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Stockbridge nonprofits are vital community assets. Can they also be good neighbors?

Winterlights patrons at snack hut

STOCKBRIDGE — With all of the town’s major nonprofit cultural attractions in residential neighborhoods, some conflict is inevitable.

But, those nonprofits also are vital assets to the community, so, the town is working to smooth out some of the bumps presented when they host concerts, light shows and events such as weddings, galas and other celebrations in order to balance their books.

“The fact that we have nonprofits in residential zones and neighborhoods makes the balance between protecting the quiet enjoyment of residents while preserving the viability of the nonprofits problematic,” Select Board Chair Roxanne McCaffrey stated during the Dec. 2 hybrid remote meeting available for viewing on demand online at the Community Television for the Southern Berkshires website.

McCaffrey acknowledged that the various nonprofits face a variety of challenges based on their physical location and how close they are to residences.

“Increasingly, we’ve received concerns about the impact that events held by nonprofits have on their surrounding residential neighborhoods,” she said. “I trust that we can find an appropriate balance that serves both our residents and the nonprofits for the betterment of our community.”

McCaffrey spoke out at the board’s annual review and renewal of entertainment licenses for a half-dozen nonprofits as well as several businesses, including the Wheatleigh hotel, a prime wedding destination. According to ongoing board policy, all licenses require entertainment to shut down by 11 p.m., unless a one-time, date-specific special application is filed for a later conclusion, subject to approval at a public hearing.

The Trustees of Reservations application for Naumkeag led to some animated preliminary discussion after McCaffrey noted that “there have been some concerns.” The nonprofit historic house museum has found major success and public acclaim for its sellout “Incredible Naumkeag Pumpkin Show” and its current Winterlights attraction, helping it to stave off red ink during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She commented that some steps have been taken to address the concerns voiced by several neighbors, “hopefully, more successfully, lately.”

Tom LaBelle, a neighbor, raised some issues, apparently related to headlights from shuttle buses ferrying patrons from Main Street downtown to the property for the early evening Winterlights presentation.

But, as LaBelle became more verbally combative, McCaffrey responded that there is a potential solution to address the concerns.

Town Administrator Michael Canales intervened, declaring that “this is not a hearing, because we’re now getting into a debate about conditions and other things.” As required, the discussion will resume at a formal public hearing on the entertainment license application when the Select Board meets at 8 a.m. Dec. 16.

“The place for polemics, frankly, is outside of this room,” Selectman Patrick White said. “I would just ask that [at the public hearing] we stick to evaluating the entertainment license, the public safety concerns, the things in our jurisdiction, and that we keep it civil.”

And Selectman Ernest J. “Chuckie” Cardillo promised LaBelle that “we’ll address everything and, hopefully, come up with a nice compromise to keep them [Naumkeag] afloat, because they bring a lot of business to the town.”

The Berkshire Botanical Garden’s application was deferred because it needed more specifics, McCaffrey said. She and Cardillo also cited noise complaints from a summer music series on Mondays. A public hearing will be held, also at 8 a.m. Dec. 16.

The approved license for the Boston Symphony Orchestra covers Tanglewood’s Koussevitzky Music Shed, Ozawa Hall, and the Linde Center for Music and Learning, which includes several studios and performance spaces.

Canales pointed out that the Berkshire Theatre Festival had applied for a midnight conclusion of its shows. He planned to schedule a public hearing for BTF on Dec. 16 if it did not agree to the standard 11 p.m. shutdown.

“If they have a show that may go past 11, they would come in for a special permit for the one show, so we’re not tying their hands,” Cardillo pointed out. “We have control to say yes or no. That’s what we need: control.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum’s application, the same as in previous years, with a few weddings, the annual gala and several internal events, was approved without debate.

An entertainment license application from Chesterwood was approved swiftly after Cardillo observed that the museum has been “doing really well, doing things on their own to keep things neat and happy.”

The Select Board also approved, without comment, the annual entertainment license requests from three businesses: Michael’s of Stockbridge, a downtown restaurant; Roaring LLC, doing business as the Red Lion Inn and Wheatleigh.

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

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