Vol. I No. 10 12/15/2020
Our Planning Board — Is Something Missing?
by Bruce Blair
The November 17 meeting of the Planning Board, which oversees the implementation of our town bylaws, gave us a glimpse into the thinking of at least a couple of its members following their Randall Arendt presentation on 11/5. Mr. Arendt, you may recall, is a paid consultant who delivered his views on Open Space Residential Design in a Zoom meeting attended by at least 70 people, mostly residents. Arendt's book has been made available to the public by the PB in the library and I urge everyone to take a look at it as you think about changes in Stockbridge that our Planning Board wants to make.
In the November 17 meeting, the Chair, Bill Vogt, asked the PB for feedback on the presentation. There followed commentary from members wherein everyone expressed how good it was without engaging in much critical or substantive thinking. There was praise for the organizers and presenters. Christine Rasmussen asked if there might be a motion to hire yet another consultant to go ahead and write a new housing development bylaw based on the Arendt model.
You may recall that the town has already paid for a previous consultant, Joel Russell, who concluded that out current by-laws do not need major changes in this area and helped define some options for adjustments regarding the Cottage Era Bylaw. We subsequently have paid for another consultant who serves as a parttime staff person to assist the PB generally in its work.
At this point in the meeting, Chairman Vogt made some interesting and welcome remarks. He stated that he thought the PB might need to create more opportunities to "alert" people to the proposed changes and make them feel more "comfortable" about these changes. He also stated that the new consultant should not only be familiar with Open Space Design but also with our own development bylaws.
What's missing? Simply put, the PB needs to consult with residents, not just alert them to what some might see as an inappropriate bylaw agenda being pushed forward. Mr. Vogt showed a sensitivity to public response to that agenda. The issue of large-scale development in Stockbridge has historic and far-reaching implications. This cannot be a one-way conversation.