Confronting changes, Stockbridge plans 'community visioning' sessions

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STOCKBRIDGE >> Confronted by a shifting landscape, officials have scheduled a pair of "community visioning" meetings to help navigate the series of changes the town will face in the coming months and years.

Town leaders have planned two interactive community workshops to be led by appointed members of the new Visioning Committee. Professional consultants Connie Kruger and Jennifer Goldson of JM Goldson, a Boston-based community preservation and planning organization based in Roslindale, a neighborhood of Boston, will help to direct the discussions.

Town Administrator Jorja-Ann P. Marsden stated that the workshops will focus on how the town is changing and will include "small group exercises" and "digital group polling" in order to encourage discussion about how residents envision the future.

A number of changes lie ahead for the community, including declining population, rising costs, the planned mid-July retirement of the town administrator, an agreement to explore shared services with Lee and Lenox, and questions about the approach to policing in the town.

Projections indicate that the town's population is expected to slide from 1,947 in the 2010 U.S. Census to 1,309 by 2030. The population peaked at 2,408 in 1990, according to federal records. The decline between 1990 and 2010 was nearly 20 percent.

Currently, about three out of five homes in town are owned by seasonal residents, local property records show. The second-home group contributes about 70 percent of local tax revenues.

Between 1990 and 2010, the census figures show, there was a 27 percent decline in households with children, while households with seniors 65 and older increased by the same percentage.

Thus, in 2010 only 17 percent of homes included children, while 41 percent included seniors.

"Visioning is the act of imagining the future," Marsden said in her announcement. "Before there can be a meaningful plan to move forward with community preservation and development, residents must agree on a picture of what they want their community to look like, feel like and be like."

At the Jan. 11 Selectboard meeting, Selectman Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo urged townspeople to attend the visioning meetings to plan future approaches "to where the town's going. I think the town has to decide what size police department we need. ... What can the town afford for any department with our limited tax base?"

"Which is why we're talking about shared services," Selectman Stephen Shatz said.

In an Eagle interview on Monday, Shatz declared that the town administrator position in Stockbridge is a potential candidate for a shared services arrangement with Lenox and Lee.

"The three towns share more concerns than differences," he said.

As for the visioning workshops, Shatz said: "What I'd like to see come out is an intelligent discussion about the future structure of the town and our ability to continue to provide the services people have come to expect and those we will need as we get older."

The first workshop, "Time to Dream," is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in the gymnasium of the Town Offices, 50 Main St. The goal of the workshop is to "focus the participants on the best-imagined future," Marsden stated in her announcement.

A second workshop, "Time for a Reality Check," is scheduled on 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 7, with the intention of "grounding the vision and setting goals for the future," Marsden said. "The visioning process builds across the workshops so residents are encouraged, but not required, to attend both."

A final report based on the results of the community's ideas could be ready by late April or early May.

At a previous Visioning Committee session, Goldson, the consultant, pointed out that the first community workshop, looking back at the past 20 years, is to "dream and not judge" and the second community workshop is a "reality check looking 20 years into the future and adding some degree of judgment. Reflecting back actually best prepares people for looking ahead 20 years."

Residents planning to attend have been asked to sign up at http://stockbridge-workshop1.eventbrite.com so adequate refreshments, workshop materials and potential child care services can be provided. However, the gatherings are open public meetings and registration is not required.

For more information, contact Town Administrator Jorja-Ann Marsden, 413-298-4170, ext. 100, or by e-mail at jorja.marsden@townofstockbridge.com

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.

Stockbridge Visioning Committee

Members, all full-time residents unless otherwise indicated, include:

• Stewart Edelstein, president of the Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives, board member of the Stockbridge Land Trust, the Literacy Network of Southern Berkshires, and the Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives.

• Terry Flynn, active on town committees, firefighter for 37 years, a teacher of literature, philosophy and history at Monument Mountain Regional High School for 31 years.

• Jennie Jadow, theater director and choreographer, involved in Shakespeare & Company education programs since 2001, choreographer at Lavender Door Theatre at Austen Riggs Institute, former education director of Barrington Stage Company.

• Karen Marshall, movement therapy-wellness coaching practitioner in Stockbridge and Boston; member of Stockbridge Library board.

• Duncan Pollock, part-time resident, marketing specialist for companies such as American Express, BMW, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Master-Card and Unilever; owner of consulting business, former chairman of ad agency Ammirati Puris Lintas' New York office.

• Christine Rasmussen, senior researcher on proposed land use legislation at the state House of Representatives, member of the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council's Metro Future Plan, former Gloucester City Council member involved in creation of the city's master plan.

• J. Martin Salvadore, graduate of Berkshire Community College and Bryant University, former president of Wheeler & Taylor insurance and real estate divisions, retired in 2009 after 40 years with the agency.

• Terry Shea, part-time resident since 1980, board member of Stockbridge Library Association, retired from a career in institutional equity investment.

• Peter Socha, buildings supervisor at Tanglewood for the Boston Symphony, assistant fire chief, 30-year Fire Department member, Stockbridge Sewer and Water commissioner since 2004, former Conservation Commission member.

• Barbara J. Zanetti, Berkshire native, Sheffield resident, executive director of the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce, active with the chamber since 1992, employee since 1997. Partner in Roger Trucking Services, a waste removal and recycling company in Great Barrington.


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