IN THIS ISSUE: VOL. II NO. 08 4/15/2021
Stockbridge Updates Statement of Purpose
To inform without opinion or pressure and give the people of Stockbridge the facts they need to make informed decisions.
To provide space for opinion, but since facts and opinions are different, to clearly mark opinion pieces, and clearly identify the opinion holder.
Stockbridge Updates is a periodic newsletter delivered through email.
Carole Owens, Managing Editor
Stockbridge Updates Policy with Respect to Letters
SU welcomes your letters on all Stockbridge subjects, history and current events, news and human interest, whatever is on your mind. As with articles and opinion pieces, letters are 400 words or less, no personal attacks, and always attach your name. SU does not include personal information and will delete telephone numbers, email addresses, post office boxes, and street addresses. Limit one letter per month.
Carole Owens, Managing Editor
This year as many as ten changes to our bylaws could be proposed at Town Meeting. It is a record — an unprecedented number. Ten changes (seven to zoning and three to general bylaws) are probably more than ever suggested in one year in Stockbridge or anywhere else. Such a high number of bylaw changes should signal a major problem; one that must be addressed immediately. What could it be?
In this issue of Stockbridge Updates, you will read that both the auditor's report and the Assessor's report are stellar, "unheard-of healthy". The single problem uncovered was self-reported and immediately corrected.
In past issues you read reports of an excellent credit rating, rising property values, money in the bank, and a low tax rate.
Stockbridge is consistently recognized as among the most livable small towns, the best place to visit and to celebrate Christmas. Moreover, Stockbridge is, and always was, a village of very smart and engaged citizens capable of looking around and perceiving a serious problem. Do you see one?
Responsible, experienced planners urge municipalities not to change bylaws unless there is a clearly defined problem. Writing a bylaw to solve one problem without creating another can take years. There is no way, and should be no will, to rush it. Approving ten bylaw changes in one year is a sea change. You could wake the day after Town Meeting in a different town.
What makes one place uniquely and distinctly that place? That is what our officials are elected to protect. Before approving change, by Mass General Law, the Planning Board (PB) must find: the use is in harmony, essential, not detrimental, to the public welfare, and will not overload utilities or detract from safety. In short, the obligation of the PB is to protect you, your neighborhood, your hometown, and its character. To ask, "how will the developer make money?" is to misunderstand its purpose.
In Stockbridge, it may be that there is no such thing as smart growth, because small is one characteristic that makes Stockbridge — Stockbridge. Stockbridge is small enough to be governable, small enough to be livable, small enough to be beautiful. Look around: the land you see is not an economic opportunity for developers; it is a characteristic of your hometown. Growth broadens the tax base at the same time that it imposes new costs. As costs rise, taxes rise to meet the exponential cost of growth.
Be careful with this small precious place we call home.
Carole Owens, Managing Editor
The ten bylaws (more fully described in Notes from the Select Board and the Planning Board) that may be proposed at Town Meeting are:
- Natural Resource Preservation Zoning Bylaw (NRPZ) to replace current 2-and-4-acre zoning, setbacks, and other protections. Major change: current bylaw does not give PB discretion; proposed bylaw gives PB discretion to set numbers, for example, the % of land preserved, the number of units built. PB has discretion in the wording of the bylaw and by special permit.
- Replacement for current Parking Bylaw — all businesses out of compliance except perhaps Michael's and Red Lion Inn. If Red Lion and Michael's exempted, their parking lots could create unintended development opportunities.
- Replacement for Driveway Bylaw — rewriting a bylaw, rather than maintaining format and only changing minimum words necessary, makes it difficult for voters to follow changes.
- Sign Bylaw — Allows signs to be up to four times as big as currently allowed. On tiny shopping street what is purpose and impact of huge signs?
- Short-term Rental Bylaw — As written, what is power to deter and power to enforce?
- Accessory Dwelling Bylaw — Draft unfinished at this time.
- A proposed amendment to Stockbridge Zoning Bylaws Principle Uses that precludes residences on the ground floor in the business district. Question about grandfathering current residential occupants and for what period of time — after a sale?
- Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Committee to be Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Commission. If current committee is still discussing and defining "parameters", is it time to take permanent step of making it a part of bylaws?
- The "Bear Bylaw" — Would fine residents for having bird feeders? See SB meeting notes.
- Street numbering bylaw — a public safety bylaw requested by the Fire Chief — residents required to post number.
Quite the handful on Wheatleigh Drive.
