LENOX — Housing development. A new public safety building. Improved infrastructure. Those are among the items listed as priorities in the town’s 2021 master plan, the first since 1999. The plan, meant to guide growth in the community for the coming 20 years, will be rolled out at public meetings starting Monday, with a visionary overview and an emphasis on public participation. The navigational document, which was put together by town officials and residents with help from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, focuses on land use, economic development, four-season open space and recreation, transportation, culture and history, municipal services and facilities, middle-market housing and universal wireless coverage. It is posted on the

town website

. The Master Plan Steering Committee members, who volunteered for appointment by the Select Board, included two high school students who have graduated. The group began work two years ago, said Marybeth Mitts, a Select Board member participating as a member of the Steering Committee under the leadership of Gwen Miller, Lenox’s land use director and town planner. The goal is to guide the community’s physical growth and development, support grant funding requests to federal and state agencies, and assist local decision-making. “Many grant programs require forward-looking community master plans identifying priority neighborhoods and projects,” Miller said. “It’s a really useful document to show how a certain project will impact or benefit a community or specific neighborhood. It’s a plan for everybody.” The overall vision outlined by the committee: “The town of Lenox seeks to preserve its blend of rural character and urban amenities while becoming a more diverse population that is inclusive of first-home buyers, younger people and families.” Mitts commented that “housing is front and center in my mind. Clearly, we need to focus as well on buildings.” She cited departments — police, fire and ambulance — in outmoded facilities inside and adjacent to Town Hall, so, a new public safety building is needed. Also, new federal requirements for wastewater treatment require close examination of a costly modification of the town’s existing plant. Other priorities include possible extensions of town water and sewer lines and a look at how 5G cellular technology would fit into the town’s infrastructure, Mitts stated, as well as preservation of historic buildings to reflect the town’s New England character and heritage. She also cited the goal of attracting younger families to Lenox in order to preserve the vibrancy of the school district. Housing needs to be affordable to younger residents and to older homeowners who wish to remain in Lenox but need to downsize, Mitts said. She also identified a “double-edged sword” — the town’s economic development largely is based on tourism, so, the hospitality industry needs support. “However, we still want to preserve and maintain the rural, open space and charming natural environment that everyone here enjoys, in order to meet the needs of the people who live and work here year-round,” Mitts said. Miller emphasized social equity, environmental justice and climate change as priority issues that have surfaced recently. Thus, the master plan includes a focus on “how Lenox can be a community of welcome and inclusion for people of all backgrounds, and how it can prepare for and be resilient to climate change by promoting sustainable design and construction, and using innovative tools and techniques in our municipal services that are good for the environment and for people.” A series of two-hour meetings beginning Monday is aimed at asking residents whether the plan covers all the bases or missed anything, Miller said. The public also will be asked to set priorities from the numerous goals in the plan, she said. For example, assuming the need to protect open space and promote more year-round outdoor recreation opportunities, “the question is, where?” Miller noted. Another major goal is to make housing in the town more diverse, she added. “Here’s all the developable land in Lenox, by neighborhood; where can new market-rate, mixed-income or affordable housing go?” Miller proposed as a topic for the public meetings. “Where would people be comfortable with that new kind of land use?” The master plan seeks to identify barriers to residential or commercial development. “We can’t really identify barriers or solutions if we don’t know where there’s community support to do something,” Miller said. After the community meetings, the final version of the plan, with tweaks reflecting public response, will go to the Planning Board and the Select Board for approval in June. In the past, some master plans have had a reputation, deserved or not, of being released amid great fanfare, only to gather dust in desk drawers. “That won’t be the case with this plan,” Miller said. The steering committee began its work by examining the 1999 version, which included a housing production plan completed in 2017 and submitted to the state for approval, Mitts pointed out. The plan outlined goals for development of affordable, also known as inclusive, housing in the town. Other recommendations in the 1999 plan that were achieved included: • Adding more professional staff to Town Hall, such as a full-time town planner; • Rezoning residential districts to align with available town water and sewer service; • Easing rules for home occupations in residences; • Setting the groundwork for an accessory dwelling unit bylaw to accommodate family members, such as seniors, to live separately on a residential property; • Creating the gateway mixed-use development district north of the town along Pittsfield Road (Route 7/20); • Reducing parking and loading requirements for businesses in the compact downtown commercial district. The previous master plan also helped expand the town’s inventory of historic buildings while recognizing the entire village center and some of the surrounding residential areas on the National Register of Historic Places. A scenario for dealing with various disasters, known as a hazard mitigation plan, will be incorporated into the new document. “The town is faced with so many important decisions on such a regular basis, so, the master plan is intended to help guide budget, land use and capital investment decisions,” Miller stressed. “It’s really meant to help aid that decision-making.”

LENOX — Housing development. A new public safety building. Improved infrastructure.

