Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ann McCallum resigns from Williamstown Planning Board but supports new zoning effort and will stay for April 3 meeting

UPDATE (April 5, 2018)

The town has set up a website with an FAQ about the zoning proposal that explains more of the rationale for the proposed bylaw. The Planning Board can be reached by email at planningboard@williamstownma.gov.

Also: iBerkshires coverage of April 3 Planning Board meeting

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Architect Ann McCallum said on Tuesday that she plans to continue to serve on the Planning Board at least through its April 3 meeting, when proposed changes in the town's zoning will be discussed.  She also said she generally supports the board's initiative but she expects some changes will be offered at the meeting.

Selectmen hear negative comments from citizens about zoning rewrite (iBerkshires)

"I think the nuances have been lost to the public and I think we are going to simplify it to make it clearer to more people," McCallum told GreylockNews.com. "Parity issues have come up a lot and I think we will reduce the nuances in order to increase the feeling that everybody is being treated equally."

Among changes likely to be made in the proposal:
  • A reduction to four from six in the number of housing units into which an existing residential building may be subdivided without special zoning approval. The present law provides for only two-unit buildings as a matter of right.
  • An expansion of some provisions of the proposed changes so that they apply equally to most of the town's General Residence district, rather than just to the proposed new districts.
McCallum said the zoning proposal, which the board has been working on for more than a year in public meetings, has at least two objectives in mind:
  • Create opportunities for younger residents and new families in town to find living options other than single-family homes, on the grounds this may increase housing affordability.
  • Update zoning so that it more accurately reflects the actual "built environment" in town's urban core rather than the aspirations of planners who wrote the original zoning in the early 1950s. T
An intended result of the second item, McCallum said, is to provide property owners -- whether developers or residents -- more flexibility in what can be done with their buildings and lots without having to go through a planning-and-zoning hearing process with the town and obtain special permitting.

McCallum's view is that the effect of the changes will not be to permit larger buildings on lots, but create more flexibility with what can be done with those buildings. "Becoming more dense is perhaps not the real answer," she said. "The real point is to have more smaller units available for people, not necessarily affordable housing but different options for people. We want to encourage more young people to come to town -- and they may not be wanting a single-family house."

McCallum notes that her family owns a large Victorian at Cole Avenue and Main Street. Her view is that it makes sense for such buildings to be able to include more, smaller living units rather than to be somewhat orphaned by virtue of their size becoming less desirable. She said her house was divided into three apartments in the 1940s, something that has not been possible to do since the 1955 Zoning By-law took effect (without a special permit process), but that would be allowed "by right" with passage of the changes proposed.


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