2021 Town Election
Stockbridge Updates will publish "Stockbridge Candidates Q&A"
Stockbridge Updates invites all those running to contact Stockbridge Updates with their answers. Stockbridge Updates announces a change: There are so many candidates and contested races that rather than holding all responses until the end and posting them in a single issue, SU is posting candidate responses a few at a time.
1. Nina Ryan, Planning Board
After thinking about it over the weekend, I've decided to withdraw from the Planning Board race. I think both Gary and Carl are great candidates and I'd rather support them. It would also be very difficult for me to participate this summer while we're away. Thanks for giving me a chance to speak to Stockbridge Updates, and thanks for running the views of all the candidates. All best, Nina
2. Carl Sprague, Planning Board
What prompted you to run?
As a lifelong resident of Stockbridge, I've always been interested in what makes the Town work — from our amazing Town Meetings to the constellation of individuals and officials who have made Stockbridge interesting and kept it beautiful through the years. I've tried to make my own contribution through the years — serving on the Land Trust, creating and chairing the Historic Preservation Commission, working with Laurel Hill, the Fountain Committee, the Mahkeenac Boating Club, and the Vestry of St. Paul's Church. I recently spent several years working on our instructive Zoning Bylaw Review Committee
What is your prime focus?
I'd like to see Stockbridge focus on keeping our Town center dynamic. We will do this by supporting housing and economic development initiatives where most appropriate and by protecting our Town's precious rural character.
What would you like to say to the voters?
We've seen a lot of pressure for large scale resort development. I think the most important issue with this is the question of scale. We see where some of our neighboring towns have lost sight of this. I don't believe it's improved their tax base or created affordable housing.
My professional life has been spent reading plans, so I feel well equipped for this work. Bylaw review is important, but the goal here is to maintain the character of the community. Stockbridge has always been a place where people want to visit, work, raise families, and become part of our long and distinguished history. I will work for these priorities. I promise that I will listen closely to the concerns and goals of the wonderful people who live here.
3. Jack Henderson, Planning Board
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to reach out to all of my neighbors in Stockbridge. Can you be sure to add me to the mailing list for Stockbridge Updates and also let me know when the next issue will be out? If at any time you have any questions or issues you want to discuss, please feel free to contact me. Thanks. My answers to your questions are below.
What prompted you to run?
I retired in 2015 from a long career of planning and implementing major water and wastewater projects around the world which significantly improved millions of people's lives. I now have the time and ability to focus this experience on improving the lives of the residents of Stockbridge while protecting the character of our community.
What is your prime focus?
I want to facilitate smart, reasonable development to broaden our tax base for all taxpayers. Smart, sensible development can achieve this while protecting the right of homeowners, property owners and business owners alike, as well as protecting what we all love about living in Stockbridge.
What would you like to say to the voters?
Over the course of my career, I have been involved in numerous heated public meetings with many opposing stakeholders with very different views and ideas on what development is sensible and what is not. I have learned how to explore all the different ideas and potential impacts of projects to be able to span most of these differences and reach a consensus on a reasonable plan to proceed with and implement. I believe I can bring this experience to the table to help the people of Stockbridge decide what is sensible development. I am always willing to listen, with an open mind, to any stakeholder's ideas and/or concerns over any issue before the Planning Board to find, if possible, a consensus solution and can be reached at [deleted] Please feel free to contact me to discuss what's on your mind.
4. Donald Chabon, Select Board
Thank you very much (for the opportunity) but I'd prefer to wait until after the Democratic Caucus. If you would like to say something from me, please say how pleased I am that you are doing Stockbridge Updates, how valuable it is to our community to have your clear unbiased information, and that I look forward to contributing to the next issue with my answers to Candidate's Q&A.
View from the podium at the Rostrum, designed by Daniel Chester French. Booker T. Washington gave the Laurel Hill Day address from this exact spot in 1903.
Town Election - Open seats in 2021
3-year terms: Moderator, Selectman, Board of Assessors, Board of Health, Tree Warden, Sewer and Water Commission
5-year terms: Planning Board, Planning Board, Housing Authority
Appointments: Finance Committee, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC)
Thank you all for your service. Good luck to incumbents and contenders.
The deadline, March 30, is now passed.
- Christine Rasmussen, Planning Board
- Deborah McMenamy, Select Board
- Nina Ryan, Planning Board
The following candidates will appear on the ballot:
- Donald Schneyer, Water & Sewer Commissioner, incumbent
- Charles Kenny, Board of Health, incumbent
- James Welch, Housing Authority, incumbent
- Gary Pitney, Board of Assessors, incumbent
Even though uncontested, vote for all candidates you support, the final vote count is important.
