Vol. II No. 08 4/15/2021
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