Planning Board race tops Williamstown ballot

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WILLIAMSTOWN — With town elections coming up on Tuesday, there is only one contested seat on the ballot, which is the seat held on the Planning Board by Chris Winters since 2006.

Winters is running to retain his seat against challenger Karen Shepard.

Candidates running unopposed include Select Board incumbents Andrew Hogeland and Hugh Daley; newcomer Caitlin Lopez running for the Williamstown Elementary School committee; and lastly Library Trustee candidates Patricia Wilk, Mary Alcott Ferger, and incumbent Karen Kowitz.

Shepard, a novelist and a 1987 graduate of Williams College, is a senior lecturer in the Williams College English Department.

She and her husband, also a member of the Williams College faculty, have sent two children through local schools and has another in ninth grade at Mount Greylock High School. Shepard has been involved with the Mount Greylock PTO and has served on several school search committees, and served on college building committees for both the renovation of The Log and the construction of the new book store.

Following the national elections in November, Shepard said, "the time of being complacent was over. I was telling my students it is time to get involved, so I decided to do the same."

Shepard said she understands the towns peoples' affection for open spaces, and the need for more housing and commercial development. She noted that her preference is that new development should happen in the town center, leaving open spaces on the outskirts.

Winters is an assistant provost at Williams College and, aside from serving on the Planning Board since 2006, has also served on the Williamstown Finance Committee and the Williamstown Conservation Commission.

He said he has a deep understanding of the regulations, standards, challenges and opportunities regarding new development in Williamstown.

"Only 10 percent of Williamstown's land is buildable," he said. "The very nature of our land, its hydrology and geology, is the best protector of its open spaces. The town is currently 83 percent open space."

He pointed out one success partially due to the work of the Planning Board which is having a significant positive economic impact in town is the recent completion of the Cable Mills housing project.

"The rapid rent out of Cable Mills shows that, gosh darn, people want to live here and that's great," Winters said. "It is a spectacular re-use of an empty building and brought in dozens of new neighbors, and it created a new housing type that the market has ratified is in demand."

The Williamstown town election is Tuesday, May 9 from 7a.m. to 8 p.m. at Williamstown Elementary School.


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