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Williamstown Sets Special Town Meeting on Land Vote
By Stephen Dravis, Williamstown Correspondent
11:08PM / Monday, April 08, 2013
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The board has scheduled a special town meeting to be held 5 minutes before the orginally scheduled 7:30 p.m. special town meeting on April 24.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It's a hat trick.

The town will hold a third town meeting within the span of four weeks thanks to a Monday vote by the Board of Selectmen.

The previously scheduled special town meeting on April 24 at Mount Greylock Regional High School will be preceded at 7:25 p.m. by another special town meeting at which voters will be asked to consider an article originally rejected by the Selectmen for the 7:30 special town meeting ballot.

Selectmen Chairman David Rempell, who was absent at the board's March 25 meeting at which the warrant was set, proposed on Monday that a second special town meeting be held so voters can decide whether to allow town-owned land to transferred for the purpose of affordable housing by a simple majority, rather than a two-thirds "super majority."

Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 40, section 15A allows municipalities to lower the bar for land transferred for the purposes of creating low and moderate-income housing.

In Williamstown, the only land currently being considered is the parcel known as the Lowry property, which already is the subject of two articles on the previously scheduled April 24's 7:30 special town meeting — not to mention an article on the May 21 annual town meeting warrant that mirrors one of the special town meeting articles.

Rempell argued that his colleagues misstepped when they failed to put the article to enact Chaper 40, section 15A, paragraph 2 on the special town meeting warrant by a 2-2 vote. (Note: Town meetings that are not annual are always "special.")

"At the last meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the board ... in effect negated the ability of the town to vote on the article," Rempell said. "In my opinion, this was wrong. ... No matter what the article might say, I believe the people of the town have a right vote."

Selectman Ronald Turbin, who voted against the Chapter 40 article on March 25, stood by his vote on Monday night. Turbin maintained that land, like Lowry, which was put under control of the town's Conservation Commisison by a two-thirds vote, should only be taken out by a two-thirds vote.

"The problem with [letting the voters decide on Chapter 40] is the voters will decide by a majority vote on this article, which will then allow for a majority vote instead of a two-thirds majority on the Lowry issue," Turbin said.

"I'm certain that if they were to lose [a two-thirds vote], our friends who oppose developing the Lowry property will be disappointed, but they will not feel cheated or taken advantage of. ... The verdict will be accepted, in other words. It will be seen as fair and following due process. If, on the other hand, it is taken out by a majority vote, it will be seen as unfair ... and building replacement housing will not receive the public support it deserves."

On March 25, Turbin was joined by Selectman Tom Costley in voting against the Chapter 40 article, creating a 2-2 tie in Rempell's absence. On Monday, Costley joined with the majority in a 4-1 vote create another special town meeting and a separate 4-1 vote to recommend that voters OK the article.

"Fairness to me is a simple majority," Costley said prior to voting on Article 1 of the 7:25 special town meeting.

In other business Monday night, the Selectmen reviewed all of the articles on the annual town meeting warrant and made advisory votes to be recorded on the warrant.


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