Vol. IV No. 26 11/15/2023
Reader to Reader
Lynda Overlock's letter in your Stockbridge Updates letter of October 22 makes clear the basic inequity of the argument that all primary residents, and no second homeowners should receive the benefit of a real estate tax exemption (RTE). As I have consistently pointed out since this issue was first raised, doing so would give a tax break to people who do not need it (as I do not) and in doing so raise the cost of the RTE for those who do not receive it. Why should I be paying a thousand dollars less in taxes than my next-door neighbor, when I can readily afford the tax as it is? If there were a way of pegging the RTE to income levels, that would remove many fewer dollars from the tax base, so that the need to adjust the tax rate for the rest of us would be much less and its fairness would be obvious. Even better would be if second homeowners like Lynda could qualify too — though doubtless that would be harder to achieve politically. As it is, the argument that Stockbridge voters should confer what may be an unnecessary tax benefit on all voters and impose extra tax burdens on all second homeowners is an argument for taxation without representation — beggar thy neighbor — that any proponents able to pay their taxes without significant pain should be ashamed to make.
As I am sure you know, the "basic inequity" you outline is established by Commonwealth of Massachusetts law not by any municipality. Municipalities, all 351, are simply mandated to consider RTE each year at the Tax Classification Hearing and accept or reject it. You might want to contact your elected representatives (Rep. Smitty Pignatelli and Sen Paul W. Mark) with your suggestions. They can propose legislation to change the law.
I was driving on Interlaken yesterday and saw a massive amount of freshly cut trees being hauled away, presumably to make room for a new piece of real estate. I wanted to gather your thoughts on this. Can trees in Stockbridge be removed so easily (or indiscriminately?) or do you think they went through the proper channels? I just don't like to see trees cut down unless they're dead or dying or going to fall on a wire — my personal two cents. I don't always expect you to know the answer, but I'm always interested in hearing your opinion. Thank you!
Thank you for writing. The tree-cutting could be under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission if (a) it was close to a resource area or (b) if it violated our town bylaw with respect to storm water runoff. I contacted ConCom and learned they did visit and determined it was outside their jurisdiction.
If the clearing was being done to build, then the Building Inspector and/or the Planning Board may have jurisdiction. That is public information, and you could call and ask.
You are not alone in caring about our trees. When folks discuss the character of Stockbridge, trees are a big part of it.
Thank you for writing,
Photo: Lionel Delevingne