Vol. II No. 07 4/1/2021
Notes from Town Boards
Notes from Planning Board Meeting: March 16 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: Anita Schwerner, Don and Ann Chabon, Pat Flinn, Patrick White, and Roxanne McCaffrey
- Proposal to preclude residences on the street level in the business district—presented by Roxanne McCaffrey on behalf of SB and Christine for PB. It is an amendment to "Principle Uses" section of Stockbridge Zoning Bylaw. There was a concern raised about what happens to residences now on street level in the business district. (Many may not know that the business district is not only Main and Elm Streets but continues on Pine and Shamrock Streets.) McCaffrey said extant residences were "grandfathered." The question followed, what happens when they sell? It was assumed they could continue to be allowed as residences on ground floor. PB voted to approve 6 to 1; Kate Fletcher voted no.
- The proposal will advance to Public Hearing, then to SB, and if placed on Warrant, then to Town Meeting for approval. Formerly held idea that PB could place something on Warrant was refuted. SB sets Warrant – all suggestions for inclusion go through SB.
- It was announced that the three bylaws were "still with SB" therefore no discussion of Parking, Driveway or Sign Bylaws until returned. Consultant Phil Arnold moved on and discussed ADUs – Accessory Dwelling Units.
- Consultant asked permission to deviate from old format which may include "unnecessary excess language." Permission granted.
- Main differences identified: Application process too complex.
- Accessory use inside house is By Right.
- Accessory use in detached space requires Special Permit.
- White suggested that first the PB identify the problem it is trying to solve and then make minimum changes to bylaws to address that problem.
- March 22 Meeting at 6pm to go over Cottage Era Estate portion of the proposed bylaw.
- Rasmussen wanted access to Town website to post documents written by professionals on PB subjects.
- Fletcher feared the PB process has not been open enough.
- Don Chabon introduced himself and announced he is running for SB.
Editor's note: Question: Might not changing the format and rewriting an entire bylaw make it more difficult for the public to track and understand the impact of the proposed changes. See SB meeting below. Even SB members had great difficulty understanding the changes proposed.
Notes from the Select Board Meeting: March 18 via Zoom
- Chuck Cardillo, Chair
- Patrick White
- Roxanne McCaffrey
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
In addition: Christine Rasmussen, Jack Henderson (others may have been present but could not be seen)
Michael Canales reported on 6 projects in progress:
- Averic Bridge – if low bid is accepted, Stockbridge is within budget and can accept and go forward. However, if low bid is challenged and if the next bid is lower, Stockbridge has to go to Town Meeting to approve extra cost: $800,000 approved; low bid $707,000; next lowest bid was $817,000 so if low bid not acceptable, town will have to request more money.
- New roof on highway garage nearly complete.
- Proctor Hall (old Town Hall) roof replacement complete, however, there was wind damage post repair. The money is available, and the repair is going forward. (Allocated for replacement $90,000; cost $70,000 – amount available for repair $20,000).
- Green Committee – replacement of lights in wastewater treatment facility with LED lights complete.
- Determination process: should Stockbridge take over street lighting as other Berkshire towns have, and if so, will Stockbridge save money? Recommendation at next meeting.
- Larrywaug Bridge—re-advertisement for bids in process but complex. Difficulty stems from fact that when work stopped, some things were done while others not even begun. If more money is required, request for funds will appear on Warrant at Town Meeting. Work could be completed by Thanksgiving. Canales was asked questions. In order to move quickly on construction projects and repairs:
- If one project costs more and a second costs less, can money be moved from one project to another? No. Any time more is money needed, Town Meeting or a Special Town Meeting must approve expenditure.
- Can Stockbridge establish a "construction reserve fund" to have extra money available if bids are higher than cash on hand? No. Cannot award a contract unless entire amount is on hand identified for that project.
- Regional School Committee asked for $15,000 per town for their project. However, they were awarded a grant for part of the cost and therefore reduced the request from Stockbridge and the other towns to $8000 each.
SB has 14 days to receive, read, discuss and decide before it must send bylaw proposals back to PB. SB can send back a proposed bylaw with approval, disapproval or stipulations/comments. Approval, disapproval, and comments of SB are read into the record at Public Hearing. After the hearing, PB can amend or not and return to SB for inclusion/no inclusion on Warrant for Town Meeting where the people vote. None of the three proposed bylaws were returned approved by SB.
- Driveway Bylaw returned to PB with the following two stipulations: this bylaw applies only to new and not existing driveways; "safety" issues should not be included in driveway bylaw but in curb cut bylaw.
- Off-street Parking Bylaw – returned to PB without SB support. Request that both versions – the SB version recommended to PB a year ago and the "totally reconstructed" version sent by PB be presented at Public Hearing.
