CORRECTION: This post was updated on May 9 to correct a reference in the third-to-last paragraph to state that Deep's proposal at the time of writing sought up to not more than 40 acres for development.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Four out of five candidates vying for two seats on the Williamstown Planning Board will be on hand tonight (Wednesday) from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to present their platforms and credentials to voters in a forum that will also be telecast live on WilliNet, the town's public-access cable channel. A fifth candidate, Sarah Gardner, is providing a pre-taped video statement because of a schedule conflict.
The Williamstown Planning Board Candidates Forum was organized by The Greylock Independent and will take place in the auditorium of the Williamstown Elementary School. The public is invited to attend. "We are hoping to telecast the discussion live on either Channel 16 or 17 on WilliNet, but for technical reasons, that may not be possible," said town resident and Greylock Independent member Bill Densmore, who will serve as moderator. "So if Williamstown voters want to ask questions, they should try to be there."
Meanwhile, the town is working to craft a proposal that both Deep and two-thirds of the town would vote for. Deep has made six points about his project. And he has exchanged thoughts with this writer. Declaring that if he doesn't get the zoning he wants, he'll build 120 units of affordable housing at Waubeeka.
Densmore said residents could also email questions to email@example.com or tweet with the hashtag #ephplanners. Statements submitted by the candidates will be posted a day in advance of the forum at http://www.greylockindependent.com or at http://newshare.com/planning
For the forum, each candidate was asked to submit (1) a 300-500 word candidate statement —whatever you want to say—plus (2) a short bio statement. At the forum, candidates will each make a 90-second statement on why they are running. Each candidate will be invited to direct one question to all or one fellow candidate. Densmore will ask one or two questions, and will forward questions from email, Tweets or from Williamstown residents in the audience.
The current Planning Board is embroiled in controversy over a possible time-sharing hotel development in South Williamstown proposed by North Adams entrepreneur and landlord Michael Deep.
- Candidates for election to the two years which remain of one five-year term are Chris Kapiloff, Anne Hogeland and Bruce MacDonald
- Candidates for election to one full five-year seat are Sarah Gardner and Susan Puddester. Candidate Lindsay Errichetti decided this week to withdraw her candidacy.
Gardner is currently serving by Nov. 30 appointment of the selectmen and planning board after the elected member, Carol Stein-Payne, resigned part-way through her five-year term. However, Gardner, a lecturer and associate director of the Williams College Center for Environmental Studies, has filed seeking election to a full five-year seat currently held by Williams College art-history professor Elizabeth McGowan, who is not seeking re-election to that seat. Thus there is no elected incumbent running for either seat, one of which is for a full five years and the other of which is for a partial term.
Gardner was appointed by 5-4 vote. In March, the Planning Board split, 3-2, with Gardner in the majority joined by Planning Board members McGowan and Ann McCallum, to give a thumbs-down recommendation to voters on Deep's proposal. Because Deep is not a Williamstown resident, Deep's attorney Stan Parese obtain signatures of 19 other town residents and filed by citizen petition a Town Meeting warrant article that would change zoning for a portion of the Waubeeka Land LLC property so that he can pursue what he has called a "country inn" lodging development on at least up to 40 acres.
The planning board does not "approve" zoning changes, and doesn't have a process for doing so. It does have a process for drafting proposed zoning changes, and that has been short-circuited by Deep's warrant article, because, according to Deep, he grew tired of waiting for the Planning Board review process to play out.
Wednesday's forum will not focus exclusively on the Waubeeka controversy, Densmore said. "We hope candidates will articulate their views on how the town should manage its zoning and planning, and their visions for the future of land and buildings use in town," he said.
- Greylock Indepent coverage of the Waubeeka controversy
- VERBATIM: The three things Williamstown's planning-board majority seeks from Mike Deep | Anne McCallum
- VERBATIM: An appeal for jobs and development in Williamstown | Amy Jeschawitz
- VERBATIM: Statement to town officials from resident Jamie Bairstow of Blair Road
- TEXT: Michael Deep's proposed zoning change for his Waubeeka Golf property to permit time-sharing hotel development
- TEXT: Analysis of Deep's proposed zoning change warrant article by Andy and Ann Hogeland