Vol. IV No. 19 9/8/2023
An Exchange of Views on an Important Issue
Carole Owens: According to a recent data collection by the Affordable Housing Trust, most houses in this village were built before 1980. That means older houses with older septic systems all over the village. If the septic system fails, replacement can be $60,000 or more. This is a concern in all the Stockbridge homes without sewer.
If folks around the lake want to be sewered first, is there a trade-off to be made? Is "fairness" a swap: part-time residents support the Residential Tax Exemption in exchange for full-timers recognizing the needs to sewer the lake and protect it?
That swap is not a suggestion for how to fund the sewer expansion. There are multiple sources for funding sewer extension, and as always, a vote at Town Meeting approves one. That is an example of how we must be looking out for one another. A community is us; a community is not us and them.
In a community everyone has needs and their needs differ. We can depend upon there being disagreements. The question is not if there will be disagreements, but how do we handle them? How about with mutual understanding and regard; never with anger and division. We have to swap ideas with respect and without personal attacks. We have to come to decisions that are in the best interest of the Town. Those who feel they lost; accept loss with grace. The winners - acknowledge the legitimacy of neighbors' needs and plan to address them.
Patrick White: In my conversations recently with Michael [Canales], we've been focused on policies that create a "sustainable future" for Stockbridge. This touches so many areas: conservation (thank, you Stockbridge-Munsees and MVP), staffing, fire/EMS, building inspection, and yes, the health of the lake.
The Lake is of particular concern, because its sustainability impacts three critical needs: ecological, recreational, and economic with its importance to the tax base. The sad fact is that cyanobacteria has come to the Berkshires: there has been a prolonged cyanonbacteria outbreak at Lake Onota all summer long. Simply put, we must do everything we can to ensure the health of the lake.
Going back decades, the plan was always to add sewer connections up Route 183 to cover both homeowners along Interlaken Road and Lake Drive, as well as Berkshire Country Day and Kripalu. Similarly, the last expansion of sewer on the Bowl's eastern shore stopped at Bean Hill Road, leaving White Pines, Oak Street, Hawthorne Road, Emerson Lane, and Wheatley Drive, as well as commercial properties at Wheatleigh and Camp Mah-Kee-Nac, on septic.
These septic systems feed nutrients into the lake. Cyanobacteria thrives in warm, nutrient-rich waters. We can impact water temperature with targeted hydraulic dredging, and we must deal with nutrients by removing them from the watershed.
I believe that asking the question, who should sewer expansion benefit, in the context of full-time vs. some-time residents, is the wrong question. The right question is, what is the compelling interest of the town as a community? We still have time to anticipate the impacts of climate change on our community. Now is the time to act to do whatever we can to protect this community from these impacts that we know are coming.
There's a lot of sand around the Bowl. Let's not use it as a place to stick our heads.
Photo: Patrick White