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Save Southworth Street

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Williams College has decided to explore other potential sites for this project. The proposed new art museum will not be located on Southworth St. Thank you to all those who expressed their interest in this community effort. And thank you Williams College representatives for hearing the concerns of your neighbors. (Posted January 11, 2015)


Williams College is exploring the possibility of building a new college arts complex to house the WCMA art collection and galleries, faculty offices, administrative offices, meeting spaces, viewing rooms, a potential cafe, and other associated spaces. The site currently under consideration for this project is located at the northwest corner of Southworth St. and Main St. in Williamstown. The site is owned by Williams College where historic houses have been converted to college office and residential buildings. Some or all (as many as 4) of these properties would be removed if this project goes forward.

The size of the new building has not yet been determined, but to meet the needs of the Williams College Museum of Art and the Art Department it would need to be significantly larger than the buildings located on that site today.

The proposed building site is zoned General Residence District 2. General Residence District 2 is similar but more restrictive than General Residence District 1. District 1 is described in the Town's zoning bylaws as follows: “This zoning designation is intended to provide an area in the Town where people can live who prefer not to live in a rural or semi rural atmosphere, or who prefer not to live in a sparsely populated area, and to provide this area in such a manner and location that the character of the Town will not be destroyed."

Educational institutions are exempt from complying with this zoning regulation and, legally, are permitted to build on residential sites. However, Williams College will have to comply with other zoning/building requirements, such as building height and setbacks. They may have to apply for a variance depending upon the size of the proposed construction.

The Williams College Art Museum will attract visitors to view its collections and participate in a variety of events year round, both during the day and in the evenings. Inevitability, this will result in increased vehicular traffic and parking on Southworth St. even if the parking lot is located behind the building accessed from Main St., an idea that Williams is exploring. Lighting will be installed on the exterior of the building, as required by building code, further increasing the nighttime light pollution on this street which has already been impacted by the college library.

The Petition:

We, the signatories, oppose the construction of the art museum and its associated offices and other facilities on the northwest corner of Southworth Street and Main Street.

Southworth St. is a quintessential New England street that in many ways defines our town. Southworth St. is lined with old New England homes and is a significant pedestrian walkway for families and children going to the elementary school, dog walkers, and other residents heading to work or out for a stroll.

The quiet, people-friendly nature and scale of this street will be greatly diminished by a building of this type.

We are supportive of the college efforts to update and expand its arts related educational program, but we urge that an alternative, more appropriate, site be chosen. One that is, for example, closer to the interior of campus or in the town's designated village business district.

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