Our Opinion: 'Glamping' proposal has potential, raises questions

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When it comes to the many components upon which the Berkshire tourism industry thrives, natural beauty is as important a part of the mix as the area's vaunted cultural attractions. In that vein, a developer has approached the North Adams Planning Board with a promising proposal to convert a residential property south of the city into a site for high-end camping experiences.

D. Foster Goodrich, a Williamstown native, wants to create 25 sites including Yukon-style tents on platforms and tiny homes along with a store to sell and rent equipment at 976 Notch Road, which is within a mile of the entrance to the Mount Greylock State Reservation. Mr. Goodrich's vision is for a kind of indoor/outdoor bed-and-breakfast for nature lovers that would include trails for a variety of activities, and that would be open during the warm months. His concept capitalizes on a growing trend called "glamping," or "glamorous camping," wherein the guests are able to enjoy the great outdoors in a controlled, luxury environment that incorporates the conveniences of home.

Those living in the vicinity of the project have, predictably, voiced concerns. Any new proposal in the Berkshires will quickly find foes. However, having a commercial operation drop into a quiet residential neighborhood raises legitimate concerns. Even though the property is zoned rural, which allows for such use, the city's Planning Board has already weighed in with its own questions about lighting, signage and sewer hookup. As Chairman Michael Leary told The Eagle, "Clearly, this board has a lot of homework to do."

Indeed it does. While any project that might bring more visitors to the Berkshires ought to be given every consideration, it is important to find the proper balance between what may be economically beneficial to the area, but at the same time might cause harm to its environs should loud noise or some other nuisance issue arise. The homeowners surrounding the property in question are North Adams taxpayers, and their concerns deserve respect.

On paper, the glamping development sounds like a novel and attractive idea, particularly since guests will no doubt wish to patronize surrounding restaurants, businesses and attractions during their stay. If approved, it will contribute to North Adams' coffers and its growing reputation for innovative enterprises. If successful, it could attract other, similar operations that fold appreciation of the local scenery into their business plans.

Should Mr. Goodrich's project meet with success, the process the Board follows now could well become a template for future approvals. But more immediately, it is of critical importance that the members of the Planning Board proceed in a deliberate manner when it comes to possible collateral effects.


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