WILLIAMSTOWN -- The future for Spruces Mobile Home Park residents is more clear following Tuesday night’s special town meeting.
All three warrant articles were passed unanimously by the 232 residents in attendance with no discussion, meaning the town will assume ownership of the flood-prone park in early 2016.
"I’m just blown away," Selectmen Chairwoman Jane Allen said after the meeting. "I was overwhelmed with the fact that there was not one single question. Everyone was here as I hoped I would be to support this amazing opportunity."
The "opportunity" is a $6.13 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant awarded to relocate current residents of the Main Street mobile home park. August 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene destroyed 159 of the 225 units at the park, with only 66 being deemed habitable. Pittsford, N.Y. owner Morgan Management, LLC. has stated the park is not "financially viable."
Article One asked permission for Selectmen to acquire the property by "gift, purchase or eminent domain."
Morgan Management has agreed to accept $600,000 in grant funds to pay off the park’s mortgage. The town would then take over park operation, hire a relocation agent to relocate current residents, and take title of the land in early 2016. Morgan has also agreed to donate $4.1 million in grant funds to the town to remove existing structures and compensate residents up to $22,500 for their loss.
A sigh of relief rolled over the audience after Article One was passed unanimously.
"You’ve all made me very happy," Allen said before she read the second article out loud. "I’m going to have a hard time getting through this."
Article Two will allow Selectmen to lease the park from Morgan Management until 2016. Article Three established a revolving fund under the Selectmen’s authority for park operating expenses including rent collected from tenants.
A town committee is currently exploring ways to reuse the property for recreation. In addition, a group of developers hopes to begin construction on a 40-unit senior housing project on land donated by Williams College in the Fall of 2014.
"Obviously everyone in this room realizes this community just made a giant leap forward in helping people in the Spruces we care for deeply," Selectman David Rempell said before the meeting was adjourned.
Rempell also recognized the work of Town Manager Peter Fohlin, who led the way for the grant application and worked for months with lawyers representing Morgan Management and the town.
"These are very discriminating voters," Allen said after the meeting. "They don’t just say yes. They are very thoughtful, intelligent and knowledgeable. To have them all come tonight to say ‘yes’ to this is so affirming."
She added the votes were also reassuring for Spruces residents.
"This has been all about them all along," she said. "There is certainty, which there hasn’t been for the past two years...They’re the ones it’s been the hardest on, and it continues to be the hardest on."
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