WILLIAMSTOWN -- Chairman of the Community Preservation Committee Philip McKnight said he will recommend the Affordable Housing Trust’s request for funding be withdrawn at the next meeting on Jan. 29.
The announcement was made at Wednesday night’s CPC meeting, during which representatives for each proposal were present to field questions from the committee.
"This application seeks $200,000, as it did last year, for its use in the future, as it sees fits," McKnight said. "Meaning, we’re being asked to bankroll your committee without having a project proposal, estimate or anything to look at."
McKnight said the application challenges what the act was initially set up to do. The topic of affordable housing hadn’t come up until last year, he said. He questioned whether the committee is serving the town best if they annually allocate money to the trust.
McKnight added while he has nothing but respect for everyone involved with the trust, he will recommend they seek funding through the regular town budget process.
Committee member Dan Gendron disagreed the trust should be excluded from eligibility for any funds.
"I don’t think you can strip away their access to this," he said. "I don’t see how it challenges the act."
The AHT’s request of $200,000 for acquiring land for affordable housing is one of five proposals vying for CPA funds. The funds are available from a two percent property tax surcharge adopted by Williamstown voters in 2002. In a Dec. 29, 2012 Transcript article, McKnight said the amount of available funds is approximately $325,000, and the total amount requested by all proposals exceeds the amount of available funding.
Stanley Parese explained the request isn’t necessarily for a specific project, but rather to have resources for when opportunities to purchase properties arise. Parese defended the Trust’s request when he appeared before the board.
"It sounds like a lot of money, and it is a lot of money," Parese said. "But it’s not remotely adequate to solve the issue we’re facing as a town."
Parese said trusts such as this are quite common in the state. And in towns with such trusts, they often see trusts request CPA funding if the town has adopted the Community Preservation Act.
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Also seeking funds
Other requests for CPA funds are:
* The Friends of Williamstown Conservation Land request $548.25 for a recreational path on the Lowry property. Kenneth Swiatek, founder of the group, said much of the work will be done by volunteers. Part of the meeting was spent discussing whether the trail could be built if affordable housing were built on the site.
Affordable Housing Committee Chair Cathy Yamamoto said she was "thrilled" about the possibility of a trail, and that recreation and public access were already part of the committee’s plan for the property.
* David and Judy Loomis, owners of the River Bend Farm Bed and Breakfast, requested $2,000 for chimney restoration at the Col. Benjamin Simonds House.
* The South Williamstown Historical Committee is requesting $25,000 for the conservation of historic gravestones at Southlawn Cemetery.
* The Williamstown Conservation Commission is requesting $65,000 for a well and bathhouse restoration project at Margaret Lindley Park.