'Sustainable Berkshires' plan begins to take shape at BRPC public review


ADAMS -- Bernie and Irene Bator support regional planners' efforts to develop a comprehensive, countywide plan to shape the county for decades to come.

The Cheshire couple were among the two dozen residents to comment Tuesday night on the initial results of "Sustainable Berkshires." The first phase of the long-term, proactive blueprint toward job creation and community enhancement was on display in chart form at the Adams Free Library, courtesy of its author, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

The BRPC has scheduled a second public review of the suggested strategies from 6:30 to 8:30 tonight at Lenox Town Hall.

"[The plan] is important for our vision and future," Irene Bator said. "Every aspect highlighted is critical to the preservation and sustainabilty of the Berkshires."

Bator was referring to the proposed strategies for economic development, conservation/recreation and historic preservation.

"I think more historic buildings are in need of preservation," noted Bernie Bator, who is also a member of the Cheshire Planning Board.

Next spring, Sustainable Berkshire 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.

The entire three-year, federally funded project to develop the document is expected to wrap up in early 2014. BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns has 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.

The BRPC began developing the Sustainable Berkshires plan in July 2011, thanks to a $590,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The BRPC 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 regional planners.

Once in place, the regional master plan will make the Berkshires eligible for federal grants to implement it and act as a conduit toward possibly receiving state grants, BRPC officials have said.

Those attending Tuesday's review did so at their own pace -- no formal PowerPoint presentation -- allowing county residents to anonymously post written comments on the charts.

"Let's use old mills in Adams for the arts, like they did in North Adams -- maybe a MASS MoCA satellite," one person wrote on the economic development chart. The economic strategy focused on promoting and strengthening small business, green business practices and offering a comprehensive set of economic development services.

The conservation/recreation goals include restoring polluted habitat, encouraging municipalities, businesses and individuals to be stewards of the county's natural resources and better identifying recreational activities in the area.

According to the plan, historical preservation should be used to define and improve neighborhoods and be tied to local agriculture, among other strategies.

"Each individual town has a method to approach preservation, but we don't have a regional approach," said Mackenzie Greer, a BRPC planner. "Resources available to use don't stop at the borders."

One resident believes parochialism is hindering regional solutions to countywide issues.

"We've got to get out of the ‘our town' boundary mentality if we are to move forward," the person posted on one of the charts.

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


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