WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) accepted the Affordable Housing Trust’s (AHT) application for funding Tuesday night, after CPC Chairman Philip McKnight recommended the application be withdrawn.
At a Jan. 9 meeting, McKnight told the trust and CPC members he would recommend the trust withdraw its application of $200,000 for acquiring and developing land.
Stanley Parese, AHT chair, was present Tuesday with fellow trust members to respond to McKnight’s recommendation.
"Our right to stand here and ask for money is undeniable," Parese said.
Parese said rather than the trust being a "challenge to the act itself," as McKnight said on Jan. 9, the act endorses it by stating: "A city or town may appropriate money from any year to the Community Preservation fund to an affordable housing trust fund."
Parese added that several municipalities in the state, including Cambridge, Yarmouth and Westford, all have similar trusts that annually request community preservation funds.
Parese also said McKnight’s suggestion that the trust request money during the town’s regular budget process is unfair as voters already adopted the Community Preservation Act’s two percent surcharge, calling the suggestion "off-base" and saying it would double tax the voters.
McKnight expressed concern over the lack of any plan present in the application. He also stressed he had concerns with what he felt to be little action on the part of the town to address affordable housing needs. The CPC had allocated over $2 million to affordable housing since 2004, he said, adding the pressure should be on the town’s budget.
"It’s that budget, together with commonwealth and federal money, that will be required to meet the affordable housing needs of this town," he said. "We can only chip away at it in very small amounts."
Other selectman expressed their support for the application.
CPC member Mark Reinhardt pointed out this was not the first time the committee has been approached to fund a project without a formal plan -- the AHT requested the same amount of money last year, he said. Reinhardt did agree with McKnight’s concern that the committee couldn’t fund the trust enough.
McKnight was ultimately the lone vote against the applications, with all seven other members accepting.
The Friends of Williamstown Conservation Land’s request of $548.25 for a hiking and walking trail on the Lowry Property was unanimously turned down by the committee.
Founder Kenneth Swiatek was present to discuss the trail, which would follow the perimeter of the 30-acre property off of Stratton Road. Affordable Housing Committee Chairwoman Cathy Yamamoto said she fully supports the trail, and explained public access on the property was a priority if housing units were to be built on the property.
But McKnight and other CPC members questioned whether the application was allowed under the act. The trail wouldn’t be for historic preservation, he said, and wouldn’t acquire property for open space preservation as Lowry is under control of the Conservation Commission.
The CPC accepted three other applications:
* The South Williamstown Historical Committee’s request of $25,000 for the conservation of historic gravestones at Southlawn Cemetery.
* David and Judy Loomis’ request of $2,000 for chimney restoration at the Col. Benjamin Simonds House. The house is their personal residence, where they operate the River Bend Farm Bed and Breakfast, and has been on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1983.
* The Conservation Commission’s request for $65,000 for a new well at Margaret Lindley Park. The current bathhouse has been without running water for the better part of a decade, Commission Chair Henry Art said, meaning portable toilets must be used.
The date of the next meeting, where the committee will read through the proposed warrant articles asking voters to approve the projects, has yet to be announced.
To reach Edward Damon, email