- Gary Johnston, Moderator, incumbent
- Jamie Minacci, Moderator
- Mark Faber, Tree Warden
- Hugh Page, Tree Warden
- Ernest J. (Chuck) Cardillo, Select Board, incumbent
- Donald Chabon, Select Board
- Gary Pitney, Planning Board, incumbent
- Carl Sprague, Planning Board
- Mark Mills, Planning Board
- John M. Henderson, Planning Board
Vote May 18!!! Thank you.
Carole Owens Managing Editor
Taking an order at Tiffany's Cafe at Elm Street Market.
Notes from Town Boards
Notes from Select Board Meeting, Auditor's Report, March 30, 2021 via Zoom
- Patrick White
- Roxanne McCaffrey
- Jay Bikofsky, Chair
- Jim Balfanz
- Bill Vogt
- Neil D. Holden
- Steve Shatz
- Diane Reuss
- Pamela Boudreau
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
- Ray Ellsworth, Town Accountant
- David Irwin, Adelson & Company, Auditor
Irwin presented a 41-page report and analysis.
- There was one problem: the bids for procurement were mishandled. Canales discovered it as it pertained to the Larrywaug Bridge repair, reported it to the auditors and the Commonwealth, and corrected it by rebidding the project.
- Otherwise, the Stockbridge books were audited and reconciled without issue. The books were in accordance with government and auditing standards.
- Stockbridge has "promised obligations", including Post Employment Liabilities (retirement and health insurance), backed by a trust that is 87% funded. According to Irwin, that far exceeds other towns many of which do not fund the liability at all.
- All expenditures were proper; receivables were 90% collected.
- In summary, the auditor reported, "numbers are good, revenue and assets good, declared a good job overall".
- Strengthen the controls over use of town credit cards.
- Require licensed architect or engineer to sign-off on large capital projects.
- Bikofsky thanked the staff — Town Administrator, Accountant, and Treasurer for "full cooperation". Bikofsky called for vote to approve the audit.
The audit was unanimously approved and the meeting adjourned.
Notes from the Select Board Meeting, April 1 via Zoom
- Chuck Cardillo, Chair
- Patrick White
- Roxanne McCaffrey
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
Also present: Steve Stern, Ken Krentsa, Ben Liptzin
It was a single-issue meeting: the proposed Short-term Rental Bylaw.
- White made an opening statement about the number of houses in Stockbridge that are still primary residences. Of 1700+ houses, only 650 are primary residences, quoting an analysis by Town Assessor Michael Blay. If it dips lower, White said, that will signal a crisis.
- McCaffrey went through the proposed bylaws. While the intent was clear, there were questions.
- Event tents and amplified music at outside events is typically not allowed, why is it allowed in this proposed bylaw?
- White asked if this bylaw contradicts another bylaw: this one allows up to 175 people at an outdoor event, does another bylaw prohibit that number?
- Stern asked, how does this address the bad actor? Is a $100/day fine a deterrent to a proprietor charging $1000/night? Can a permit or registration be revoked after a shorter period of time (proposed bylaw says one year)? If an LLC is fined and then declares bankruptcy or dissolves, forms a new LLC, and continues to operate, what can the town do? (Canales said, "Nothing") If too much noise, what remedy? (Cardillo replied, "Call the police.")
- Liptzin asked, can't Stockbridge refuse to register corporations and only register the owner and only fine the owner? This would prevent the dissolution of a corporation and continuation of renting under new name.
- Following up White asked, why not fine the owner?
- Cardillo hoped the Commonwealth would step in with regulations of short-term rentals.
- If there are dumpsters in front yard, who will enforce removing them?
- Is permitting stronger, more enforceable than registration?
- Can there be inspectors?
- Can Stockbridge limit registration of short-term rentals to Stockbridge residents only?
SB approved the proposed bylaw. Returned it to the PB for a public meeting.
- It appears enforcement is a recurring problem. Is this or any bylaw ready for Town Meeting before it is known how the elements of the bylaw will be enforced?
- Is the basic problem here that these units are hybrids, that is, neither residences nor licensed inns and B&Bs? If so, is the real problem to define them? If this use were defined, might it then be subject to regulations already on the books?
Teaching an outdoor class at Berkshire Botanical Garden.
Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Committee April 2 via Zoom
- Jamie Minacci, chair
- John Loiodice, Sewer and Water
- Charlie Kenny, Board of Health
- Michael Nathan, SBA
- Roxanne McCaffrey, SB
- Gary Kleinerman, Harbormaster
- Jim Wilusz, Tri-Town Health
- There was "housekeeping" with respect to approving minutes and issues that related to difference between in person and Zoom meetings (for example calling the roll for a vote rather than taking the ayes and nays verbally or by show of hands).
