Community Preservation Committee rejects three projects

March 9, 2016 by Emma Zehner, Executive Editor

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The CPC cut the Spruces Land Use Committee’s request for engineering funds by $11,500. Photo courtesy of iBerkshires.

On March 1, the Williamstown Community Preservation Committee (CPC) voted to send six out of nine proposed projects to the annual May town meeting. If approved, the projects will use $154,421 of the $284,000 available to the Committee during the 2017 fiscal year.

The CPC, which formed after the town election in 2002, has eight voting members. The Committee decides how Williamstown’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) revenues should be allocated each year. This funding is intended for historic preservation, open space, senior and affordable housing and outdoor recreation.

At the meeting, Committee members approved funding for the Spruces Land Use Committee, the Hoosic River Watershed Association’s Spruces swale restoration project, the Affordable Housing Trust, the Gale Hose Company, the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation’s Stone Hill Trail project and the Williamstown Historical Museum. Rejected proposals included the First Congregational Church project, the restoration of the historic Smedley House on Main Street and the Conservation Commission’s Hunter Property bridge project. The initial $63,000 requested by the Spruces Land Use Committee was reduced to $41,500 during the voting process.

“This year’s applicant pool was very big,” said Mark Reinhardt, the Housing Authority’s chair on the CPC, professor of political science and chair of American studies program. “Last year, I believe our final vote was on nine proposals, and up until that meeting, there had been ten.”

In 2007, the Committee agreed to give $1.5 million to the Cable Mills apartment project. As a result of construction delays the CPC will still be helping to fund this project in 2017, leaving less money available for other proposals. Committee members decided to carry over about $129,400 into the 2018 fiscal year.

Because of this year’s particular constraints on funding, Reinhardt said, he voted against certain projects that he might normally have approved. “The bridge was one of them. It’s the kind of thing a CPC should fund: it completes a trail link that will be important to some members of the public. But it’s expensive (over $29,000) for a footbridge that may see only modest use, and when it came up for a first vote, it was clear to me that we were in the process of saying yes to so many things that we’d end up well over the target we’d set.” In a later round of voting, the bridge project was rejected.

Another committee member proposed cutting some of the funding for the Affordable Housing Trust; however, Reinhardt and other members objected. “That cut would have deprived two low-income families of mortgage assistance,” he said. “I felt, and said, that I thought our town’s affordable housing needs are more important and more pressing – better to let the bridge wait for another funding cycle.”

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