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Williamstown town meeting

Williamstown residents still not ready to revamp zoning to increase density and diversity of housing

WilliATM

Williamstown voters cast their ballots Tuesday during debate over proposed changes to the zoning bylaw. 

WILLIAMSTOWN — Town residents again turned away an attempt to reduce housing lot sizes and increase housing density, both in the center and in the more rural sections in the south end of town.

The Planning Board offered a set of proposed changes to the zoning bylaw, including allowing three- or four-unit homes, and reducing the lot sizes in South Williamstown by one-third, or from 2 ½ acres down to 1 ⅔ acres, and increasing the number of units in a multifamily development from 16 to 24, and reducing the lot size for such a project.

With 327 voters in attendance, or about 6.7 percent of 4,906 registered voters, Town Meeting bundled several of the more controversial articles into a proposal to refer them back to the Planning Board for further study.

Similar efforts that would have allowed more housing in the rural zoning districts have been turned away by Town Meeting voters in the past.

Several voters expressed frustration that the effort to diversify housing opportunities throughout town and increase the availability of affordable housing, both popular goals, keeps failing at town meeting. The phrase “kicking the can down the road” was used several times by proponents.

Opponents of the measures maintained that they were not properly researched and that outreach to share the proposals’ details with community members during the process of developing the legislation was lacking.

Community members elected to refer the package back to the Planning Board by a vote of 176-98.

In other business, voters authorized funding the general government budget of $9.3 million and a school budget of $12.8 million.

Funding of several nonprofit operations in town was authorized, including $19,000 for Sand Springs pool, $50,000 for the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, $77,000 to the Williamstown Youth Center, $50,000 to the Store at Five Corners Stewardship Association, and $50,000 to the Williamstown Meeting House Preservation Fund.

Voters also authorized paying the Cable Mills phase 3 project $400,000 in exchange for keeping 27 units of the new multi-unit apartment building as affordable housing in perpetuity.

A proposal to change the charter to allow the town manager to live outside of town also passed. It will need to be authorized by the state Legislature before it takes effect.

Changing the town’s bylaws to remove gender-specific language — terms like selectman and chairman — with gender neutral terms such as Select Board member, and chairperson, was passed by a majority of voters.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-4622.

News Reporter

Scott Stafford has been a reporter, photographer, and editor at a variety of publications, including the Dallas Morning News and The Berkshire Eagle.

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