- In his report, Wilusz mentioned three matters that need attention as "Berkshire County becomes a significant destination". They are: more sewer connections and fewer septic systems especially around the Bowl or at least, more regulations and enforcement of septic maintenance. Attention to mosquito control, and short-term rentals.
- Loiodice underscored concern over the ability to enforce town regulations.
- McCaffrey mentioned the SB approved a general bylaw regulating short-term rentals. (At the SB meeting there was concern expressed about ability and effectiveness of enforcement as spelled out in proposed bylaw. See notes on SB meeting)
- Nathan gave update on septic systems in the Lake Drive area — soil conditions were not favorable to septic systems. He expressed need for town sewer in that neighborhood.
Discussion continued re: converting septic systems to sewer connection especially around lake and with attention to very large septic systems like the one at Kripalu.
Potential problems might include leaching into lake or E. coli
- Kleinerman reported that the boat ramp will open on Memorial Day. Kleinerman also mentioned he will be helping with the Conservation Commission dock survey.
- Nathan wanted to make clear the parameters of the committee. It was his understanding it was an advisory committee. As such, he suggested, there should be formal votes to approve any advice the committee passes on.
- McCaffrey reported on the dredging proposed for next year. SBA President Richard Seltzer broached the possibility of "whole lake dredging". McCaffrey reminded everyone that dredging must be approved by the Commonwealth, and she said "whole Lake" dredging would not be approved. She pointed out that dredging of areas designated for testing of would not be approved.
- Again, enforcement was mentioned as lakeside homeowners are apparently using lawn fertilizers which the Conservation Commission has regulations against.
The meeting was adjourned.
Editor's question: If the parameters of the committee's work are still being ironed out, and if as reported in the last issue, the Chair, was unaware of the proposed bylaw, is it too early to change the Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Committee into a commission by bylaw?
Abandoned toys at the end of the day at the Park Street playground.
Notes from the Assessors Meeting April 5 via Zoom
- Gary Pitney
- Doug Goody
- Tom Stokes
- Michael Blay, Town Assessor
Also present: Patrick White and Roxanne McCaffrey, SB
- All motor vehicle abatement applicants qualified.
- The Berkshire County assessors met to discuss how to evaluate utilities. Until now, the utilities (National Grid, Berkshire Gas, etc.) evaluated themselves. Recently a case before the Appellate Tax Board upheld the municipality's evaluation over that of the utility. There is now precedent for the municipality evaluating the assets of the utilities and thereby raising more taxes. The value is based on all utilities' equipment which is voluminous. The evaluation could result in increased tax income. The problem, Blay explained, is that local assessors do not know how to do the evaluation. This year they will probably hire consultants and attempt to train to do the task themselves in future years. Utilities are Stockbridge's largest taxpayers. Blay's fear is, if the tax bill goes up, the utility will pass the increase on to consumers.
- Farmland valuations come to Stockbridge from DOR (Mass Dept. of Revenue). To be farmland one must prove farm had $500 in sales annually.
- Forestry Land is akin to farmland, and enjoys tax breaks. Stockbridge holds a right of first refusal on forestry land if the owner tries to convert its tax status for development. If Stockbridge refuses and the forest's tax status is converted, the owner owes Stockbridge for the back taxes due going back five years.
- Why is assessed value of property and sales price different? One reason, Blay explained, is that assessed value is only calculated once per year. There is a lag, and also, assessed value can be 90-110% of sales price due to the formula used.
- There are two Appellate Tax Board cases for unpaid assessments and/or requests for abatements (these matters are closed to public so information sparce). The two are Desisto (37 Interlaken) and Singular Wireless. There will be a hearing April 26 with Patrick Sheehan's lawyers (for Desisto). It will be an executive session closed to the public.
- The Pilot Program is an initiative to encourage nonprofits to pay an amount to Stockbridge in lieu of taxes. Tom Stokes, Chair, was informed by White that Riverbrook School sent $2000 to the Town. Patrick would like to return it with thanks because Riverbrook is currently trying to raise money to repair and improve the house.
- Blay informed committee that the Assessor's Office and other Town Offices are now on flextime. They may soon return to Town Hall with varying hours.
Anybody in there?
Notes from the Planning Board Meeting: April 6 via Zoom
- William Vogt, Chair
- Marie Raftery
- Christine Rasmussen
- Katherine Fletcher
- Gary Pitney
- Nancy Socha
- Wayne Slosek
- Jennifer Carmichael, secretary
- Consultant: Philip Arnold
In addition: Mark Mills, Carl Sprague, Anita Schwerner, Pat Flinn, Patrick White, and Roxanne McCaffrey
- Approved minutes from February 23, March 15 and 16.
