Letter: Waubeeka proposal must follow town planning process

Waubeeka must follow town planning process

To the editor:

Views from the Route 7 corridor in South Williamstown are recognized as among the finest in Massachusetts. A 1982 Massachusetts inventory gave this scenic landscape an A; travelers along Route 7 will concur.

The beauty of this area has been maintained through the decades by thoughtful planning of the citizens of Williamstown and hard work of the South Williamstown community. For over 50 years, the Waubeeka Golf Links has both contributed to this beauty and benefited from it.

The Trustees applaud the succession of owners at Waubeeka for staying true to the vision of a community golf course. And we understand the current owner's desire to create a New England-style inn on the property to provide more stable revenue and local employment opportunities.

However, we have significant concerns on how this project is being proposed. To make the desired changes at Waubeeka, the owner is requesting a spot zoning change which would essentially avoid the planning board, and public input, process. This kind of zoning, voted on at town meeting, doesn't fully consider town planning goals.

Along with others in Williamstown, The Trustees could support a limited zoning change that would provide long term viability of the Golf Club while protecting scenic and environmental values. This project, if done right, could help bring visitors into Williamstown and provide needed jobs and tax revenue. But, when careful planning is bypassed the result can be a diminished landscape and long term economic integrity of the area.

While I appreciate that the original proposal has evolved, nevertheless the Planning Board process is critical as town meeting doesn't provide the time and space for careful consideration of the community's concerns. This proposed zoning change would allow for up to 40 acres of hotel and/or time share development at Waubeeka. The proposal indicates that the remaining 160 acres will remain in open space, but can also be subject to a commercial scale solar installation. If the project's special permit lapses so does any fleeting open space protection.

Instead of spot-zoning, a more carefully considered bylaw which allows for a limited change such as a New England-style inn surrounded by well-preserved open space, protects the landscape and natural assets of the area, and respects the town planning process, would be a much better way to go.

Thomas Por, Williamsburg The writer is Northwest/Northern Berkshires General Manager for The Trustees.


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