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