Stockbridge benefits from good planning

To the editor: Land in Stockbridge is part of our foundation.

It provides an essential connection to our history. The places we walk, the wildlife we view, the scenery seen through our windshield, the Bowl and the air we breathe are features that make Stockbridge special and unique. Yet according to a diagnostic report by Joel Russell, there are numerous deficiencies in the town’s zoning regulations; while not illegal, the regulations’ deficiencies hamper their effectiveness.

As an example, the town’s subdivision regulations were adopted more than two decades ago. Since then, there has been a growing public awareness that the sprawl they create is gradually changing towns’ uniqueness and are environmentally destructive. For instance, cluster bylaws like Stockbridge’s proved to be so problematic that on Jan. 14, the state Legislature struck the word “cluster” from the zoning enabling legislation and replaced it with the term “open space residential,” the concept that the town’s consultants Randall Arendt and Jeff Lacy developed.

On Saturday residents will vote on accepting the Planning Board’s recommendations of essential zoning amendments for economic vitality in the downtown area and promoting public safety. Soon a new draft bylaw allowing for accessory dwelling units will be completed. This work was accomplished because the board was able to work with a contract planner from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission using funds from last year’s appropriation.

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The board also engaged Arendt and Lacy, of the American Institute of Certified Planners, to develop a draft open space bylaw that addresses how the town can maintain the features that make it charming. A robust public discussion and development of regulations for adaptive reuse of buildings needs to happen before voters decide if this bylaw will benefit the town.

With the approval of funding and a new board member seated, the Planning Board can continue using the diagnostic report and public input to determine their priorities, hopefully building on the work accomplished with last year’s funding.

With almost 200 parcels over 20 acres that potentially can be developed, residents have a choice to continue to allow the sprawling developments that have been created using the present zoning or to explore the alternatives prioritizing saving open space and community character.

Please support the recommendation of the Finance Committee and Selectmen Ernest Cardillo and Roxanne McCaffrey approving $40,000 for the Planning Board.

Christine Rasmussen, Stockbridge