- Special Permit request. A special permit is required for a driveway longer than 500 feet. The driveway would be across from 25 Prospect Hill Road. The reason for the request is to position the proposed house at the back of the property where there is the best view. The 800-foot driveway was approved with four conditions:
- Replace six trees removed to accommodate driveway — each at least 3" around.
- Maintain culvert and keep it clear of debris.
- The driveway will never be a road therefore no subdivision of land possible.
- The gravel drive will not be paved but remain permeable.
Next, in accordance with Mass General Law c. 40A, PB must "find" a nonconforming use is in harmony with community, essential to public welfare, not detrimental to adjacent uses, not a danger to traffic or pedestrian safety, does not overload municipal utilities, and does not compromise general safety and welfare.
Motion passed 5 - 2; Rasmussen nay and Fletcher abstained.
Public hearing closed.
- The issue of enforcement was broached. The need to inspect and enforce conditions even as ownership changes. Vogt suggested, singly or in cooperation with Conservation Commission, hiring another outside expert (a Conservation agent) to inspect and enforce. Fetcher observed that by law the Building Inspector "interprets and enforces" PB bylaws, special permits, conditions.
- Sign application for 5 East Street — the insurance company requested sign during construction so any emergency vehicles could find site. The bylaw allows a 4 square foot sign (2x2') that is no more than 10 feet top to bottom — the PB does not have discretion. The applicant (Kistler and Knapp Construction) was asked to reduce size. When in compliance, sign is by right.
- A proposed amendment to "Stockbridge Zoning Bylaws Principle Uses" that precludes residences on the ground floor in the business district. Approved by PB — 6 to 1. Fletcher voted "no" stating that the "grandfathering" — allowing residences on the main floor in business district to remain residences even if bylaw passes — seemed unclear especially after sale of the property. Next steps send to Attorney General of Commonwealth for approval, and to SB for inclusion/non-inclusion on Town Warrant.
- Parking, Driveway and Sign Bylaws returned by the SB with suggestions.
- SB to remain permitting authority.
- 4' x 4' sign, rather than 2x 2', is too big. Consultant Phil Arnold will discuss with Town Counsel — there may be a 1st Amendment issue — no decision.
- Driveways — removed paragraph that is redundant of language in curb cut bylaw -approved and advanced to Public Hearing.
- Parking. No resolution. The problem appears to be that everyone in business district (with possible exception of Red Lion Inn and Michael's) is out of compliance with current bylaw. Equally they would be out of compliance with proposed bylaw. Vogt said there was "no point in passing a bylaw that makes everyone noncompliant" and asked if the consultant or anyone had a solution. Rasmussen suggested having a Public Hearing and asking the public. Dismissed as bad idea. Tabled.
- Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Bylaw. One per property or more allowed? In which zoning districts are ADUs allowed? Could there by an ADU by right if it were 800 square feet or smaller? No decision.
- Natural Resource Preservation Zoning Bylaw (NRPZ). Suggested that consultant Jeff Lacy drop what he called "Section H. Cottage Era Estate Bylaw (CEE)" and concentrate on NRPZ with goal to have it ready for Town Meeting. Socha, Fletcher, Pitney and Slosek all mentioned that the genesis of everything they were doing for the last year was related to the Cottages — historic properties. They were confused why that was discarded and concentration was solely on NRPZ because NRPZ was not the issue initially addressed.
- Vogt said PB would get to CEE after NRPZ was completed. Vogt also shared that while the consultant combined NRPZ and CEE, now they would be two separate bylaws. Vogt asked for a motion to approve concentration on NRPZ only. The vote was approved 5-2; Fletcher and Pitney voted "no".
- With respect to OML: Town Counsel requested a statement be read into record for PB acknowledgement. It acknowledged there was a subcommittee of the PB from November 1 - February 15 made up of Vogt, Rasmussen and Socha who met with consultant Lacy and then disbanded. Replaced by Rasmussen meeting with Lacy and reporting to PB.
- Anita Schwerner asked is only one member of PB, Rasmussen, meeting with consultants, Lacy and Arnold, also a violation of OML?
- Carl Sprague, as Chair of the Historic Preservation Committee, offered any help PB might want in sorting out historic properties.
- Schwerner also expressed the concern that there was a lot of confusion with respect to process and content of bylaws.
Editor's note: Of six proposed bylaws, only one advanced to Attorney General for review and approval.
