Vol. III No. 05 3/1/2022
Notes from the Planning Board (PB), February 15, Hybrid meeting
- Bill Vogt, Chair
- Marie Raftery
- Nancy Socha
- Wayne Slosek
- Gary Pitney
- Kate Fletcher
- Carl Sprague
- Patrick White
- Minutes approved as written
- Heather (no last name given) and Avie Maloney (new owner of Once Upon A Table) appeared before the PB for a sign permit.
- While Fletcher wanted to discuss the permit in detail — whether their sign meets the bylaw, it was determined no permit was necessary.
- Slosek said he understood that if a business were "simply changing wording" no reason to come before PB.
- White called Town Counsel to ask and reported that since Maloney is using the same sign boards and repainting in order to change the font, a permit is not necessary. The PB only has jurisdiction over the size and placement of signs, never the words on the signs.
- The discussion turned to the Cottage Era Bylaw. Chair asked should it be eliminated?
- It was suggested by Raftery that since there were so few Cottages, and it had never been used, it should be dropped.
- Fletcher said she did not know to which properties the bylaw applies
- Slosek asked if Sprague, as member of PB and Chair of Historic Preservation Committee, could make a list?
- Sprague said it was fundamentally a preservation bylaw. Does it still serve a purpose? Was it ever used?
- Someone answered it was used for the Elm Court development.
- Slosek said the bylaw allows development to pay for the cost of saving the estates and great lawns. It is a plan for adaptive reuse — the caption of the bylaw says so — why wouldn't Carl like that?
- Sprague said, you are making me think
- White said he spoke to an expert who said there were 93 Berkshire Cottages at the height of Gilded Age — not all in Stockbridge
- Fletcher said White was talking about Carole Owens and she has a conflict of interest because she sells books and gives talks.
- White said "conflict of interest" is a legal term and all should be careful with weaponizing legal terms.
- Fletcher responded, "Carole Owens is in the business of writing about the Great Estates."
- Slosek said he will talk to "anyone I feel like" in researching something before PB including experts, those for, and those against the measure. "If I want to inform myself that is not a conflict of interest." Slosek added that the Cottage Era Bylaw requires special permits that protect the Town and an initial conversation that informs everyone.
- Chair said, Select Board Chair Roxanne McCaffrey, to her credit, invited Patrick Sheehan (owner of 37 Interlaken — "DeSisto") to attend a SB meeting to "start the process"
- Fletcher asked "what's the status"
- White said Sheehan expressed no interest 1 1/2 years ago when he spoke to him. White added, when Sheehan is interested, Sheehan should initiate the process
- Fletcher said invite him to PB
- Chair said let SB go forward first
- White cautioned, "there was talk this past week about agents and agentry. We [SB and PB] are the jury and should not be advocates for Sheehan." He added the owner should initiate. We cannot "advocate or coach."
- Chair said McCaffrey was not advocating just inviting.
- White asked, why are we talking about specific properties that are not before us? That could be misconstrued as advocating.
- Chair said, we are "trying to make progress on an important property in Town." Chair felt it was pointless not to discuss that particular property, but he said he will ask Town Counsel
- White said any bylaw change if approved by Town Meeting goes to Attorney General and if bylaw change is linked to specific property it could be construed as "spot zoning" and "shot down".
- Slosek said PB should be careful but has to be able to discuss; Chair agreed and used example of earlier discussion of sign permit. Chair iterated he will ask Town Counsel.
- Fletcher commented about abutters and a vote that was taken at Town Meeting wherein folks didn't know what they were voting for/against.
- Socha asked for the name of those who said they did not know what they were voting for/against?
- Fletcher did not provide names
- Chair wanted to set agenda for next meeting
- Slosek asked that they focus and not wander from point
- Chair wished to have something to present to Town Meeting in May about Cottage Era Bylaw.
- Slosek asked if it is necessary to do anything at all.
Editor's Notes: These notes offer definitions of terms used during meetings. For example —
- Agentry. Section 17 of the Conflict-of-Interest law, sometimes called the "divided loyalties" clause, forbids "agentry". Agentry is: acting as an agent for — representing or furthering the interests of — another entity while an employee of a municipality.
- The Mass Conflict of Interest law applies to employees of Town including those appointed to serve on boards, committees, or commissions whether paid or not. It does not apply to private citizens or those not so employed.
- Spot zoning occurs when one lot or a small area is singled out for treatment different from, or less onerous than, that imposed upon nearby property.
Photo: Blue Moon Images