything!

Don't guy a pig in a poke 

So we're back to the proposal. I think we can all get behind the idea of a country inn at Waubeeka. Let's agree on that. But before anything is built we need more information on the size of the buildings, the style of the buildings, and open space preservation along Routes 7 and 43 where we can actually see and enjoy it. At town meeting let's ask Deep for more information before we agree to a buy a pig in a poke.

(comments welcome, post below)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Another idea for Waubeeka if town meeting rejects Deep's resort hotel proposal: Cluster housing?

A Williamstown resident with significant knowledge of real-estate ownership and development discussed with this week an alternative idea for the Waubeeka Golf links which they said could yield revenue for owner Mike Deep and also rely upon keeping the 18-hole public golf course open, a goal Deep claims.

The resident, who does not wish to be identified for the moment, wrote the following:

"Would neighbors and others be opposed to a very nice clustered townhouse/condo  project, say 60 units of around 1,600 square feet, that would be built to maximize views, that would have fashionable but not necessarily expensive finishes (as in, Ikea cabinets), and that would put the rest of the land in conservation?

"I think there's a real market for such units, especially in such a great location.  It would preserve the golf course, the views and open space, attract new residents to the town, and increase the tax base. all while actually enhancing the property and increasing the likelihood of its future value instead of detracting from it."
What do you think? Comments open below.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Cynthia Payne provides campaign statement supporting her candidacy for Williamstown selectboard

------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Cynthia Payne for Select Board
Date: Mon, 9 May 2016 12:26:11 -0400
From: Cynthia D. Payne <>

Dear Friends,

Some of you I already know from the Congregational Church, from the Historical Museum, from the elementary school or just from around town.  Some of you have only met me in the last few months.  The town election is coming up Tuesday, May 10th at the elementary school. I hope you've heard already that I'm running for Select Board against Jane Patton and Jeffrey Thomas.

I've lived here in town longer than the two of them combined and I think I have more of a feel for the values we hold dear here in Williamstown.  I'd love to see more business here in town, not just new restaurants, hotels and stores that cater to tourists, but industry that will provide careers for recent college grads and for our own kids to come back home.  I'd like to see Spring Street made vital for townspeople again.  Remember when we had a bakery, a grocery
store, an insurance agency, etc  on Spring Street?  I'd like to see our empty storefronts filled.

I have a special love for historic and open space preservation. I'm in favor of the  Community Preservation Act which we voted for in 2002 "to be devoted to community housing (senior and affordable), historic preservation, open space, and outdoor recreation."  Jeffrey Thomas, although he's on the board, has consistently voted against applicants who come to the board and a few weeks ago proposed that the board be abolished. 

As most of you know, I've had four children who've gone through the school system here and I'm a strong supporter of our schools.  When we first moved here, almost 30 years ago, the school system had an excellent reputation, especially for all the enrichment programs we had.  We used to have French, computer skills, and a gifted and talented programs in the elementary school.  Now we've lost all of those and the Side by Side program is at risk.  What will be cut next, Shakespeare?

You can read more about my background and my positions on my Facebook page:
I also have links to my candidate statement on the Greylock Independent site and the Willinet video of the Select Board candidates night.

I'd love your vote on Tuesday.  Please feel free to forward my information to your other friends.  Thanks so much!  I look forward to serving the town on the Select Board.

Cynthia D. Payne

Head of Democratic town committee sends Sarah Gardner's Planning Board candidate pitch to all members

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The chairman of the Williamstown Democratic Committee has forward to all committee-members a campaign statement from Sarah Gardner, who is running for a Planning Board seat.  In his note, Jim Mahon said that Gardner was the only candidate for the board who is a committee member.  He said his forwarding of her message "does not constitute an endorsement -- it is better described as a benefit of membership."
From: Jim Mahon <>
Date: May 8, 2016 at 10:42:51 PM EDT

Subject: Sarah Gardner's candidacy for Planning Board 
Dear WDTC members,
    First, town elections are this Tuesday, May 10.   
    Second, Sarah Gardner sent along the message below about her candidacy for Planning Board.  She was not able to attend the forum held by the Greylock Independent about a month ago, though she did submit the video you can see at the link near the end of her message.  Sarah has been a Town Committee member for several years, and in fact I think she's the only member of the committee running for town office this Tuesday.  This does not constitute an endorsement--it is better described as a benefit of membership.
. . . .

