WILLIAMSTOWN -- The committee charged with finding replacement housing for current Spruces Mobile Home Park residents discussed site evaluations and heard from a housing expert during a meeting this week.
Ann McCallum, representing the Planning Board, stressed the need for a way to quickly evaluate private sites.
"We don't want to spend years," she said at Monday night's meeting. "We need to know if the owner's going to sell, if the price is reasonable, how many units we can fit on it, whether there are problems on the site. We could quickly say no to most of them."
At the next meeting on Monday, July 1, members will report on what private and town-owned properties may be available, and what criteria should be collected on each property.
Resident Bob Scerbo, who has 35 years of experience with the development of real estate, presented information he had gathered over the past several months.
"When discussion began about site selection for affordable housing, my inclination was to ... look at a site and assess how well it could be developed for its purpose," he said.
Scerbo presented comparative site alternatives by numbers for four sites being considered. Scerbo said his estimates were prepared with the help of Berkshire county surveyors, engineers, architects, planners and construction contractors.
The three town-owned sites Scerbo compared were: The 30-acre Lowry property on Stratton Road, currently in the Conservation Commission's care; the 4.9-acre Photech Mill site on Cole Avenue; and the 1.2-acre 59 Water St. site. Scerbo noted that the 2.5-acre Cable Mills South property on Water Street is privately owned.
Undeveloped property requires developers to consider additional factors, Scerbo said, including the topography, soils, drainage and access to utilities.
What developers care about most, Scerbo said, is the total development cost per unit.
"When you put out RFPs [Requests for Proposals], the developer's goal is as many units as he can on as little bit of property as possible, and keep that cost per unit as low as possible," he stated. "That's going to effect his ability for financing."
According to Scerbo's calculations, developing on 10.5 acres of the Lowry property, as was suggested in a warrant article at an April special town meeting, would cost $223,780 per unit. In comparison, Photech would cost $170,554 and 59 Water St. would cost $165,543.
"At the end of the day, whether the site is Lowry or Photech or some piece of property we don't know, I think as a town we need to build a development that we're proud of," Scerbo said.
To reach Edward Damon,