Great Barrington master plan aims to strike a balance

Friday June 22, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- After two years of meetings and public input, the broad strokes of a master plan are starting to come together.

A forum was held at the State Road fire station Thursday night, where members of the Master Plan Committee and general public reviewed the 22-page draft goals and visions for the document that is intended to be the road map for future governance here.

A draft of the full master plan is expected to be completed by the end of the year and adopted next spring.

Town Planner Christopher Rembold said the committee’s challenge is crafting a master plan that seeks to maintain the qualities that make the town attractive for visitors and residents, while addressing the challenges that come with that status.

"Here we are trying to protect and sustain what is a really great town to live in," Rembold said. "Unfortunately, the town’s getting tougher to live in, more expensive to live in."

The document is broken down into eight categories: agriculture; economic development; energy and climate; housing; historic and cultural resources; natural resources, open space and recreation; services and facilities; and transportation and circulation. A copy of the draft goals and vision can be found on the town’s website,

The goals touch on a wide range of initiatives, from promoting local agriculture and energy conservation to upgrading blighted "gateway" properties and diversifying the housing stock. The draft goals also call for preserving open space, improving walkability and neighborhood connections, and revitalizing certain privately and publicly owned historic properties.

One of the biggest lessons from the process so far, Rembold said, is how all of these issues are interrelated.

"That’s what we’re all starting to understand," Rembold said. "You pull one strand of the web and everything else moves with it."

Outreach efforts with residents and business owners will continue over the next month.

Rembold said the last master plan, developed in the mid-1990s, went largely unused after its release. He said the goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

"This plan is going to be your marching orders, basically," Rembold said. "These are the things that we as a community value, prioritize and want to get done."


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