The first time we drove up Williamstown’s Stratton Road, the land we now know as the Lowry took our breath away. We thought it must have been a master stroke of town planning that had put such a magnificent open space in the midst of a relatively densely populated neighborhood, allowing folks living there to occupy smaller spaces but still enjoy a great natural resource, in harmony with other living creatures. We were overjoyed when a condo there became available.
Before purchasing it, I spoke with neighbors and at least four other people holding significant positions in the town. I even called Town Hall. All said that the land was indeed in conservation, protected in perpetuity. Williamstown valued open space, and the land held agricultural significance. All of these people honestly believed what they said to be true. In fact, even now there are properties for sale listed as "abuts protected land."
There are others who feel similarly betrayed. The trust we had in government has been dealt a severe blow. We can only hope that describing our situation will forewarn others considering buying property in Williamstown. Sometimes "trust but verify" does not work.
We are not the least reassured by the proposal to use just 10 acres of the land for housing and a town road. The 10 acres in the schematic that has been made public happen to be the heart of the property. It’s like when your big brother takes your hamburger and then says, "Why are you complaining? You still have the bun."
Further, if we learn anything from current events, how can we trust the promise that the remaining land would stay in conservation? Williamstown was warned over 10 years ago that the Spruces residents should be moved to higher ground because their homes were on a flood plain. As a result of not acting then, the need now is dire for them, and others in the town need affordable housing as well. If the other properties in town are deemed insufficient to meet the need, then we must find other parcels with ultimately lesser cost than all the overhead and baggage of the current proposal.
Can’t we please try to get to yes with all our citizens?