Vol. II No. 16 8/15/2021
Notes from the Planning Board, August 3, Hybrid Meeting
- Chair Bill Vogt
- Marie Rafferty, VC
- Wayne Slosek
- Nancy Socha
- Gary Pitney
- Jennifer Carmichael, secretary
- Kate Fletcher (via Zoom)
- Carl Sprague (via Zoom)
- Minutes from 7/06/21 and 7/20/2021 approved as amended.
- The agenda says, "Discussion of open points in NRHPZ draft bylaw." However, the discussion changed to a sharing of each member's vision for Stockbridge.
- Fletcher referred to a letter from Bruce Blair and reinforced that she agreed that discussion of the points made in his letter would be helpful.
- Since it shifted the focus of the discussion, with the author's permission, the letter from Bruce Blair is reproduced here: "Dear Planning and Select Board Members: Regarding the agenda for the upcoming Planning Board meeting, I would like to urge the PB to consider the following questions before working on details of the "NHRPZ". I think that the "delay" in pushing the NHRPZ onto the warrant was caused by the rush to implement, which skipped the groundwork.
What was the reason for creating NHRPZ?
Was there a critical need supported by documentation? Or was it a means to an end related to new business and development projects? The narrative statement of purpose in the bylaw presumes selected results but does not include other possible outcomes and rationales.
Where is the credible, transparent data and discussion that supports the actual need for the NHRPZ?
A list of properties in itself is not the whole story. Nearly four months of behind-the-scenes work from your subcommittee did not seem to provide information.
How well do Board members understand this bylaw?
At a recent meeting, it seemed clear that at least one member did not know that the NHRPZ gave the PB authority to waive its requirements.
What does the public think? How are you measuring and adapting to public response?
The recent PB election results do not indicate support for the measure, but suggest the opposite. Public discussion between Board members (sans consultants) and residents has been limited.
How well can you describe the impact of the NHRPZ? What are the pros and cons?
What will the town actually look like after it is implemented? We need an unbiased assessment. Speaking for myself and numerous others, no more sales pitch, please.
Earlier this year, consultant Jeff Lacy gave his opinion that the Cottage Era Bylaw needed to be separate from the NHRPZ. The Cottage Era Bylaw had been put on the back burner in order to speed up the NHRPZ, which was referred to as "urgent". Why did you arrive at this conclusion? How can you document your urgent concerns so that they are credible?
I believe that by addressing these questions, you can effectively consider whether we need an NHRPZ in Stockbridge."
In the discussion that followed, each PB member stated their position with regard to the proposed bylaw, and generally their "vision for Stockbridge". It was an open and interesting discussion. The meeting is available on CTSB and is worth listening to. A summary does not do the members justice.
At the end of the discussion, more than one member observed there was not agreement between members. Points of disagreement included but were not limited to: is NHRPZ necessary? Is NHRPZ what the PB was tasked to consider? What is the role of a PB? Does any PB have an obligation or a proper role in determining how a developer makes money or how much he makes? Is a PB meant to promote or impede change? Is a PB's role to lower taxes? And many other points of disagreement that may have nothing to do with the appropriate role of any PB.
Two suggestions were made:
- To visit a community similar to Stockbridge where NHRPZ was adopted and see the result. Hopefully visit a project developed under a NHRPZ Bylaw.
- Arrange for a survey to be sent to the public to determine what the people want; what their vision for Stockbridge is. It was suggested that perhaps that should guide their efforts. The last survey done by the Town re: housing was mentioned. Selectman White had experience with the last survey and was asked to assist. He readily agreed.
- SU was asked to publish the last survey. It was reported that many if not most of the responses came as a result of SU publishing and promoting the survey. If SU can help this time, we are pleased to.
- As they considered local developments, there seemed to be agreement about what members liked, did not like, and what worked. Perhaps evaluating local changes is an aid in finding agreement?
Photo: Jay Rhind