WILLIAMSTOWN -- Stratton Road resident Ken Swiatek and residents of the Spruces have filed a petition asking Town Meeting for funds to help residents purchase the mobile home park.
"Spruces residents would like to stay in their homes rather than be evicted from the Spruces site," Swiatek said during a meeting with about half a dozen residents and members of the media Monday afternoon.
A total of 66 homes are currently occupied at the park that sits in a 100-year flood plain, where more than 220 stood before the majority were destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
Last week, the town was awarded a $6 million Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant it applied for with owner Morgan Management in May 2012. If the town accepts the grant, Morgan Management would receive $600,000, and the park would become property of the town. The additional funds would go towards demolishing the park, relocating residents and developing affordable housing, with officials suggesting the 30-acre Lowry property on Stratton Road as a possible site.
The petition, which includes a warrant for Town Meeting on May 21 -- not for the special town meeting on April 24 -- calls for the town to investigate and address flooding at the park and allocate funds to a tenants cooperative. The petition states a tenants cooperative would be responsible for raising approximately $235,000 more -- a total of $600,000 -- to purchase the park from Morgan Management.
Swiatek said he filed the petition Monday afternoon with the signatures of 17 Williamstown voters. The signatures still must be certified by the town clerk's office.
Currently, the group Save the Spruces is not incorporated as a non-profit tenants cooperative. During Monday's meeting, members declined to discuss specifics about incorporating, and Vice-chair Lucy Sherrill couldn't confirm the number of members in the group. But member Rev. Susan Steward said the group will be incorporated before Town Meeting.
The petition proposes three sources of funding: $200,000 from Community Preservation Act Funds requested by the Affordable Housing Trust (AHT), $100,000 from the existing balance of the AHT, and approximately $65,000 that the town would otherwise allocate to the Williamstown Youth Center.
In late 2012, Swiatek founded the Friends of Williamstown Conservation Land, a group that has advocated for the preservation of the Lowry property and other open spaces in town.
When reached for comment Monday evening, Youth Center Executive Director David Rempell, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the loss of the town's allocation to the Youth Center would be devastating to the organization's operating budget.
"The fact that the town leased the land for the building to the Youth Center shows what an extremely valuable service it provides," he said.
Rempell also expressed concern over residents spurning the Hazard Mitigation Grant. The purpose of the grant is to remove people from harm's way, Rempell said, and this would be impossible if residents continued living in the park.
"It seems from everything I know about the situation, that's keeping people in harm's way," he said.
To reach Edward Damon, email