As the owner of one of Great Barrington's local businesses, I share Alan Chartock's feelings as described in his column of March 30, "Dread about impending road work."
My business has been proudly serving the community and beyond for almost 14 years, making us one of the few businesses begun since 2000 that remains in business more than a decade later. Like most merchants, thanks to the economic turmoil of the past few years, our reserves are spent and, as online shopping and hard-edged budgets dominate shopping habits, we are operating on the thinnest of shoestrings. Thanks to the loyalty of our local (and part-time) residents, we remain. But for how much longer?
It is worth re-stating that my feelings are shared by most of Great Barrington's downtown merchants. That their voices have largely not been heard in Town Meetings -- only Great Barrington landowners can vote in Town Meetings -- is sheer insanity. Every town that has undergone similar "renovation'' has permanently lost a significant amount of its businesses. There is no reason to believe that we will fare any better.
Millions of dollars already projected over budget will have to be found from our taxes and homeowners are already strapped. The loss of additional revenue from businesses that will not survive will cripple this community. And proposals including the loss of our beautiful trees, the removal of benches from downtown sidewalks, and a pre-fab, idealized "every small town" look will do little to encourage the return of the visitors upon whom we now depend for our livelihoods.
At peak seasons in it not uncommon for many locals and some visitors to avoid downtown; it often can take as long at 45 minutes to negotiate Main Street in summer. And that is only for a few weeks. Twelve to 18 consecutive months of traffic impedance from construction will be impossible to counteract in lost commerce.
That renovation is needed is a given. But, as the proposal from local businessman Chip Elitzer clearly showed, it can be done in increments based on monies already collected, without the threat to our local business and the life-blood of our beautiful town. However, with the specter of "free money'' looming in their sights, the town has gone off half-cocked, anticipates not only spending the grant but millions more, and endangers us all. This is our community, and we must fight to preserve it. Improvement, even survival of the town as we know it, will not be accomplished by the proposed renovation. And we all, local homeowners and business owners alike, will pay for it and suffer its consequences.
I pray that the town fathers and mothers will re-think this plan. CLAUDIA BARRY
The writer is owner of The Music Store.