First look this week at intital findings for 'Sustainable Berkshires' plan


PITTSFIELD -- Regional planners this week will unveil the initial results of a comprehensive, countywide plan intended to improve the area's economy and quality of life.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has completed the first phase of its "Sustainable Berkshires" plan, a long-term, proactive blueprint toward job creation and community enhancement, according to BRPC officials.

On Tuesday in Adams and Wednesday in Lenox, the public can review the proposed strategies for economic development, conservation/recreation and historic preservation. In addition, the plan next spring will address housing and neighborhoods, regional energy, transportation and infrastructure. The final phase of the study will look at land use, based on the seven previously examined topics.

"We need to build our priorities and how they will impact the county by showing them on a map," said BRPC Senior Planner Amy Kacala. "That's why land use is being done last.

The entire three-year, federally funded project to develop the document is expected to wrap up in early 2014.

BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said the regional master plan will replace the one the commission -- represented by all 32 Berkshire cities and town -- adopted more than a decade ago.

"This is more complex than the previous plan as we looked more at the interrelationship between the different areas," Karns said. "For example, open space/recreation and historic preservation are part of our economy. Half our tourism is based on outdoor recreation and scenic beauty."

Armed with a $590,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the BRPC began developing the Sustainable Berkshires plan in July 2011. The agency has held numerous workshops and public input sessions in crafting what is intended to be a planning guide for the private and public sector, according to BRPC Senior Planner Amy Kacala.

"We're not just calling this a plan for municipalities as there are some things nonprofits and individuals can achieve," she said. "We also want people to start implementing aspects of the plan and not wait until 2014."

Kacala cited how landowners with conservation restrictions can use the plan to help update how their properties are being used.

Once in place, the regional master plan will make the Berkshires eligible for federal grants to implement it through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The collaboration is comprised of HUD, U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Also, many state grant programs are based on how they fit into a regional plan," Karns pointed out.

To reach Dick Lindsay:,
or (413) 496-6233.


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