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Williamstown Comprehensive Plan Seeks Input on Project's Title
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:29PM / Monday, June 13, 2022
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Voters will have a chance to weigh in on one issue before they even begin Tuesday's continued annual town meeting.
The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee will be collecting preferences for one of three names for the document it hopes to finish next year.
After taking suggestions from residents, the committee narrowed the field to three finalists to name the plan, the successor to 2002's Master Plan.
In the lobby at Mount Greylock Regional School Tuesday evening, residents will be able to pick from among three choices: "Envisioning Williamstown 2035," "Forward Together," and "Nourishing Justice, Equity and Respect."
The Steering Committee also will be collecting email addresses from residents interested in receiving updates on the two-year process to draft the yet-to-be-named comprehensive plan. The town's planning consultant, Plymouth, N.H.'s, Resilience Planning and Design, recommended the naming contest as a way to generate engagement among residents as the process gets underway.
On Tuesday, the committee likely will have access to some of the town's more politically engaged residents.
A 49-article town meeting warrant features a few issues – notably proposed zoning bylaw amendments – that were hotly debated during development and which have generated numerous letters to the editor and social media posts in the run-up to the meeting.
The meeting itself, which also sets the town's budget for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1, was to have been held on its traditional May date. But after residents expressed concern about the possibility of COVID-19 transmission in the tighter quarters of the Williamstown Elementary School gymnasium, the meeting was adjourned on May 17 to June 14 at 7 p.m. at the larger middle-high school gym.
The town's Board of Health continues to strongly recommend the use of face coverings at town meeting and other indoor settings.
The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, a creation of the Planning Board that includes two members from that elected body, decided on the final three options for a document name at its meeting last week.
The option that generated the most discussion was Envisioning Williamstown 2035, which some members thought might be unclear or limiting because of the reference to a specific year.
Resilience Planning's Liz Kelly said the title option was a combination of two resident submissions: one with the phrase "Envisioning Williamstown" and the other with the year.
"[It puts] a more concrete time frame where, realistically, it takes a couple of years for a comprehensive plan to roll out and an implementation plan to be put in effect," Kelly said. "That gives a more concrete, future forward date."
Daniel Gura argued that including a date would help focus the conversation around the plan.
"The problem without [a year] is none of these three recognize how long term this plan is," Gura said. "Neither of them give me a view that this is not about what your backyard will look like tomorrow; this is about how Williamstown will look tomorrow and 10 years from now.
"Without a date, none of the three give me that."
The eight members in attendance at last Tuesday's meeting voted, 5-3, in favor of including the title option with the year.
This Tuesday's town meeting will not be the only opportunity for residents to express their preference. The Steering Committee did not set a firm deadline to deciding on the document's title but generally concurred the process should wrap up this summer. The plan itself is scheduled to be ready for the town's approval in May 2023.
The naming contest is just one prong of the Steering Committee's effort to engage the town in the coming months.
It also discussed some other options for outreach, including a June session at the Harper Center, a display at Town Hall and the Milne Public Library, a table at the town's National Night Out event at the Spruces Park in August, a presence at the Saturday morning farmers market and, perhaps, a presence at the information booth on Spring Street.
All of that summer engagement will be aimed toward the Steering Committee's "main event," an October community forum either at Mount Greylock or the Williamstown Youth Center.
Kelly advised that the October event include a brief presentation followed by an "open house" format where residents can visit stations devoted to aspects of the comprehensive plan that may interest them.
The plan is broken down into a variety of topics, including: housing; economic development; transportation; public facilities and services; natural resources; parks, open space and recreation; historic and cultural resources; land use; sustainability and community resilience; and diversity, equity and inclusion.
The first part of the plan, an analysis of the existing conditions in the town, already is available in draft form. On Tuesday, the Steering Committee divided up the work of reviewing the 175-page analysis.
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