WILLIAMSTOWN -- Members of the town's Affordable Housing Committee (AHC) will meet with Selectmen on Monday night to discuss lifting conservation restrictions on all or portions of two town-owned properties.
The two properties in question are the 30 acre Lowry property and 136 acre Burbank property, both on Stratton Road and under the Conservation Commission's control.
"The reason we're asking Selectmen to do this is because we would like to investigate whether building housing on Lowry or Burbank is feasible," AHC Chairwoman Cathy Yamamoto said on Friday.
No formal request has been made by any board or committee to the commission requesting that land be removed from conservation, Yamamoto said.
The AHC wrote a letter to the commission in October 2012, she said, requesting they meet to discuss the process through which land could be released.
The Lowry property, originally acquired for a new high school and transferred into the commission's care by Town Meeting in 1987, was identified in the town's 2002 Master Plan as a potential housing site.
The conversation was renewed following Tropical Storm Irene in August of 2011, which resulted in the loss of 155 units at the Spruces mobile home park.
Town officials have outlined a plan to create new housing for the current and displaced residents through using a $6.13 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant. Under the grant, the town would purchase the park, construct housing elsewhere in town, and clear the park of all structures.
Residents have called for more time to discuss the issue, with some citing a desire to protect open and agricultural land, and others citing a documented need for affordable housing.
At a meeting Tuesday night, members of the AHC voted unanimously to request that Selectmen make a formal request of the Conservation Commission to lift restrictions on all or a portion of the properties.
Yamamoto noted the AHC would like to have ecological and engineering studies done on either property, which require site control.
"Unless we have site control, even if it's conditional from the Conservation Commission, it's our belief that no developer would spend time to talk to us about properties," Yamamoto said.
In anticipation of receiving a formal request, the Conservation Commission has begun holding listening sessions to collect information on the issue.
During the commission's last meeting on June 27, Chairman Philip McKnight stressed only the Conservation Commission can decide to release property for housing.
"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."
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