Vol. I No. 04 9/15/2020
The Vision and the Zoning
by Kate Fletcher
Stockbridge town leaders in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s shared a vision for Stockbridge that planners now refer to as smart growth. Smart growth encourages conservation and sustainability by keeping development and businesses focused in downtowns and conserving natural resources and open space on the town outskirts. This vision has helped maintain our town's character, property values and healthy municipal finances as well as our many natural resources. Our municipal budget is mostly funded with property taxes; during the 2008 Great Recession, property taxes held up better than other broad-based taxes like sales and income tax. Stockbridge has even managed to meet a state mandate that 10% of housing stock meet affordable housing guidelines, ahead of every other town in the Berkshires.
When our zoning was introduced in the 1990s, the zoning map was drawn such that it acknowledged the existing density in places like Glendale and Interlaken while seeking to preserve the rural character in the town outskirts. How does it work? On a basic level, the town is divided into six zones – Manufacturing, Business, Central Residence, one acre, two acre and four acre zones. Lot size minimums, frontage and set-back requirements are set for each zone. As an example, in the Central Residence zone, the lot size area, frontage and set-back requirements are less than in the four-acre zone. Stockbridge also has the Lake and Pond Overlay District which is intended to protect the natural beauty and ecology of the Stockbridge Bowl and other waterways in the Housatonic watershed.
A letter in a mailing this summer to all residents from the Stockbridge Bowl Association included the lead "Stockbridge is an old-fashioned town that is having trouble adapting to the 21st century." My observation is that people continue to seek out rural towns like Alford, Becket, Monterey, Mt. Washington, Sheffield, Stockbridge and Tyringham in order to get away from the problems of the 21st century.
Here are a few facts on Stockbridge:
1. As of 2020, Stockbridge has the eighth lowest property tax rate in Berkshire County out of 32 towns and cities.
2. Stockbridge ushered in the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in 2002 as one of the first two early adopters in Berkshire County (Williamstown was the other early adopter). Affordable housing is a required component of the CPA. The first major CPA project that the town implemented was the Pinewoods complex, a mixed housing complex. It was a four-year commitment of funds and remains the largest allocation of CPA funding and public support in Stockbridge.
3. The State of Massachusetts mandates that 10% of housing stock in towns and cities be affordable. In the Berkshires, Stockbridge and North Adams are the only municipalities that exceed this 10% state mandate.
The following information is gleaned from the US Census:
4. The population of full-time residents in Stockbridge increased by 17% from 2010 to 2018.
5. In Stockbridge, 20 to 59 year olds make up 42% of the population as of 2018.
6. Women in Stockbridge outnumber men by a ratio of 1.51 to 1.
7. In the 2010 census, out of 1,671 residents, 51 people identified themselves as Black or African American, 48 as Hispanic or Latino and 63 as Asian.
8. In the 2010 census, the Stockbridge per capita income was $31,821; for Berkshire County it was $29,387.
Editor's note: Kate Fletcher is a member of the Planning Board, chair of the Stockbridge Fountain Committee and was chair of the Stockbridge Zoning Review Committee from 2017-2019. She is writing as a resident and not a representative of any board or committee.