Vol. II No. 24 12/15/2021
by Bruce Blair
Following the defeat of the DeSisto resort/housing development project, some in town government began to promote zoning change more favorable to developers. New Planning Board members led this effort, while the Finance Committee issued a dire report urging us to diversify our economy.
They have been creating the Natural Historic Resource Preservation Zoning bylaw (NHRPZ) ever since, a housing/resort development bylaw with conservation overtones, but enabling relatively high-density cluster housing developments to be built in town. The original NHRPZ draft was written in a closed-door subcommittee of the Planning Board last year. Some have sought the rationale for this. The answer from the Chairs — "It's only a draft".
Upending our current zoning without replacing our quarter-century old Master Plan is wrong. Major zoning changes involve a comprehensive review of a town's plan. Creating such plans is increasingly beyond the capability of volunteer boards alone. Look at Lenox, now redesigning their future in a community-wide effort.
In belatedly researching their plan, Planning Board members recently visited other towns with housing developments to see what things might look like here if they pass the NHRPZ. They have finally asked their planning consultant to visit town. This won't make NHRPZ right for Stockbridge, but it will highlight our uniqueness.
Imagine hundreds, even thousands, of people moving here to live in cluster housing in the green outer belt of town in a short period of time. People who have come here for the stability and character would lose their dreams. Current residents who would subsidize the resulting infrastructure costs, may suffer depressed property values, along with business and residential property tax increases, as in Lenox. The stability, character, and identity of the town are at stake. Zoning must address this.
We have unique interdependent businesses here that are critical to our long successful economic run, and that of the entire region. Art, music, outdoor recreation, natural beauty, spiritual health, historic landmarks. Tanglewood, Chesterwood, Rockwell Museum, Mission House, Naumkeag, Marian Fathers, Red Lion Inn, The Bowl, Gould Meadows, Ice Glen, Housatonic River, Berkshire Botanical Gardens, Children's Chimes — all in one town — in a spectacular natural setting. We are all stewards of these gifts. They are our bread and butter — both for our economy and our souls.
Library reindeer. Photo: Patrick White