Before moving to Williamstown nearly 29 years ago, I had never participated in a town meeting. And when my husband and I attended the Williamstown Town Meeting in 1989, we were struck by how fervently townspeople defended their positions on articles on the agenda.
As a discussion of possible sites for the proposed new Town Garage went on and on, I looked at the person beside me questioningly. "Oh," the women replied, "this has been going on for almost 10 years."
And now a question about where to place affordable housing looms over Williamstownians.
I am playing devil's advocate, searching for an answer
Did I misunderstand a member of a town board who said there has not been enough discussion about the possibility of the Lowry property being used for affordable housing?
There have been countless discussions on the matter at numerous town committee meetings, and the news media has covered the story from every angle. In addition, editors have generously published letter after letter from proponents and opponents of using the Lowry property for affordable housing.
Certainly a person who says it is only a hop and a skip from the Lowry property to Water Street is not speaking of the average person. There are no sidewalks on Stratton Road and the hill is a killer.
While Town Manager Peter Fohlin spoke of putting 40 structures on the Lowry property, a certain member of the Planning Board is talking about putting 90 structures there.
The town government, in general, has been accused of not being diligent.
This seems unfounded, based on the time and effort our town leaders have devoted to this matter.
What I most dislike is the name calling on the part of both sides: NIMBYs, selfish, tricksters ... and the idea that it's a battle waged by the rich against the poor.
Now after much ado, the Special Town Meetings of April 24 have proved unproductive. The meetings came to an abrupt end without the nearly 800 attendees having an opportunity to vote on the articles or even exchange opinions.
OK, what about putting the question on the ballot: "Should the Lowry property be considered as an affordable housing site?" That would allow everyone to express their opinion.
Of course, neither the voters nor town leaders can take the Lowry property out of conservation. That is a process that must begin with the Conservation Commission. As explained by Hanry Art, chair of the Conservation Commission, "necessary order for taking town property out of conservation use is Conservation Commission, Town Meeting, State Legislature, if the land falls under the provisions of Article 97."
Stay tuned, folks. The need for affordable housing, the dilemma of Spruces residents left homeless by flooding during Hurricane Irene and the question of where to find or place affordable housing will be haunting Williamstownians into the future. At least that's my opinion.