Our Opinion: Insularity cripples Berkshire housing efforts

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If Berkshire County is to attract new businesses and keep the businesses it has it must offer more affordable housing to the employees of these businesses. That may require an attitude adjustment.

The recent vote in Dalton to repeal a previously approved plan to convert the 80-year-old former high school into affordable housing under the auspices of the Housing Authority gave the town a black eye that will not fade quickly. We fear the perspective revealed may be representative of views in many Berkshire towns.

Opponents of the plan are welcome to rationalize away their actions but this was an example of NIMBYism mixed with an ugly campaign of fear. At the meeting, Select Board Chairman John Bartels Jr. rightly called attention to the stereotype of "low income families as bad or undesirable" that fueled opposition to the plan. Low income people are us, especially in the current economy.

Dalton, a town in need of new revenue and new blood, kicked away an opportunity to add both. The ability of a special interest group to successfully overturn a previous vote because it didn't like the result exposes a huge flaw in the town's charter. This was a distressing vote for several reasons, primarily for what it says about the town's insularity, an unappealing trait it may share with too many of its Berkshire neighbors.


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