Williamstown is experiencing a collision between two worthy goals: land conservation and affordable housing. We've strongly supported the first over the decades, and those opinions have become easy habits. We don't think twice before signing a petition to save a field. Meanwhile, we've neglected the second goal, with its people-centered values of fairness, generosity, and diversity.
In fact, this is our moment to ask ourselves who we are as a town, now and in the future. In doing so, we must take a town-wide perspective and consider what the Lowry proposal is and is not.
It's not an environmental crisis. The Lowry property was permanently altered years ago by the condominiums. It is now landlocked, out of view, and not simple to access.
It's not an agricultural crisis. Like much Williamstown land, the property is hayed but is not a farm. Small homes with gardens are an equally valid use of that land.
The principal opposition is from neighbors, protecting their quality of life and their investment. That's legitimate and will happen anywhere worth living. Is it the whole story, though? While one neighborhood is protesting, another is still hurting. It was a terrible wound to Williamstown when our own version of Katrina made an entire community homeless. As a volunteer after Irene I was shocked by the lack of options in my affluent town. With nowhere else to go, people slept in shelters for weeks and in
Now they have a path to a possible future in Williamstown, and many are eager to move forward. The Lowry property can replicate what they had, this time on higher ground. The former factories, Carol Cable and Photech, should also be developed, but these are not the solution for The Spruces.
Save them for younger people, singles and couples, who also need affordable housing and can bring business to downtown.
As a native, I have seen Williamstown grow increasingly exclusive during my lifetime.
It's not a healthy trend. It would be even worse if a deliberate decision, made at a special town meeting, directed that a beautiful, clean, safe, central, convenient and town-owned piece of land should stay empty, when it could meet an urgent human need.
Come to the special town meeting at the high school on Wednesday, April 24, and make your vote count.