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Williamstown Expects Third of Spruces Homes Restored
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
06:16AM / Wednesday, December 14, 2011
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Administrative Assistant Kathy Poirot swears in Van Ellet and Bilal Ansari to the Affordable Housing Committee.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Town Manager Peter Fohlin doubts that any more than 75 homes at the Spruces Mobile Home Park will be reoccupied, barely a third of the park's residences.

Fohlin said on Monday that 54 owners have been issued occupancy permits but that might be the end of the "low-hanging fruit." Demolition permits were issued for 57 homes — the first time demolition permits outnumbered the occupancy permits. The park was damaged by flooding during Tropical Storm Irene.

"We're pretty much through the low-hanging fruit and the prospects for additional trailers passing all the necessary steps to receive a certificate of occupancy diminishes by the day. I think it is doubtful that we reach 75, which is a third of the trailers that were there before [Tropical Storm] Irene," Fohlin said.

Fohlin said seven to nine additional homes could be restored with the help of trailer supports designed by Techno Post. The homes need to abide by new building codes that require the trailer to be lifted above flood level.

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Owner Morgan Management has previously said the park needs to be about 80 percent full to be sustainable. However, the company is asking the courts for permission to condense the park. That case, filed against the town and the state attorney general, has been continued until Jan. 17. Morgan Management has since added 106 tenants as defendants.

Fohlin said the town is in constant communication with both Morgan Management and Attorney General Martha Coakley's office about the case.

Owners of 138 homes that are currently condemned are qualified to received additional funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fohlin said. Eight out of 14 request letters were granted additional funding and each owner could received up to $30,200 to move or repair the home.

In other news, the Selectmen approved sending proposed zoning bylaws that would allow farms to host events to the Planning Board. The Planning Board has already encouraged the owners of Cricket Creek Farm to draft a proposal. The board now has taken the first step toward putting the changes on the town meeting warrant.

However, Selectman Tom Costley said the move to allow farms to host events was "crazy" if it was done by right instead of by special permit. Costley cited former "wars" over land use in South Williamstown, traffic increases and an "unfair" advantage the farms would have over performance spaces because of Agricultural Preservation Restriction tax incentives.

"I don't want to kill this. I want to raise those question," Costley said, adding the conversation is just beginning and the town should fully vet the proposal.

The board also appointed Bilal Ansari, Van Ellet and Kim Burnham to the Affordable Housing Committee.
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