On May 21, in one fell swoop, Williamstown will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to quickly, responsibly and economically create 100 or more units of affordable housing, truly help the residents of The Spruces, and to work together to support open government, conservation, open space, affordable housing, and add some recreation space.
A "yes" vote on Article 36 of the Town warrant will grant $365,000 to a qualified "Save The Spruces" group to form a cooperative to exercise their legally protected right of first refusal to purchase the park. We can make this happen.
Units will be added to the park to permit 100 units. This town subsidy will be used to impose deed/lot/park restrictions that will enable those Spruces units to meet state definitions of subsidized affordable housing units.
Saving the Spruces also obviates the necessity to create 66 units of additional housing if the current Spruces residents are heartlessly evicted by the town.
The coop creation will also permit the Army Corps of Engineers to study the sources of flooding for The Spruces. This possibility was confirmed with a conference call in which I participated with Karen Ashton, Project Planner and Thomas J. Hodson, Chief, from the Corps' Plan Formulation Branch on April 5. The town has sadly created the false impression that nothing can be done to mitigate the water problems or to make the homes safer on the Spruces property.
After the Spruces Coop assumes park ownership, additional recreational and agricultural uses of the park can be negotiated for bike paths, boat launches, dog parks, cultural event space and athletic fields.
Why is this important? Since February 2012, the Town has been routinely working in secrecy, likely illegally, to form a coup to take over the Spruces land under the guise of "helping" the Spruces residents, and prevent the residents from exercising their legal right to form a coop and buy the park. It has been arrogantly using heavy-handed tactics, intimidation, and confusion to create undue pressure on the Spruces residents to be fearful of exercising their legal rights. A perfect example is the town's shameless rollout and promotion of a plan and formation of a committee for developing a town-owned Spruces park, while the residents still have the legal right to live there for two to four more years. This timing is totally unconscionable and orchestrated to make it extremely difficult for a Spruces coop to be successfully formed.
The town should also back off and permanently cease and desist on using any town-owned conservation land for housing, leaving open sensible options, dig in, work together, and start developing housing on the Town Garage, Photech, Cable Mills and future identified sites.
Williamstown has been irrationally obsessed with developing Lowry since the 1980s; it has been similarly obsessed with taking over the Spruces property and making life miserable for The Spruces park, its residents, and its founder, Al Bachand. Read Al's biography: It's an eye opener! A qualified "Save the Spruces" group will need additional funding to meet the $600,000 purchase price, but far less than other recent fundraising efforts.
Vote "yes" on Article 36. Do not summarily dismiss this article! If there is a will, there is a way to put Williamstown back together again, and it starts with a "yes" vote on Article 36. It is our moral imperative. Anything less will be uncivilized!