- Sign Bylaw – lengthy discussion ensued – unclear but apparently sent back to PB without approval. Discussion centered on:
- Disapprobation for process – too rushed – not enough time from when proposed bylaw received for SB to consider and decide.
- Strong recommendation for a joint meeting of PB/SB before "the clock starts", that is, before the 14-day time limit begins.
- Strong disapproval of change of permitting authority wherein SB is cut out of the process and it resides solely with PB.
- PB being sole permitting authority was mentioned as a fait accompli by a PB member at the last PB meeting. That statement was reported and questioned by SU as it appeared to be assumed without a formal decision-making process.
- There was also an objection to PB Chair Vogt informally asking SB Chair Cardillo if he had any objection to PB as sole permitting authority and reporting in PB meeting that SB agreed.
Suggested Town Meeting Warrant items:
- A proposed amendment to Stockbridge Zoning Bylaws Principle Uses that precludes residences on the ground floor in the business district.
- Housing Trust Fund and the Housing Repair Trust Fund.
- Short-Term Rental regulations.
White's suggestion: with so much on the regular Town Meeting Warrant, perhaps a Special Town Meeting might be scheduled for only proposed bylaw changes?
Appointments to be filled by SB to Conservation Commission and Green Committee postponed to next SB meeting.
Notes from Planning Board Bylaw Review Meeting: March 22 via Zoom
PB members and consultant Jeff Lacy
Also present: PB candidates Jack Henderson and Mark Mills; Anita Schwerner, Nina Ryan, Patrick White, Julie and Barney Edmonds, and Jamie Minacci (Apologies to all who attended if not mentioned. Those eight were the only ones visible on screen)
- The focus of the meeting was the Cottage Era Estate (CEE) portion of the proposed bylaw (Section H)
- There was confusion about which draft would be addressed in the meeting and complaint about a draft being sent at 5pm before a 6pm meeting.
- The Chair asked consultant to identify the changes in proposed bylaw. They were as follows:
- PB will become the sole permit granting authority.
- Application process will be shortened and simplified as follows: in old bylaw, there was a concept meeting and then a formal plan was submitted. It was an opportunity to sort out what was acceptable to town and developer. In current draft both are gone and replaced by a Conservation Analysis as described in NRHPZ bylaw of which CEE is a part.
- Language deemed by consultant to be "convoluted" was removed.
- Converted the "residential unit count", that is, NRHPZ has a formula to determine the number of residential units allowed. Under CEE, a developer may want other than single family dwellings. So, taking DeSisto as the example, Lacy reminded the attendees that his NRHPZ formula allowed 38 residential units at DeSisto. Lacy then "converted the 38 single family dwellings into bedrooms by assuming a single-family house has 4 bedrooms and multiplying 38 times 4. Under CEE, 152 bedrooms would be allowed and could be reconfigured by the developer into (for example) one-bed apartments or 2 and 3 bed condos.
- Raftery noted a contradiction in the CEE proposal. At one point CEE allows amplified music out of doors by special permit and at another point forbids it.
- Next followed questions from Lacy to PB: why does a former draft say a Great Estate Inn must be on town sewer? Fletcher suggested it was to prevent sprawl. No one else knew and the language was eliminated. Lacy asked why there was the entire section on Great Estate Inns. No one knew and the section was eliminated.
- Much time was spent on which properties fit under CEE and who decides (see editorial). The draft stated the Historical Commission decides. Fletcher suggested it should say the Historical Preservation Committee – it was changed. Lacy said the PB should have the last word, but Chair Vogt did not appear to want last word. In the alternative it was suggested that a list of Cottages to which CEE refers be created.
- With either method there was concern that would place the bylaw in jeopardy. A list could be construed as spot zoning (singling out specific parcels). Alternately, without a list, Lacy said it might be floating zoning (unclear as to what the zoning bylaw applies). Both are illegal.
- Fletcher objected to a bylaw removing permitting authority from SB as it was always with SB. Consultant dismissed what was traditional in Stockbridge and said it should be changed.
- There were a series of questions from the attendees. As requested, no attendee spoke but submitted questions through the chat function. Nonetheless, only one was answered. Here are as many as could be captured.
- What if developer does not want to keep the Cottage? Can he tear it down? No answer
- How can you be writing a CEE Bylaw and not know where and what a Cottage is? No answer
- What is the rationale for removing permitting authority from SB and giving it to PB? Answer from consultant: that is the way it is done elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
- How are the people going to understand what they are voting on? No answer
- Where will the 175 people allowed at outdoor events park their cars? No answer
- What will happen to the Red Lion Inn and to Main Street if developers are encouraged to build more hotels and inns? No answer
- What happened to acreage restriction from earlier draft? No answer
- Are hotel bedrooms in addition to or part of the 152 bedrooms allowed? If in addition, doesn't that increase density exponentially?
- A PB member said if CEE is appended to the proposed NRHPZ bylaw as Section H, the bylaw will be 18 pages long and very confusing.
