There is so much going on in our town, Williamstown, about the Conservation of Land and Affordable Housing. Before we make statements about what the Spruces residents need and want, and talk loosely about how we can help them find new homes, we need to ask them what they prefer. The residents of the Spruces are probably offended when people refer to them as "less fortunate". These people bought and paid for their homes so they would not be paying "rents" as they grew older. Most of them are now retired--this is a community designed for residents 55 or older. They love their homes in the Spruces as is reflected by the cleanliness and neatness of their spaces. They lived in close proximity to each other and had a great sense of neighborliness and community and have a lot of pride in their ownership.
But for many of the remaining Spruces residents, affordable housing may be inappropriate: They may be overqualified for affordable housing or may want a quieter type of community than a housing development like the one being proposed for the Lowry property. There are other properties available in town with buildings on them that need to be beautified, that can offer a wide range of housing, both group and single units, and improve the looks of the "Village Beautiful" at the same time.
Also, there are two large areas, the former Photech site and the former Cable Mills site, that are deteriorating.
Then there is the conservation land issue. As a town resident who once sought to acquire or trade parcels of land within the Lowry property, I was informed by town management that the Lowry property was conservation land and not available for other purposes. I have letters to that effect. It seems, from what I am hearing now coming from town management, that might not have been the truth. Regardless, I believe it was the intent of the voters at the Town Meeting in 1987 that the Lowry property and possibly other properties be placed in permanent conservation. If the actual conservation placement was not a permanent one as voters expected, we have to ask those responsible, why they placed the site under a looser conservation designation.
There is something almost sacred about preserving the open land we have left, and about promoting farming and passive recreation. Taking just a piece of this land for building housing, affects all of it, and we shouldn't fool ourselves otherwise. If we are to promote a greener, cleaner, healthier lifestyle, these places are invaluable to us - not only to current residents, but also to anyone moving into this town or visiting it and especially to all future generations that should not be denied its value. These lands would also be valuable to those who would move into Williamstown in affordable housing neighborhoods, especially if they are families with children and pets that would benefit from open spaces, from outdoor exercise, from the healthy foods produced by local farmers, and from the use of the land to learn about our environment.