Vol. II No. 08 4/15/2021
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.