To the editor: The board of Fair Ground Community Redevelopment Project (GBFG) is compelled to correct the record in response to statements made at a March 22 Select Board meeting concerning our actions, intentions and the history which brings us to this point. ("'It's disrespectful': Great Barrington officials push for talks on fairground purchase," Eagle, March 24.)
The intentions that pulled us into protecting the fairgrounds from aggressive commercial development in 2012 have not changed, nor has our responsibility to the land and commitment to the history and community embedded in it. We do not feel that the plan Town Hall described for acquiring and developing the land honors that vision and, to correct the record, we told town hall that and we have responded to every email and contact we have received.
While our hopes for the property have not changed, the energy, resources and enthusiasm with which we began this undertaking have been drained by the strangely aggressive and debilitating hurdles Town Hall has placed in front of us over the last 9 years. They could approach us in many ways. Choosing to present a false account and incite the public to come after us and our board members, who have kindly volunteered untold hours, is an unnecessarily threatening approach that is consistent with the history.
While Select Board members stated again Monday evening that we have done nothing on the site or for the town, through thousands of hours of volunteer time a tiny army of community members has hosted events every year and made the site available to local organizations; removed literal tons of garbage illegally dumped over decades of neglect on the property; spent countless hours removing invasive species that threaten our native ecosystems and repairing, cleaning, painting and maintaining this large demanding site; overcome Town Hall’s cease-and-desist order to be able to continue mowing the lawn; slowed the vandalism and theft that plagues it; brought in school groups each year for educational programs; hosted thousands of people for family-friendly events; created a green power source for mixed-income housing; and opened the land up to dozens of community members so they can grow their own food.
If the sole measure of benefit is tax revenue, the solar array we put in place on the site is taxed at the highest rate of any such parcel in the state, and over the course of its use will pay more than half a million dollars in taxes to town hall despite the often repeated misinformation that the town gets no direct revenue from the site. Every commercial event we organize provides money and benefits to town hall directly and to surrounding businesses.
We are grateful for the support of the community volunteers who shared our hopeful vision. We continue to question why town hall has spent considerable time and public tax dollars working in active opposition to a vision they claimed to share and committed to partner in. We are committed to ensuring any future use of this beautiful open space balances the needs of the land and the community, and welcome any genuine partnership in the service of doing good things there.
Bart Elsbach, Great Barrington
Janet Elsbach, Great Barrington
The writers are the owners of the Great Barrington fairgrounds property.