Two towns, one planner: Lanesborough to share Williamstown land use specialist

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Regional sharing of services among municipalities will be a bit more frequent starting Tuesday, when Lanesborough begins sharing the use of a land planner.

Although many towns have shared services for years, the state is now encouraging it to do more at lower costs.

In Lanesborough, the need for land planning doesn't justify a full-time position, and it's debatable whether the town would have the money to hire one. The community had been outsourcing land planning needs to consultants and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. But that can get expensive, noted Paul Sieloff, Lanesborough town manager.

So Andrew Groff, director of community development in Williamstown, suggested a sharing agreement in which he would work 10 hours per month helping Lanesborough with its land planning and zoning needs.

In return, Lanesborough will pay Williamstown, and Williamstown will pay Groff a stipend for his work.

Jason Hoch, town manager in Williamstown, said it made sense for both towns.

"I strongly believe in regionalization, and we had a resource they didn't have in Lanesborough," he said. "And Andrew (Groff) has a wealth of knowledge that he can offer above and beyond his duties in Williamstown. And it's good to have that collaboration of personnel with another community."

It's also a professional development opportunity for Groff, Hoch added.

"He will get to apply his knowledge in new ways, which is a great way to really understand your field better," he said.

The agreement, which is for six months, calls for Lanesborough to pay $362.52 per month for the service, Sieloff said.

"It's going to be a real comfort level for me knowing that we have someone with the skill set that Andrew (Groff) offers," Sieloff said.

He said Groff will help prepare documents for planning or zoning meetings, attend those meetings as staff support, help with best practices, keep up with changes in state land use laws and point out issues of concern.

"He's already suggested a couple of things the Planning Board can do," Sieloff said.

Groff said he is looking forward to working with Lanesborough staff and community members.

"We're a small region, so we have to pitch in where we can," he said. "And maybe I'll learn some stuff in Lanesborough that could be helpful in my work for Williamstown."

Reach staff writer Scott Stafford at 413-281-4622.


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