Letter: Elm Court plan wrong for brand, Berkshires
To the editor of THE EAGLE:
With respect to Malcolm Chester’s letter of August 8 on the subject of Elm Court ("Elm court plan sustains our brand") I heartily disagree. I too am a resident of Stockbridge and as a child of Lenox. I do admit to agreeing with Mr. Chester when he states The Berkshire lifestyle is a draw and should attract more young individuals, but that’s where it ends.
The Travasaa Group will certainly draw new employees in number, specifically those experienced in management and principals of the various departments. The employees for the spa, dining, housing, accounting and so on will in all in likelihood be imported by Travasaa from elsewhere. The majority will be local nonprofessionals and students, chamber maids, cleaning crews, waiters, kitchen staff and so on. No discredit intended. Furthermore the majority will be part-time, during the high season. These are not the jobs the youth in The Berkshires are seeking. They are dead end leading nowhere, from which it is virtually impossible to "climb the proverbial ladder" being paid sufficient wages enabling them to live, marry, and raise a family here. The area has countless numbers of such people even for the high season, and a large percentage are out of work when the season ends and many facilities close.
This point was particularly well described by a young woman at the most recent Select Board meeting. She has grown up with her family in Berkshire County, graduated from school and college, wishes to stay, but has been unable to find a job that makes this possible. Minimum pay, off season, part time employment, not what she seeks, and certainly not what the community needs or wants, but largely those of whom Mr. Chester unwittingly speaks.
Mr. Chester goes on to write of The Travasaa Group being amongst "... responsible partners that can help more tourists discover our unique area and hopefully choose to settle here bringing with them their families and businesses. . .". Will this preserve our rural area or rather will it simply evolve into another suburban community? I believe without doubt it will be the latter. Do we need another hotel, let alone a fourth spa? Travasaa has created exceptional projects but it has been found by others who have done extensive research that Travasaa’s larger share of work is in purchasing financially struggling non-profitable real estate, It then obtains all necessary permits for development and "flips" them to others at a substantial profit. Isn’t it quite possible given the formula we too could well be faced with this at Elm Court?
Mr. Chester speaks of Travasaa as being not only a "protector of open space" but also of in our case the house, yet the project they propose does quite the opposite. For one and due to a multitude of building code requirements both exterior and interior of Elm Court will see substantial alteration. So will Stockbridge Road with two years of construction traffic, and now "the carrot in front of the donkey" luring us to accept a "free" sidewalk from Elm Court to the monument! What changes a rural country road more than a sidewalk?
Expansive meadows and woods, and incredible views will be preserved. Will they, and for who? The bowl cannot be seen from Old Stockbridge Road unless through trespassing. As for views of meadows and woods, consider perhaps 40 percent less view with the newly proposed wall of arborvitae to conceal the underestimated size of the parking lot (not having taken into account the additional cars belonging to employees, grounds keepers, outsiders using the 60 seat dining facility). Note as well that many of the trees drop their leaves in winter so for half the year the surrounding property owners and likely those driving by will now see much of the development.
If we do not curtail further development of this kind we will lose altogether what we love above all else, the Berkshires’ rural character.
H. L. OWEN
The writer is an architect.
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