Thanks and best wishes,

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Sarah Gardner Planning Board Election: For Dem Committee List
Date: Sat, 7 May 2016 15:30:29 -0400
From: Gardner, Sarah <>
To: James Mahon <>
CC: Paula Consolini <>

Hi Jim, 
Here is my letter about the Planning Board election and my video statement. I hope you could send this to the Democratic Committee list. 
Thank you,
Dear Fellow Williamstown Residents, 
I'm writing to you about my campaign for the Planning Board to ask for your help.  I'm running for the 5-year seat and the vote is Tuesday, May 10. This is a hotly contested election, the differences between us are stark, and there is a concerted effort to make sure I do not win.  So I really need your help and support right now. All I'm asking is that you read this, and if you support me please forward it off to your circle with a note from you. There is a digital flyer attached.  
I'm always willing to stick my neck out if that's what it takes to get things done.  I'm hoping you will stick up for me now.
If you will be out of town Tuesday, you may vote at town hall on Monday.  If you don't vote in Williamstown, please send this along to friends who do. Today (Saturday), would be a great time to write endorsement Letters to the Editor to iBerkshires here:  and to The Berkshire Eagle here:
Like us and see more info on Facebook here:
I am running for the Planning Board (5 year term).
I am supporting Anne Hogeland for Planning Board (2 year term).
I am also supporting Cynthia Payne for Select Board.
I'm running for re-election to the Planning Board because I care about Williamstown and I'm committed to public service. On the Planning Board, I work to foster economic development while maintaining my commitment to open space and agriculture. The principles of Smart Growth guide my approach to planning.

I bring to the Planning Board a technical knowledge of zoning and land-use laws, an appreciation of differing perspectives, and a vision for the town's future. I also bring a passion; there's nothing I'd rather do than research creative approaches to town planning.

I believe good planning involves the public. The more perspectives we hear, the better the plans will be. I listen to all sides of an issue and I try to find solutions that will benefit Williamstown in the long-term. Please vote to re-elect me to the Planning Board. I look forward to working with you to keep Williamstown a safe and progressive place to live, work and visit.
Local, County & State Service:  Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Williamstown Master Plan Committee, Community Preservation Committee, Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Agricultural Commission,
Farmers Market Committee, COOL Committee, Massachusetts Environmental Trust.
Civic Involvement:  I've served as board member of the Berkshire Bike Path Committee, Berkshire Grown, Williamstown Farmers Market Committee & the Hoosic River Watershed Association.
Professional Background: New Jersey Office of State Planning, New York City Recycling Program, City University of New York, Environmental Advocates.
Planning in Williamstown: I've helped initiate several planning projects in town: rezoning and redeveloping the Cable Mill, rezoning the Photech site, developing the Williamstown - North Adams bike path, advocating to enact the Community Preservation Act, working to pass the Right to Farm bylaw, and I was a leader of the "Keep Berkshire Farming" food system study.
17-year resident:  I've raised my 3 children in Williamstown and teach environmental planning at Williams College where I am the associate director of the Center for Environmental Studies. I recently produced the documentary filmForgotten Farms, that explores class divides in our farm and food communities. It premieres at the Berkshire International Film Festival in June.  I'm a graduate of Smith College, I hold a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the City University of New York.
This election is happening while our town is in conflict over the Waubeeka development proposals. Mike Deep has asked the board to rezone the 203-acre golf course for commercial use so he can build a resort there. Everyone on the board supported the golf course and everyone supported the idea of a "country inn," as Deep presented it. We worked hard to reach consensus around a bylaw that would allow him to build a development, but there was complete disagreement about what size development would be appropriate. It's a beautiful and historic entrance to town.  My instinct was to proceed with great caution but I support the golf course and I would support a country inn at Waubeeka if it would help make it viable.  The process was fraught and Deep kept changing the size and nature of the project:  In January it allowed for timeshares on 40 acres; In February we voted to table the issue so that the developer could provide more specifics. The developer chose to by-pass the planning board with a citizens' petition. The citizens petition has been amended multiple times. The most recent version from the developer is for a 120-unit hotel plus a clubhouse, 200-seat banquet facility etc.
This week the board passed an amendment for vote at Town Meeting, by a 3-2 vote, for a 50,000 - 60,000 sq.ft. development (the Orchards Hotel is 50,000 sq.ft.) that includes 67-107 acres in a conservation restriction.  I, and two fellow board members (Liz McGowan and Ann McCallum), felt this was a fair compromise.  But the 2 board members who voted against this bylaw wanted to allow Deep to develop a much larger 10-acre resort that would include a 120 unit hotel, which is the size that chain hotels require.  I feel this was too large and that it would have an adverse effect on South Williamstown and our southern entrance to town.  I think Williamstown voters deserve to know the size and scale of a project before approving a major zoning change.
Because of our position that an Orchard's sized hotel is more appropriate for the site than a Jiminy Peak sized hotel, opponents in town are accusing us of crushing economic development in Williamstown. Again, I don't agree.  If you drive around the country you can see lots of examples of poor planning. When you drive into Williamstown you can feel a difference.  This isn't by accident. It's because of carefully enforced zoning.  Our role on the Planning Board is to write the zoning bylaws that The Zoning Board enforces. Williamstown has always done careful planning, for the most part, keeping development in town and protecting our natural resources and farms. It's upsetting that civil discourse around this issue has been supplanted by hostility and aggressive tactics. I have always remained polite and respectful.
If elected to the Planning Board I intend to continue my work to promote smart growth:  encouraging business development in our business and industrial districts.  I believe this is in the long-term economic interest of our town.
I appreciate your support for the 5-year seat on the Planning Board. We'll work hard between now and Tuesday.  Polls are open from 7am to 8pm.
Thanks for reading this and thanks for your support,
My video statement:
All the best,



