Vol. III No. 2 1/15/2022
Stockbridge volunteer firemen cleaning up the debris after a motorist destroyed the window at Nejaime's. Photo: Jay Rhind
The Necessary and the Unnecessary
We are not large. Stockbridge is just a village. There is a limit on our resources – human and monetary. We should be clever with what we have. So with sincere thanks for all who work for the Town, and knowledge that Monday-morning quarterbacking is easy, here are three areas for consideration in separating the necessary from the unnecessary.
A few years ago, the Town paid Joel Russell, a respected planner and attorney familiar with Stockbridge, to review our bylaws. Russell concluded no major work was necessary. We might have saved precious resources if we had listened.
Stockbridge meets the Commonwealth criteria for low-income housing, but some suggest we might address work force housing through bylaw change. The cost of housing may be a function of the marketplace not zoning. Smaller and more reasonably priced housing is snapped up, torn down, and replaced with a million-dollar hippopotamus on a picnic blanket. An extant two-bed, two-bath, 1700 sq. ft. attached dwelling – the sort proposed for work force housing — is advertised for $649,000.
Some suggest we look again at the Cottage Era Bylaw. If we do, please, do not use a consultant who stated publicly he did not know what a Berkshire Cottage was. Planning Board spent almost two years of their energy and approximately $40,000 on consultants who had never been to Stockbridge. Both finally visited saying they should see what they were talking about. Indeed. Not surprising they proposed five bylaws and only one was brought to Town Meeting.
The Cottage Era Bylaw is and always was the kind of tradeoff some PB members wanted. In exchange for saving Stockbridge history, one Berkshire Cottage and one Great Lawn at a time, this bylaw offered a developer more (but reasonable) latitude. What prevented development at Elm Court and DeSisto was not Stockbridge zoning but the marketplace.
Our village never attracted large scale development but that does not mean it isn't growing. We had more sales and construction this year than any in memory. We might manage our style of growth with the tools at our disposal, and not be distracted by the unnecessary.
Let the Town know how we ended up with no American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) earmarks as our bridges crumble, and a $20,000 grant to study a bylaw PB voted out.
Our Finance Committee is focused on low taxes. Laudable, but not the only necessity. Instead of asking department heads for an annual 5% budget reduction, might the committee ask them what is necessary and desirable to do? Michael Buffoni has an exciting idea about generating hydropower. Might we spend now on innovative ideas and all-important, very necessary maintenance and thereby save expense later? In that way, Townsfolks see what they are trading for lower taxes and can weigh the tradeoffs.
Transparency helps make better decisions. The Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Commission is working on a lake management plan as Stockbridge Bowl Association (SBA) competes for control of the Bowl. (See January 1 issue of SU, Bowl Games by Bruce Blair with SBA letter attached). As a Town, let us decide to fight for management or yield to SBA and save our resources. Transparency helps to separate the necessary from the unnecessary — more voices make wiser decisions.
Ice fishing. Photo: Jay Rhind