Deep plan will not produce smart growth
To the editor:
Let's save Waubeeka golf course with a moderately sized country inn, with the increased tax revenues and jobs it would bring, without damaging the environment. That is smart growth.
Michael Deep's original boutique country inn proposal to "save" the golf course has morphed into a full-blown resort on 10 acres, with a pseudo-conservation restriction on one lot and a pseudo-limit of 120 "units," and not a word in it about preserving the golf course.
Why a pseudo-conservation restriction? Because it would allow digging, drilling, and access roads, ground mounted solar arrays, water wells and geothermal infrastructure, all on heavily forested land replete with streams and wetlands.
Why a pseudo-limit of 120 "units"? Because a unit is not a room. A unit can be multiple rooms. So instead of a 120-room hotel, Deep could build a 120-unit hotel with 240 or 360 rooms That would probably make it the biggest hotel by far in the Berkshires. The Williams Inn has 124 rooms; the Orchards has 49.
Then there are acres of parking lots that accompany the mega-resort, all placed on environmentally sensitive land on the only remaining scenic entrance to Williamstown. That land is what helps to give Williamstown its unique character and maintains its property values.
We need a bylaw that better balances development size with open space protection, while still increasing tax revenues and jobs. The Finance Committee voted not to make any recommendation on Deep's petition as he requested.
Deep claims $300,000 in additional property tax revenues for the town. This is to convince hard-working people that their tax burden will decrease significantly and schools will be funded. But a look at other existing hotels in Williamstown as a guide for what we might expect shows that the town receives $65,000 in property tax revenue (far below $300,000) from the Williams Inn, which is about $21/household. The Orchards brings in about $40,000, about $13/household.
Bigger is not always better: the larger resort could decrease home values and decrease tax revenue from existing hotels and motels, so the net increase to Williamstown, if any, is unknown.
We need smart growth. We need a moderately sized hotel to bring in jobs and revenues without the negative effects a large resort would bring. Please vote for a more moderately sized hotel at town meeting Tuesday, and against the Deep petition.
Sherwood Guernsey, Williamstown The writer is a former state representative.