Vol. II No. 09 5/1/2021
Stockbridge 2030? Part One
By Larry Ackerman
Over the past many months, I've read numerous letters and listened to several town meetings, which address the zoning question, how should we move forward in terms of land development? Clearly, there's no consensus.
What strikes me is that there doesn't seem to be much attention being paid to how that question relates to what we want Stockbridge to be in, say, 10 years. The debate seems to revolve around whether we adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward development (anything goes), or keep development to the bare minimum (if any).
I'd like to propose that we change the conversation. Let's put community, not just property, at the center of a discussion about the future of Stockbridge. What kind of community do we want to be? What do we want it to look like? If we do absolutely nothing with open, available land — leave it entirely untouched — what are the potential risks? If we do absolutely everything with it — develop it without restrictions — what are the potential risks? How much is too much? Too little? And, most important, why?
I've heard the argument that more development will further lower property taxes. Yet, Stockbridge already enjoys a lower tax rate than our neighboring towns. Is there really a pressing need to make it even lower?
In the spirit of community, it seems to me that private property ownership rights need to be balanced with a shared responsibility to maintain Stockbridge as the asset it is:
Stockbridge is a lifestyle asset. In its more rural nature, our town is an oasis that gives comfort to its residents — no small benefit in the context of our fast-paced world.
Stockbridge is an environmental asset. We are blessed with beautiful forests, fields and lakes, which contribute to what makes our community special.
Stockbridge is an historical asset. Our town's history is rich and significant, not just locally, but nationally too. Norman Rockwell is a leading example. It's a history we can all take pride in.
Stockbridge is a cultural asset. We offer world-class music and theater; some of the finest in the country.
Stockbridge is an economic asset. For all of these reasons, the town has become a magnet for tourism and the tremendous benefits it provides to our local businesses. (Summer traffic, notwithstanding.)
Tree blooms by Town Hall.