- Lacy began at top of page one and went through Section H – CEE.
- It is 5 pages. Lacy recapped what he shared in beginning of meeting and added...
- Using DeSisto as model: of the 320 acres, 5% or 16 acres could be impermeable surfaces (roads, walkways, parking, tennis court etc.)
- Hotel and non-residential buildings could be as much as 15% or 48 acres
- There was discussion about future meetings and the meeting adjourned.
Editor's Note: Questions
- Several times discussions about changes to the draft since last meeting were mentioned. When and with whom did those discussions take place? Were they violations of the Open Meeting Law? It is important because OML helps the public follow the process and better understand the changes in order to approve/disapprove the final product at Town Meeting.
- One reason given for not answering questions was not to interrupt the work because there is a time crunch. What is the time crunch? SB suggested it could set a Special Town Meeting to present bylaws whenever PB is ready.
Old sign on Procter Hall.
Historical Commission Meeting: March 24
- Linda Jackson, Chair
- Peter Williams
- Maria Carr
Also present: Michael Canales, Chris Marsden, Patrick White, Bruce Blair, Kate Fletcher, and Carole Owens
- Michael Canales reviewed the plan for restoration of the Children's Chime Tower donated to Stockbridge by David Dudley Field in 1878.
- Patrick recapped the three parts of the planned restoration: the bells and the stand for the bells as well as the console, the roof and the structure.
- The roof would be restored in an historically correct manner. The structure needs the least amount of work almost completely restricted to repointing. In historic structures the limestone is often deteriorated. The biggest part of the work is the bells, the console (the levers that actually play the bells) and the stand that holds the player of the bells as well as the stand that holds the bells.
- Discussion followed on whether to restore or replace parts. Jackson pointed out that the Commonwealth Secretary of the Interior standard is to repair before replacing. Blair said that repairs have been made over the 183 years perhaps to the point where they can no longer be attempted.
- A companion discussion was whether to restore the bells and tower to their 1878 configuration or increase the number of bells to increase the range of music that can be played and therefore replace the console to operate 14 rather than 11 bells.
- Was the final objective enhanced musicality – how melodious and range of —or restoration to the 1878 condition.
- Those final decisions were postponed pending further information.
- Attention turned to the first necessary step: placing the project on the Warrant at Town Meeting and seeking approval for the funds so the Tower and bells do not deteriorate any further and work can begin.
- Blair, who should be thanked for beginning this process with Claire Williams, thanked Canales, White (on behalf of the SB) and the Historical Commission for carrying this project forward.
- White thanked the meeting participants for the meeting itself that was conducted, White said, as all meetings should be – constructive, goal oriented, civil and well-informed.
On that congenial note, the meeting adjourned.
One of a number of broken headstones the Town seeks to repair at the Stockbridge Cemetery.
Notes from Joint Finance Committee/Select Board Meeting: March 25 via Zoom
- Chuck Cardillo, Chair
- Patrick White
- Roxanne McCaffrey
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
- Jay Bikofsky, Chair
- Jim Balfanz
- Bill Vogt
- Neil D. Holden
- Steve Shatz
- Diane Reuss
- Pamela Boudreau
In addition: Others may have been present but could not be seen. If they spoke, they are identified below with their comment.
Joint Finance/SB meeting conducted by Jay Bikopfsky, Chair Finance
- Fire engine number 2 requires major work and is up for replacement in two years. Suggested more cost effective for Highway Department to "patch up" rusted areas and move up replacement date to next year.
- Add 5 "on-call" volunteer fire men and women and raise the rate per hour from $8 - $12. Total increase $9000.
- There was a discussion of hoses, custom trucks, a 2018 pumper truck and 25- to 30-year-old trucks. The intent is to move equipment around balancing cost effectiveness and adequate service.
- There is an anticipated increase in Stockbridge contribution to tri-town (Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge) ambulance coverage. It could be as high as $140,000.
- Compensation for a Conservation Commission (ConCom) part-time professional for enforcement of ConCom regulations. No figure mentioned. Kate Fletcher asked if this fell under the responsibilities of the Building Inspector as it does with PB regulations.
- Beth Laster-Nathan, on behalf of Lake Drive Association, requested sewer connection. It was referred to Michael Canales.
- Warrant items for approval by the people at Town Meeting
- Underground cameras for Water and Sewer — $12,000 from surplus cash
- Engineering for Tuckerman Bridge repair — $38,000
- Repaint Quiet Knoll water tank $3690
- Park Street Pump Station $720,000 (borrow)
- Karen Marshall explained study 600 of Stockbridge cemetery's oldest headstones —
- $20,000 and $5600 for highway department headstone repair.
- Regional School Planning grant – Stockbridge's contribution reduced from $15,000 to $8000 due to grant awarded.