The Mews property is under contract.
Notes from the Select Board Meeting: Thursday, April 8 — via Zoom
- Patrick White
- Roxanne McCaffrey
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
Also present: Jim Balfanz, Steve Shatz, Jay Bikofsky, Barbara Zanetti, Kate Fletcher, Michael Canales (sorry if any attendees missed — limited number shown on the CTSB screen)
- Wildlife Feeding Ordinance (also called the Bear Bylaw). McCaffrey said this was a bylaw requested by Police Chief Fennelly to protect wildlife and people. For feeding wildlife, there is a $50 fine for the first and a $100 fine for the second offense.
White said Section B includes "attractives" — anything that would attract bears — and that appears to include bird feeders and feeding birds. He went on to say that there are 1,500 acres of preserve surrounding the business district — Bear Town Mountain, Ice Glen, Laura's Tower and Laurel Hill. It is bear habitat and they wander down. He also mentioned that it appears to ban feeding birds in winter even though bears are hibernating.
McCaffrey suggested putting it before people at Town Meeting and they can approve/disapprove. White disagreed saying instead a bylaw should be "right" before put before Town Meeting.
White suggested removing Section B totally and also inviting John Drake, Animal Control Officer, to discuss. White said just demand dumpsters be locked, don't fine citizens. McCaffrey said that is already a Tri-Town Health ordinance. White asked, then, what is the point of this? Why are we doing this? McCaffrey said (a) the Chief wanted it (b) to keep bears out of business district.
The matter was tabled until Wildlife Warden, Selectman Cardillo, and police chief could be present.
- Ray Ellsworth is retiring May 1 (although he agreed to stay on for essential tasks until a replacement found). He was thanked by all present for doing an excellent job. Canales said the position had to be advertised and a Search Committee formed. He suggested the same four people as last time — Jay Bikofsky, Jorja Marsden, Bronley Boyd, plus the Town Treasurer Erica Olsen and Michael Canales. McCaffrey took exception and reminded Canales the Select Board appoints committees and suggested Christine Rasmussen and David McCarthy. Canales stated his preference to keeping it to 5 committee members. White suggested the town advertise more broadly including sites such as "Indeed" and others.
- Residential Exemption was presented by White. It shifts the tax burden from the most vulnerable to the wealthiest. It is a tax policy the Select Board has the power to adopt. However White prefers taking it to Town Meeting and only instituting it with the support of the town.
White offered to present the negative as told to him and the positives. Negatives others stated: it is a progressive tax; it "soaks the rich"; it may place an additional burden on the assessor's office.
Positives: it corrects an inequity, that is, very expensive homes being built raises taxes on all; it helps the most economically vulnerable and helps elderly remain in their homes. Finally, it becomes a right and people are helped without disclosing personal data or requesting assistance. White said these are "proud old Yankees" who don't like to ask.
McCaffrey said she was of the population who could benefit so she opened the discussion to others only adding "the devil is in the details".
Fletcher thanked White and spoke in Favor.
Bikofsky, Shatz, and Balfanz agreed it was "hard to be seen to be against this, however..."
- There may be other programs that can help this population without instituting the Residential Exemption.
- There should studies and proof of program's effectiveness.
- The nonvoting second homeowners should have chance to weigh in on this since the tax would shift to them.
Next steps could include a study, more discussions with interested parties, and/or inclusion on Town Meeting warrant.
- Streetlights. $15,000 is included in budget for approval at Town Meeting. If approved, it will fund a consultant in order to the cost/benefit of transferring ownership of our streetlights from National Grid to the town and prepare way for transition. It is a potential cost savings of $28,000/annually. Stockbridge would then have to buy the lights (not the poles), equip them with LED lights, and hire an electrician to repair and replace parts and maintain lights.
The Green Community Committee has spent a year studying this and recommends to the SB that town move forward.
On related issue, White asked if the lights would be "control ready" meaning the town could control the on/off switch for the lights (for example saving on Tanglewood light in winter) and could the one odd light pole NOT painted dark green be painted.
Fletcher told a charming story about Mary Flynn doing battle with National Grid to paint the poles dark green (one was missed).
- McCaffrey introduced subject of incentives for the buildings in the town commercial area (Main and Elm) to enhance and improve at least store fronts. McCaffrey was researching because she was worried about Stockbridge business district. There are tax deferment and grant programs for "vacant store front" that have been vacant for a specific time. Barbara Zanetti mentioned a COVUD related grant program. The conversation will continue. McCaffrey and Zanetti will do more research.
