To the editor:
I want to thank Paul Hirt for his recent letter to the editor. We agree the Windrose project is important for Lenox and worthy of resident's careful attention. However, we disagree on its "transformative nature" for the town. As currently proposed, Windrose is anything but transformative.
In fact, it is just business as usual: Well-connected developer proposes over-dense, luxury-condominium project in conflict with town's zoning; developer seeks and gets wide-ranging rule changes in the name of economic growth; developer cries "hardship" and is excused from required affordable housing contributions; developer reaps large personal profits.
I raised these objections to the Zoning Board of Appeals, but the board dismissed them. I raised them with the Berkshire Superior Court, and a judge remanded the matter back to the ZBA for another review of the zoning issues and potential revision.
Lenox has a zoning bylaw. It requires residential developers to contribute to affordable housing, It was approved by two-thirds of our residents, and it's supposed to apply to everyone, even the well-connected.
As I look out on an America suffering with economic disparity and social unrest, I wonder why, and realize it's the direct legacy of ZBA decisions like this in small towns across America. If Lenox wants a truly transformative project, residents must demand better from our ZBA. When the ZBA reconvenes Oct. 7 to review Windrose, ask them these questions in writing, over Zoom and in person:
Why did the ZBA refuse independent expert review of this important project, despite direct requests?
Why should the ZBA change the rules for Nate Winstanley when he refuses to contribute to affordable housing? Would we get the same treatment?
Why hasn't the ZBA requested economic data supporting Winstanley's economic hardship claim?
If this $15,000,000 luxury-condominium project can't contribute to affordable housing what project can?
If our five-member ZBA won't uphold our bylaw, approved by two-thirds of our residents, how can we make Lenox affordable for our whole town, including teachers, nurses, first responders, police and young families?
Supporting our essential workers isn't just a slogan on a lawn sign. Attend the Oct. 7 ZBA meeting and demand better. Hold your board accountable. Tell them Lenox is done changing the rules for well-connected developers who won't contribute to affordable housing. Send the Windrose project back to the drawing board until it meets our bylaws, all of them.
The writer is a member of the Lenox Planning Board.