In 1966, a group of Williamstown’s forefathers, James Drummond, Morris Phelps, Filmore Baker and John Denelli, acting as the Williamstown Board of Selectmen, granted a former town-owned school building located on Cole Avenue to the Williamstown Boys Club, aka the Williamstown Youth Center.
However, the move came with a deed restriction: "The premises hereby conveyed are restricted to use for the purposes of a boys’ club."
When the Williamstown Youth Center, a private nonprofit vacated and abandoned the building and land located at 270 Cole Ave. last year, did the building legally revert back to the town of Williamstown?
On Feb. 11, the current Board of Selectmen scheduled a special town meeting for Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. (using the absolute minimum legal notification time frame), in order to vote to remove the March 30, 1966 deed restriction and grant the Youth Center the right to sell what otherwise may be a town-owned building on Cole Avenue.
Why has this significant event slipped under Williamstown’s radar? The former school building on Cole Avenue appears that it could accommodate six units of badly needed housing. There is already water, sewer and electric in the building. It would not require huge sums (read millions) of money to build a road and to extend utilities to this property, nor would it be nearly as expensive to convert this building as was converting a former church. It could be converted into affordable housing in far much less time than any other parcel of land under consideration.
Yet, Williamstown’s Board of Selectmen, its Affordable Housing Committee and the Williamstown Affordable Housing Trust have all been deadly silent on promoting an open town-wide discussion on using a town-owned building for what as been repeatedly described as the town’s most critical need.
Why the silence? At minimum, there should be a town-wide open discussion over a few months as to whether the best use of 270 Cole Ave. is for six units of affordable housing in the heart of town.
This discussion is being denied to the citizens of Williamstown by the nature of the hurriedly scheduled special town meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 7 P.M. at the Town Hall.