Vol. III No. 8 4/15/2022
Remembering the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee
by Bob Jones
Carole, Thank you for your well-reasoned article, "Penny-wise," in the last issue of SU. A few thoughts, given my eighteen-year residency in Stockbridge, as a former member of the Stockbridge ZBA, and a member of the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee in 2018-2019.
The ZBRC, chaired by Planning Board Member Kate Fletcher, was formed to take a look at the Cottage Era Bylaw and to review, in general, the zoning bylaws of Stockbridge. The ultimate goal was a "diagnostic report."
The committee worked a little over a year, with a varying number of residents sitting on the panel. After seemingly countless meetings of the committee and interested residents, when we were ready, the decision was made to hire a consultant to assist us. We chose Joel Russell, who has a law degree, a planning degree, experience with planning and zoning in small, historic towns, and a familiarity with the village of Stockbridge.
Mr. Russell did his due diligence (as did the committee) in reaching out to the various communities within the community to ascertain their wants and needs, their ideas and input. Long story short, the diagnostic report: The bylaws were in fairly good shape (some tweaking required), and the Cottage Era Bylaw was flawed and needed either revamping or to be repealed altogether.
This was the message sent to the then Planning Board, when it was decided it was they who would take over the process. The ZBRC was disbanded. Unfortunately, the work done by the ZRBC was set aside. It was decided to hire yet another consultant. The process became an in-house debate on how to accommodate development and cluster housing, cloaked in the promise of "economic growth." What was an inclusive process with outreach and input, became a specific agenda that clashed with the gifts that have been passed on by previous generations.
Your assessment rings true. Time and money have been spent on looking for answers that were essentially provided three years earlier. The answers came from the citizenry and an impartial professional consultant. The answers came as no real surprise. It is the questions that were changed in an attempt to fiddle with a proven formula that makes Stockbridge what it is: The quintessential small town that other small towns aspire to be.
Best wishes to all my good friends and neighbors in Stockbridge.
Photo: Patrick White