Wednesday, May 04, 2016

ENDORSEMENT: Tela Zasloff endorses Sarah Gardner for Williamstown Planning Board seat

Williams resident Tela Zasloff has endorsed Sarah Gardner for the Williamstown Planning board in a letter to the editor submitted to   Here is the text:
To the Editor:
The Williamstown Planning Board has the broadest role of any Town committee, and we are fortunate this year to have a candidate running for a five-year seat who is superbly qualified to fill that role—Sarah Gardner.  The Town website describes the Planning Board's task as two-fold: to prepare for the future of the town with studies and plans on land use, housing, recreation and conservation, and business development; to review all proposals for zoning bylaw amendments and to propose bylaw amendments of its own.  All these decisions are to be made with community support and within a broad vision for the future.

During the 17 years Sarah has lived in Williamstown and raised her three children here, she has served on many local, county and state committees that have enriched her background in Town planning.  Her service has made it clear that she sees her mission on the Planning Board as fostering economic development, affordable housing and socio-economic diversity, while maintaining her commitment to preserving the natural resources, open space and farms that surround our valley. The list is long of planning projects Sarah has helped develop in town—rezoning and redeveloping the Cable Mill for apartments and affordable housing; rezoning the Photech site including plans for commercial development and affordable housing; developing the Williamstown-North Adams bike path; revitalizing Williamstown's "Superblock", a  plan to develop mixed-use commercial/affordable housing in townhouses on the Town Garage site; an assessment of affordable housing potential on the Wylde property, off North Hoosic Road; advocating to enact the Community Preservation Act; working to pass the Right to Farm bylaw; leading the Keep Berkshire Farming food system study.

In her years of experience in Town planning, Sarah has developed a technical knowledge of zoning and land-use laws, an appreciation of differing perspectives, and a passion for town planning itself, including research in innovative approaches to planning that have been successful in other towns.  I have watched her over the years, as she participates in various committee decisions, and it's obvious that she knows how to listen to all sides of an issue, gain community support, and find solutions that will benefit Williamstown in the long-term.   Such deliberations take research, discussion, thought and hard work.  Sarah is very good at that.  The most recent example of her skills took place at last week's Planning Board meeting about the Citizen's Petition at Town Meeting asking for a zoning change for developing the Waubeeka property.  Sarah continually urged ways to reach a compromise on this issue among the members of the Board.

Sarah is a future-thinking kind of person, and in her position of teaching environmental planning at Williams College and serving as associate director of the Center for Environmental Studies, she works to pass on her knowledge to the next generation.  Sarah Gardner is the person our town needs on the Planning Board.
Tela Zasloff, Williamstown, MA

Monday, May 02, 2016

ENDORSEMENT: Puddester, Kapiloff receive endorsement for Planning Board from three former selectmen

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Candidates Susan Puddester and Chris Kapiloff, running in the May 10 local election for seats on the Williamstown Planning Board, received endorsement in a letter signed by three former selectmen, Jane Allen, Jack Madden and David Rempell.  Rempell is also a former principal of the Williamstown Elementary School.

The trio's letter, provided to, focuses on economic development. "We need to make clear to potential investors that the town will work with them to maximize their chance of success," it says in part, adding: "We risk turning away potential investment in our town if we put unreasonable roadblocks in the way of reasonable development."


CANDIDATE PITCH: Williamstown Planning Board candidate Sarah Gardner details commitment to affordable housing

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Planning Board incumbent Sarah Gardner has made public a one-page statement describing her support for affordable housing.  Gardner is seeking election to the board in a May 10 local election.

"Our growing lack of economic diversity is a serious issue for Williamstown and I remain devoted to planning initiatives that bring affordable housing to town," Gardner's statement says.  She also cites work by Williams environmental-studies students under her guidance, inckluding a 2013 affordable-housing plan for the PhoTech plant site on Cole Avenue, and 10 years earlier, in 2003.