- With respect to Bear Bylaw, is the goal of a bylaw a scattergun approach or is the goal of a bylaw to be as narrowly focused as possible?
- With respect to "vacant store fronts", is this a solution in search of a problem? The Mews sold as has Yankee Candle. One business, Vlada's, closed due to COVID. White mentioned many buildings are not owned by the businesses. Even if businesses close, in what way are the stability and maintenance of the buildings, at risk? Does building maintenance fall to the owner or the business leasing?
Bear on the footbridge. Photo: Stockbridge Police
Opening and Closing in the Time of COVID
- Stockbridge Library is now open for browsing. Wear a mask and follow the rules posted at the library and online.
- Vaccinations — April 19th open to all over age of 18
- Tanglewood July 9 - August 16. Favorites Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams, and the Boston Pops will perform. There will be a focus on Beethoven. Tickets will be on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Monday, May 17, through www.tanglewood.org and 888-266-1200, $15-$160.
- Kayak Rack Permits. Permit applications for the 2021 season should be sent to Parks and Recreation at: https://bit.ly/StockbridgeParks Permits granted in order received. Grantees will be notified thru email by April 18. The fees for 2021 are $37.50 for 1 boat $50 for 2 boats. Payment must be received by April 30, 2021. Please contact the Parks and Recreation Committee if you have any questions at email@example.com
Carole Owens, Managing Editor
Cormorant boarding on the Bowl.
The Sewers of Stockbridge — Part I
by Rick Wilcox
Stockbridge History — 1897 Report of the Committee on Sewerage and Sewage Disposal for the Village of Stockbridge — contributed by Rick Wilcox
Your committee, Frederick S. Aymar, Allen T. Treadway and Marshall S. Heath, beg leave to submit the following report... it was feared the committee was not empowered to spend money... the fact that several influential citizens were deeply interested in the matter, the committee felt justified in engaging the services of Mr. Freeman C. Coffin of Boston, who is one of the leading sanitary engineers of the state. The expense of his services has been divided equally between town and a few interested tax-payers, nearly all of whom are non-residents.
We recognize that the town should respect the wishes and desires of this class of our citizens, and the subject of drainage for Stockbridge is one in which they are greatly interested.
The field which has been selected is he one advised by Mr. Coffin after thorough investigation and after consultation with Mr. Goodnough. Whether or not Mr. Barnes would be willing to dispose of the lot at a fair price has not been ascertained. (Barnes lived at 5 North Church Street and owned land to Larrywaug Brook and south to the river. The field contains the current sewer beds.)
From the office of the State Board of Health, January 8, 1897, Secretary Samuel W. Abbott writes in response to receiving the town plans... The plan shows that it is feasible to collect the sewage from practically all of the village and deliver it by gravity upon the filtration area. The exclusion of storm water from the sewers as proposed is very desirable, since smaller sewers will be required, and the quantity of sewage to be purified will be much less than if storm water should be admitted.
The area proposed for the disposal of the sewage appears to be the most suitable... test pits have shown that beneath a layer of loam and soil at the surface covering a layer of sand two to three feet in thickness... according to the plan 2.2 acres of filter beds can be prepared there... on account of the comparatively small elevation of the filter beds above the level of the water in the river, their operation may be interfered with occasionally by freshets...
Precious Document of Stockbridge Past
18th Century Mohican Document
Provided by Rick Wilcox
To Jahleel Woodbridge Esqr.
Sir. We the subscribers request you call a meeting of the Indian Proprietors to examine into the power given here to fore to certain persons as agents for said proprietors, to see how they exercise said power and whether it is expedient to continue or revoke the same, and to do any other business that may thus come under our consideration.
John Concopott (Konkapot),
Jacob Concopott (Konkapot),
Peter Pohqunnoppeet, Andrew Waumauhewhy,
Written in 1780.
Stockbridge History — The Great Estate Bylaw
by Carole Owens
In this space, the history of the Great Estate Bylaw, Part Two, was scheduled to appear. At the last meeting, the PB tabled what they call the Cottage Era Estate (CEE) portion of the proposed Natural Resources Preservation Zoning (NRPZ) Bylaw. Therefore, SU will postpone the history of the Great Estate bylaw until it is relevant and say a few words about NRPZ.
NRPZ is a template — an outline into which conditions are plugged. For example, the outline says a percentage of land in a development will be preserved. It does not specify what percentage. The impact of preserving 90% would be far different from preserving 45%. Likewise, NRPZ has a formula for the number of units allowed on the % of acreage approved for development. What is not specified is the number. As an example, of a total parcel of say 100 acres with 50% is preserved, how many units can be built on the developable 50 acres? The PB plugs in a formula that could result in widely different number of units.
