North Adams sets out to build first master plan in 40 years

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By Jennifer Huberdeau

New England Newspapers

NORTH ADAMS -- The city has taken a step toward creating its first master plan in 40 years.

Monday night, more than 40 residents and some facilitators from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission spent two hours "visioning" the city's future. Once completed, the master plan's strategy will help guide decisions -- from development to green technologies -- in North Adams for years to come.

The group's wide-ranging suggestions included:

-- getting the North Adams to Williamstown bike path under way;

-- creating a welcoming atmosphere for hikers of the Appalachian Trail;

-- prohibiting the demolition of buildings more than 100 years old;

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-- seeking a cultural designation from the Mass Cultural Council;

-- restoring the Mohawk Theater;

-- and offering tax breaks for home improvements and changing zoning ordinances to encourage agriculture, affordable housing and artist housing and galleries.

"We're starting with the most basic vision -- the goals and strategies -- over the next few months," said Amy Kacala, a senior planner with Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Kacala is working with the city on its plan.

She said the city's three-year planning process is designed to coincide with "Sustainable Berkshires," the Regional Planning Commission's master plan for the Berkshires. Great Barrington is also crafting a master plan that coincides with the regional plan's timeline.

Several workshop participants said education is a key component and needs to be included in any master plan.

"It's very important to economic development," said Monica Joslin, the dean of academic affairs at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said that even though education is wrapped within many of the identified areas, it should have its own category in the master plan.

Information about the planning process can be found at www.northadams-ma.gov.


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