College doubles money for town

In an effort to increase cooperation between Williamstown and the College, Helen Ouellette, vice president for administration and treasurer of the College, recently announced an increase in the College’s contribution to Williamstown’s master planning process and its involvement with the town’s Master Plan Steering Committee.

“The College is pleased to be able to support the town’s planning efforts both monetarily and with fuller coordination with the campus planning process,” Ouellette said. “We’re at an important point in the history of planning in Williamstown. The dovetailing of these two processes should lead to well informed decisions on the future of our community.”

The College initially contributed $25,000 to the town’s fund to support the planning of future development and town projects. However, the College decided to donate an extra $25,000 to the town’s Master Plan Project in order to defray the cost incurred from contracting outside consultants and to prevent the future incursion of debt from other unforeseeable expenses, such as outside consultation. Ouellette speculated that from the onset, the town considerably miscalculated the project’s cost.

Peter Fohlin, the town manager, said that “the town of Williamstown continues to develop a Master Plan in accordance with Massachusetts General Law. . . to address the long term land-use, housing, economic development, natural and cultural resource[s], open space and recreation, service and facility, and circulation needs of the town. Professional planners are crucial to this process and have been [and] will be paid partially by Williams College donations.”

Along with the monetary donation of $50,000, the College plans to expand and strengthen its relationship with the town’s Master Planning Steering Committee. The College’s Campus Planning Committee and the town’s Master Planning Steering Committee have planned to schedule a joint meeting in order to discuss where specifically the College’s and town’s plans coincide or may even conflict.

According to Fohlin, the meeting will serve as a forum to determine “the ‘fit’ between the College’s perceived needs and plans and those of the town, especially where our properties meet and overlap.”

In addition to these matters, Ouellette said, both planning committees will examine traffic plans throughout the town, the commercial development of Spring St., Water St. and outlaying lands on the periphery of campus, residential growth and the prospective uses of unappropriated town property.

“Because the campus and the non-campus part of town are so intermingled, it is hard to plan for either in a vacuum,” Ouellette said.

With the intention of estimating the impact of the College’s plans on the campus community and town, the College published and released the Campus Planning Final Report on Jan. 12. The report addresses and analyzes various issues and concerns brought to the attention of the College, including new projects under construction, circulation and parking, relocation of departments and functions, and learning from Williams and Williamstown.

Ultimately, as the report states, the Campus Planning Committee has attempted “to outline key planning issues for the campus, seeing them in terms of the history and future of the College [and in turn has] present[ed] a number of recommendations to guide the debate in determining present and future policy.”

Now that the College has released its findings and recommendations concerning campus planning, the Master Planning Steering Committee of Williamstown is looking at the various ideas and issues raised by the College’s planning committee and is expected to announce its thoughts and suggestions for community growth and development.

The town planning committee has drafted a master plan, which attempts to comprehend the local concerns of Williamstown, specifically the town’s commercialization, residential growth and enhancement of its public transportation system.

John Madden, the chair of the Master Planning Steering Committee, commented that he is eager to work with both the College’s and the town’s planning committee in determining where the parties’ interests overlap.

Currently, neither the College nor the town has a concrete plan per se. Each party, however, has devised a set of ideas and suggestions for campus and community development based upon the findings and analysis of their consultants.

Although there is still a long way to go, both parties, Madden said, have reached a “milestone” in the planning phase of their respective projects. As each party moves toward devising a definitive proposal for both community and campus development, the interaction between and cooperation of both the College’s Ad hoc Campus Planning Committee and the town’s Master Planning Steering Committee will be important to ensure the future growth, development and success of the College and Williamstown.