- PB requested $40,000 to continue two consultants for another year. Asked how much of $40,000 awarded last year was spent – Chair Vogt did not know. PB member Fletcher estimated $11,500 spent on the two consultants. Selectman White requested a joint SB/PB meeting to discuss budget and bylaws.
- Add $50,000 to OPEB (Other Post—Employment Benefits), which is the fund for the cost of benefits, other than pension distributions, that employees may begin to receive from the Town of Stockbridge once they retire.
- Housing Rehabilitation Trust $100,000 aimed at enabling seniors to repair and therefore remain in their homes (works as a reverse mortgage does – money paid back to town when house is sold). Select member McCaffrey objected and said it might be duplicative of a Berkshire Regional Planning Grant Program. Canales explained in that grant program the money is all spent.
- Stockbridge Bowl testing (approximately $35,000)
- Parks and Recreation — resurface tennis and basketball courts and fence areas (approximately $90,000)
- Children's Chime Tower — repair. Some grant money available for 1878 structure but if granted would require a deed restriction – alternatively borrow full amount — $600,000 estimated.
- Streetlights — $15,000 to study if lights should be taken over by town (from National Grid) and bulbs replaced w/LEDs. Total savings to town could be$28,000 annually.
- Highway truck replacement — $145,000. Could be paid for by debt or could be taken from free cash.
- Canales explained plan to create level debt annually by strategizing borrowing and pay-downs.
- Red Lion corner — cost of engineer to redesign to be presented at later date.
Joint meeting adjourned – SB meeting called to order by Chair Cardillo
- Police Chief Darrell Fennelly requested approval of new reserve officer. Approved
- Riverbrook School sent $2000 in lieu of taxes. Selectman White suggested it be returned with thanks because Riverbrook is undertaking expensive repairs this year. Agreement, SB asked Canales to call and discuss.
- Tenant representative to the Stockbridge Housing Authority, Michael Volk.
- In order to appoint both applicants to ConCom, White offered to step down from ConCom on condition he was named SB representative to ConCom. Approved, and Gary Johnston was named alternate member and Lisa Bozzuto regular member.
- Miles Moffatt named to Green Communities Committee.
2021 Town Meeting: June 12, 2021 10 a.m. Rain date June 13, 1 p.m. Election May 18
- Short-Term Rental Bylaw – Select member McCaffrey suggested registration and Selectman White pointed out with permitting there is revocation of permit after 3 or more infractions; making enforcement easier. Registration imposes fine for infractions. Rentals by corporations or any entity opposed. Only person can rent.
Attendees uniformly thanked SB for its efforts and had the following questions:
Ben Liptzin asked if this bylaw would lead to removal of offensive dumpsters (Answer depends on size). Loretta Scheel asked if it was retroactive (Answer: no). Barbara Zanetti wanted to know if these regulations apply to licensed B&B? (Answer: no) Ken Krentsa asked if SB can regulate parties (Answer: no. Public can police to respond to excessive noise). Kate Fletcher asked if fines can be placed on tax bill to assure payment (Answer: no)
- Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Commission (SBSC) is currently a committee with membership, a budget, and a purpose. White asked why make it a Commission by bylaw? He maintained it tied the hands of future boards. McCaffrey wanted to assure its continued existence. White also pointed out this bylaw names specific members and they or their organizations may not exist in 50 years but bylaws do. The current Chair of the SBSC, Jamie Minacci, objected that she knew nothing about this proposal. Never saw it, and agreed with White, it was functioning well as a committee and no need for bylaw to make it commission. Kate Fletcher added there were too many committees, boards and commissions for so small a town.
- Renewal of license for outdoor events with alcohol. Approved for Tanglewood and Naumkeag with objection that Naumkeag extended its Winter Lights event 24 dates without addressing SB.
- Request from Stockbridge Bowl Association for their report to be included in Stockbridge Annual Report. The responses from members were pointed:
- "Read it and not pleased with it."
- "Don't like it; it is basically propaganda and not a report."
- "Not a report because does not include any financial information."
- "I was taken back by tone."
- "At least not as obnoxious as other years."
- Canales said a Stockbridge Annual Report is mandated by law and what must be included is enumerated. Anything else, for example SBA report, is included if approved by SB.
The matter was tabled for a year. The meeting was adjourned.
- If McCaffrey is an owner of rental properties, might she have recused herself, or at minimum, explained her current relationship to short-term rentals?
- Since White is an abutter, in an abundance of caution, might he have recused himself or at minimum announced the circumstance before voting on the Tanglewood seasonal license?
- Could the SBA letter have been read into the record so attendees could know what was objectionable?
Native Habitat Restoration's Jess Toro, Monument senior Abby Fredsall, and former head of DCR's Forestry Health Division Ken Gooch discuss the state of Ice Glen while walking in the forest. Eagle reporter Felix Carroll is in the foreground.