Current bylaws have little discretion; current bylaws set the limits. For example, if a bylaw requires 4-acre lot size, 300-foot frontage, and 25-foot setbacks to build one house, the voters know what that will look like. If you vote to approve, you know what you are approving. Even after the PB plugs numbers into the NRPZ template, there is still discretion by special permit. What will that look like?
The Chair of the Planning Board keeps asking, "how will the developer make money?" Is that a key to their priorities, a clue to how they will exercise discretion? If so, it will probably result in higher density. Here's why.
Density is at the heart of the negotiation. It is not illegal or immoral; it is good business. A developer has upfront costs and takes the risk. In return, he wants to know what density is necessary for acceptable profit? That's his number. The town's number is the density that suits the character of the town and the town's ability to provide services. Between those numbers is the negotiation.
The developer's profitability is not the concern of our elected representatives. Their concern is the sustainability of the town as livable, safe, and appealing. Their concern is holding down the exponential rise in costs, and therefore taxes, that comes with excessive growth.
Outdoor dining at Once Upon a Table.
THE LAST WORD
Reader to Reader — We Got Email
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It is a mystery to me about what happens when a company hired by the town screws up. I believe there are many voters who would like to know if the company that screws up and gets fired is taken to court to reimburse the town for monies they have taken during their project that failed. A few come to mind: The geothermal heating/cooling of the new-ish town offices; the route 183 Larrywaug Bridge, the replacement of town's highway dept's floor and roof?
Are these funds that are paid just "written off" or is someone out there to recover them for us, the taxpayers?
Stockbridge updates is a wonderful town asset. Thank you sincerely.
John H. Hart - President - CEO & warehouse manager (mostly)
To the best of my knowledge, the company that made mistakes with construction of the highway garage repaired the mistakes at no additional cost to the town. Sadly, Larrywaug was the town's mistake which they corrected (See auditor's report in this issue). If memory serves, the Geothermal heating /cooling system was installed twice. Sorry, I don't know who paid for what.
Thank you for the kind words and for being in touch,
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"Short-term rentals (STRs) are a subject much talked about these days. Our neighboring towns have already thrown the subject into the town meeting arena. Stockbridge is next. The discussion is complex and will probably involve several passes before we settle on our final strategy. The Board of Health (BOH) and Tri-Town Health Department (TTHD) have already been involved behind the scenes, so to speak. Our contributions to the dialogue at this stage should be viewed as observations rather than opinions or decisions. Whatever the town decides, the BOH will help implement the town's plan. Town bylaws may require supplementary BOH regulations. The issues of enforcement and inspection are key to many of the matters of interest to the BOH, from food preparation and storage to occupancy and septic systems. For example, responsible septic oversight implies ensuring owners do not go over capacity. At the very least, TTHD would have to budget in advance for personnel to perform the inspections. This issue becomes even more complicated when STRs are within the watershed of the Stockbridge Bowl and considerations for sewer extensions arise. Again, these subjects are for future discussions to bring into focus. If we keep the dialogue open, we should be happy with what we get.
Charles Kenny MD
Board of Health
Thank you for the information and insights you shared. Interesting that you mention enforcement. At every town meeting covered in this issue of SU, enforcement was identified as an ongoing problem to be addressed.
Best wishes as always,
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My nephew Detective Sgt Randy French, Troy, NY Police Department, died of COVID last year on April 29th, his wife's birthday. He started out with his hometown Police Dept, Stockbridge Ma. Went to RPI and graduated top of his class then went on to join the Troy PD. There is an hour-long tribute to him on Facebook — it can be a little harsh in spots.
He will be interred soon in the Stockbridge Cemetery with full honors. There will be a large police representation.
Thank you for sharing. So sorry for your loss.
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Just read your updates - wonderful info and many thanks to you.
LOVE the pix! Those are a treat for the eyes.
So much to digest. Will see you soon,
Aren't you nice! Thank you. I will pass your compliment on
to photographers Joan Gallos and Patrick White.
Thank you for taking the time to write to SU,
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I just completely read your last Updates and it's another great one. Can't wait to read the next one with DeSisto and the current proposed bylaw and find out how it ends. The Q & A with candidates is very good.
Thank you. SU is hard work, so nice to hear someone is reading and enjoying it. I did not post part two of the story of the Great Estate Bylaw because the PB dropped consideration of it for now. It seemed better to hold it until it is relevant again.
Again, thanks for the kind words and especially for all the work you do for the Democratic Town Committee.
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Photos: Patrick White; Edited by Jack Trowill
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