WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Conservation Commission has begun the process of collecting information for future decisions on releasing any of its nine properties from conservation for housing.
At a meeting Thursday, Chairman Philip McKnight reminded attendees several times that no formal request to remove land from conservation has been made. But he stressed that the commission must be prepared for when a formal request does come, as there’s a possibility the decision could be appealed by a group from either side of the town’s land-use debate.
"In order for us to do our job properly, we need to collect as much information as possible," he said, "so that our decision will be perceived by a review in court-- if there’s an appeal -- as both rational and fair."
Two of the nine properties under the commission’s care and control -- the 30-acre Lowry and 136-acre Burbank properties on Stratton Road -- have been on the table for the construction of affordable housing for years.
Thursday night saw presentations and documents being submitted from several different sides of the Lowry debate.
Affordable Housing Chairwoman Cathy Yamamoto explained the town must double the number of subsidized units it has to meet standards set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Sarah Thurston, representing 54 unit owners of the Stratton Hills Condominium Association, presented the commission with a copy of the citizens petition -- signed by over 300 residents in March -- requesting a special town meeting to have both Lowry and Burbank placed permanently into conservation.
Bob Scerbo, another member of the association, called for the minutes of a March 26, 2012 executive session of the Board of Selectmen to be included in the documentation the commission is collecting. There, Selectmen discussed the possibility of applying for a Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant to relocate residents of The Spruces Mobile Home Park, which lost 155 homes during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
McKnight said the listening process will continue all summer, and other groups with a stated interest are invited to attend commission meetings.
In other business, Town Planner Andrew Groff updated members about repairs following a May 29 rainstorm.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has extended the emergency certification for the replacement of two culverts underneath Treadwell Hollow Road, he said.
Groff said repairs near the beginning of Petersburgh Road would likely be complete by Friday afternoon.
Margaret Lindley Park will remain closed for swimming until further notice, Groff said, explaining that the pond has started to clear up, but became cloudy after another period of heavy rain. The pond is now being drained in order to remove silt that’s collected at the bottom, he said.
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