Zoning bylaw revisions on agenda at special Stockbridge town meeting


STOCKBRIDGE -- Town government leaders are urging registered voters to turn out for a significant special town meeting on Tuesday to revise, clarify and update 10 local zoning codes to bring them into line with state laws.

"For years we've had bylaws that don't conform to state case laws and standards," explained Select Board Chairwoman Deborah McMenamy. "It's time to make a dent in them, make them contemporary and bring them into compliance."

A quorum of 50 voters is necessary at the meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Stockbridge Town Offices, 50 Main St.

"We're asking that people take this meeting seriously," said McMenamy. "The aim is to make life in Stockbridge easier and more pleasant."

One of the major proposed revisions would ease restrictions on rehabilitation and new uses for cottage-era "Great Estates."

"We're trying to make it more feasible to re-use these beautiful properties," said McMenamy.

The revised bylaw would affect properties with 80 contiguous acres that include a principal structure that has been used in the past as a single-family residence.

There are at least 13 eligible properties that would be affected. Among them are Kripalu (the New Age spa and resort), Elm Court (sold last year for $9.8 million to developers planning a hotel and spa), Cherry Hill Farm, Naumkeag (a Gilded Age museum), Chesterwood (the museum honoring sculptor Daniel Chester French) and the former DeSisto School and estate (for sale at $8.9 million).

If approved, the revised bylaw would allow for some potential commercial use on those properties.

Another bylaw to be revised, if voters approve, is to allow commercial agriculture on a two-acre parcel, instead of the current five, in order to conform with state standards. The proposed farm use would need to generate income of at least $1,000 per acre each year, McMenamy said.

In addition, a proposed change deals with the town's bylaw on non-conforming land uses and structures. "Recent state case law determined that current standards for approving non-conforming uses and structures are no longer applicable," McMenamy said. The main determination now is how such uses might impact a neighborhood.

Also on the agenda for the special town meeting are bylaws affecting driveways, individual and shared; clarifying language applying to fences and walls; and an amendment to the wireless telecommunications bylaw to make it more user-friendly, as McMenamy put it.

The 11th warrant article, the only one not dealing with zoning, would grant approval for the town to hire an engineer to determine a better heating and air conditioning system for the Town Office building, formerly the Stockbridge Plain School.

"There have been a lot of problems with it," said McMenamy. It's been too hot, too cold, or not functioning at all.


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