Williams students will explore the future of Spruces
By Edward Damon, North Adams Transcript
POSTED:   07/12/2013 01:06:04 AM EDT

Friday July 12, 2013
WILLIAMSTOWN — A group of Williams College students will help town officials research future uses of The Spruces Mobile Home Park.

Earlier this week, members of the Spruces Land Use Committee voted to partner with students in professor Sarah Gardner’s environmental planning class.

“This would be the perfect project for my class,” Gardner told committee members at Wednesday’s meeting. “It could be a beneficial relationship. They learn something from being involved in the process, and you get useful information as well.”

The committee would be the students’ “clients,” Gardner said, and members would direct the students in what to do.

Students would spend two months working on the project in the coming fall semester, Gardner said, which would culminate with a written report and a final presentation.

The project requires students to perform an ecological assessment and other tests on the site, Gardner said. They must also do background research on the site, interviews with key stakeholders and investigate the town’s zoning and legal constraints.

One previous project was an open space and recreational plan for North Adams, Gardner said.

“It’s really everything that a planning consulting firm would do,” she said.

The Spruces Land Use Committee is charged with recommending proposals for the 114-acre property of The Spruces Mobile Home Park, which lies in a 100-year floodplain. The park lost 155 units during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, and the owner Morgan Management has stated the park is operating on a loss.

Under regulations in the $6.13 million FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant the town was awarded in March, the town would assume ownership of the park, relocate residents to housing elsewhere, and clear the park of all structures.

Members have created a list of potential uses for the site, based on restrictions outlined in the grant. The list will soon be posted on the town website, Chairman Tom Hyde said.

In other business Wednesday, members discussed methods of seeking input from the community on potential uses for the property.

The committee plans on placing suggestion boxes in several public locations around town. The committee also discussed doing outreach at the Summer Sundays series of street festivals and holding public hearings in the fall.

The committee will meet again on Aug. 14. Members will tentatively have a walking tour of The Spruces property at 4 p.m. and hold their regular meeting at 5 p.m.

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