Those are among the items listed as priorities in the town’s 2021 master plan, the first since 1999. The plan, meant to guide growth in the community for the coming 20 years, will be rolled out at public meetings starting Monday, with a visionary overview and an emphasis on public participation.

The navigational document, which was put together by town officials and residents with help from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, focuses on land use, economic development, four-season open space and recreation, transportation, culture and history, municipal services and facilities, middle-market housing and universal wireless coverage. It is posted on the town website.

The Master Plan Steering Committee members, who volunteered for appointment by the Select Board, included two high school students who have graduated. The group began work two years ago, said Marybeth Mitts, a Select Board member participating as a member of the Steering Committee under the leadership of Gwen Miller, Lenox’s land use director and town planner.

The goal is to guide the community’s physical growth and development, support grant funding requests to federal and state agencies, and assist local decision-making.

“Many grant programs require forward-looking community master plans identifying priority neighborhoods and projects,” Miller said. “It’s a really useful document to show how a certain project will impact or benefit a community or specific neighborhood. It’s a plan for everybody.”

The overall vision outlined by the committee: “The town of Lenox seeks to preserve its blend of rural character and urban amenities while becoming a more diverse population that is inclusive of first-home buyers, younger people and families.”

Mitts commented that “housing is front and center in my mind. Clearly, we need to focus as well on buildings.” She cited departments — police, fire and ambulance — in outmoded facilities inside and adjacent to Town Hall, so, a new public safety building is needed. Also, new federal requirements for wastewater treatment require close examination of a costly modification of the town’s existing plant.

Other priorities include possible extensions of town water and sewer lines and a look at how 5G cellular technology would fit into the town’s infrastructure, Mitts stated, as well as preservation of historic buildings to reflect the town’s New England character and heritage.

She also cited the goal of attracting younger families to Lenox in order to preserve the vibrancy of the school district.

Housing needs to be affordable to younger residents and to older homeowners who wish to remain in Lenox but need to downsize, Mitts said.

She also identified a “double-edged sword” — the town’s economic development largely is based on tourism, so, the hospitality industry needs support.

“However, we still want to preserve and maintain the rural, open space and charming natural environment that everyone here enjoys, in order to meet the needs of the people who live and work here year-round,” Mitts said.

Miller emphasized social equity, environmental justice and climate change as priority issues that have surfaced recently.

Thus, the master plan includes a focus on “how Lenox can be a community of welcome and inclusion for people of all backgrounds, and how it can prepare for and be resilient to climate change by promoting sustainable design and construction, and using innovative tools and techniques in our municipal services that are good for the environment and for people.”

A series of two-hour meetings beginning Monday is aimed at asking residents whether the plan covers all the bases or missed anything, Miller said. The public also will be asked to set priorities from the numerous goals in the plan, she said.

For example, assuming the need to protect open space and promote more year-round outdoor recreation opportunities, “the question is, where?” Miller noted. Another major goal is to make housing in the town more diverse, she added.

“Here’s all the developable land in Lenox, by neighborhood; where can new market-rate, mixed-income or affordable housing go?” Miller proposed as a topic for the public meetings. “Where would people be comfortable with that new kind of land use?”

The master plan seeks to identify barriers to residential or commercial development.

“We can’t really identify barriers or solutions if we don’t know where there’s community support to do something,” Miller said.

After the community meetings, the final version of the plan, with tweaks reflecting public response, will go to the Planning Board and the Select Board for approval in June.

In the past, some master plans have had a reputation, deserved or not, of being released amid great fanfare, only to gather dust in desk drawers.

“That won’t be the case with this plan,” Miller said.

The steering committee began its work by examining the 1999 version, which included a housing production plan completed in 2017 and submitted to the state for approval, Mitts pointed out. The plan outlined goals for development of affordable, also known as inclusive, housing in the town.

Other recommendations in the 1999 plan that were achieved included:

• Adding more professional staff to Town Hall, such as a full-time town planner;

• Rezoning residential districts to align with available town water and sewer service;

• Easing rules for home occupations in residences;

• Setting the groundwork for an accessory dwelling unit bylaw to accommodate family members, such as seniors, to live separately on a residential property;

• Creating the gateway mixed-use development district north of the town along Pittsfield Road (Route 7/20);

• Reducing parking and loading requirements for businesses in the compact downtown commercial district.

The previous master plan also helped expand the town’s inventory of historic buildings while recognizing the entire village center and some of the surrounding residential areas on the National Register of Historic Places.

A scenario for dealing with various disasters, known as a hazard mitigation plan, will be incorporated into the new document.

“The town is faced with so many important decisions on such a regular basis, so, the master plan is intended to help guide budget, land use and capital investment decisions,” Miller stressed. “It’s really meant to help aid that decision-making.”

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.