Williamstown Selectmen to hear ideas for brownfield sites at meeting tonight


WILLIAMSTOWN -- Selectmen will be asked during their meeting tonight to approve requests for proposals that could determine the future of two town-owned brownfield sites.

On Friday, Affordable Housing Committee Chairwoman Cathy Yamamoto said the effort to redevelop the former town garage site at 59 Water St. and the former PhoTech Mill at 233 Cole Ave. has been ongoing for several years.

"We're thrilled to be at this point, and are hopeful that we will get responses from developers," she said.

Both sites were voted as surplus property and turned over to Selectmen by Town Meeting roughly a decade ago. Since then, both have seen much environmental remediation paid for by town, state and federal funds. Request For Proposals were also issued for both properties in the mid-2000s.

Roughly $2 million has been spent at the 4.8-acre PhoTech site, once home to the film processing company but abandoned since the late 1980s. The 1.3-acre Water Street site was home to the town's garage until 1997, and the building was demolished in 2003. The lot is now mainly used for parking.

In September 2013, the committee chose two consultants to draft RFPs for both properties. Residents were invited to two interactive workshops in October to express what kind of structure they wanted on each site.

"The sessions yielded lots of good information," Yamamoto said. "We tried to incorporate what we learned from them into the RFPs."

The committee has met with both consultants in multiple open meetings over the past few months to draft and refine the documents.

"Developers can respond to one or the other, or both in a combined proposal that addresses both properties," Yamamoto said.

Selectmen will meet to review the RFPs and take a vote tonight at 7 in town hall.

"If Selectmen approve the RFPs, they have to be advertised in the state's Central Register for 30 days," she said. "The earliest that can happen would be Jan. 22."

If approved, the committee hopes to have responses into Town Manager Peter Fohlin by March 7, Yamamoto said. Selectmen would then be charged with evaluating the RFPs.

Yamamoto said developing the two properties is a step toward addressing the town's affordable housing need, demonstrated in a Housing Needs Assessment released last February. Other projects in the works include the privately owned Cable Mills project on Water Street and the Highland Woods project on donated Williams College land.

"This is just part of the solution," she said.

To reach Edward Damon, email edamon@thetranscript.com.


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