Waubeeka petition offers smart growth, good change
To the editor:
This letter is a call to action for Williamstown residents.
Over 1,500 voters went to the polls Tuesday and overwhelmingly voted for change. We need all of those voters and more to come to town meeting next week and vote on all of the articles, including the citizens petition for the resort hotel at the Waubeeka golf course, specifically, the petition proposing a building envelope of no more than 10 acres (the "Acreage Amendment").
There has been a lot of confusion about this petition, and frankly, a lot of inflammatory rhetoric about the size of the building, losing the view sheds, open space and so on. The suggestion is that if one is pro-growth, one must be anti-conservation. Nothing is further from the truth.
Here is the simple, most basic fact: If this community would like to preserve the view shed and the open space provided by the golf course, plus have 67 acres of land placed in a permanent conservation restriction, then please vote yes on this petition.
The golf course, on its own, isn't sustainable. Several owners have found this to be true over the course of the last 50 years.
If the current owner is forced to close the course and section the land into several building lots, what happens to the view shed and open space then? It goes away. As do the 67 acres of conservation restriction offered by the petitioner.
Let's stop assuming the worst-case scenario, and start working together to create the best-case scenario: the responsible development of a building meeting the requirements and restrictions of the Williamstown zoning laws and also preserves the open space and beauty of the area. This can be done. This should be done. This needs to be done.
The vote at Town Meeting only allows the petitioner to move forward in looking for a developer who is interested in investing in Williamstown. It is the very first step at the bottom of a very steep stairway. Every step thereafter must meet the stringent guidelines as set forth in the petition. The Zoning Board of Appeals will be there to insure those guidelines will be met — period.
Let's promote smart growth and positive change. Let's stop the division of pro- versus anti-open space and conservation. Commerce does not have to be the enemy of conservation.
Instead of doing nothing out of fear, let's do something positive and constructive for everyone — the residents living here in town today, and 50 years from today.
Jane Patton, Williamstown The writer is chairwoman of the Williamstown Board of Selectmen.