Vol. II No. 04 2/15/2021
Notes from Town Boards
Notes from Board of Selectmen meeting January 28, 2021, 6:30pm via Zoom
Present: Chuck Cardillo, chair
Roxanne McCaffrey, member
Patrick White, member
Michael Canales, Town Administrator
Also present: Elizabeth and Ned Hazen; William and Susan Laidlaw; John Gillespie, President, Board of Directors, Stockbridge Library and India Spartz, Curator, Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives; Art Krieger, President, Beachwood Association with attorney.
- The SB awarded the library $100,000 toward the approximately $300,000 needed for the Library Archives HVAC system. President John Gillespie thanked the Select Board.
- The $100,000 was taken from the $123,000 remaining from the COVID Aid Relief and Security Act (CARES) grant awarded to Stockbridge. $17,000 will be used to improve the quality of the audio during SB Zoom meetings necessary due to COVID.
- The Hazens and the Laidlaws were present to explain the solution to the problem that arose at the last SB meeting. The Hazens are building a new garage. A portion is on Laidlaw property. There was an easement but since the Hazens tore down the old garage the easement may not be in force. The Town cannot issue a permit if any of the land is not owned by the applicant. It was decided to issue the permit "contingent upon" agreement of all parties and all parties sign the application. It passed.
- The highway department was complimented for the good job they did during the recent snowstorm.
- On behalf of Beachwood, President Art Krieger asked permission to convert a resident fee assessed by the Association into a part of the Stockbridge Tax bill. The assessment is necessary to maintain dirt roads and beach areas. If some residents do not pay, the shortfall could add up and cripple Beachwood's effort to maintain those areas.
- The balance of discussion pertained to the items for the upcoming Town Meeting Warrant.
Patrick White would like a percentage of last year's free cash to go to the Housing Trust Fund. He also renewed his desire to propose the Residential Tax Exemption (RTE).
Roxanne McCaffrey proposed that the Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Committee (SBSC) be written into Town Bylaws as a permanent commission.
Chuck Cardillo proposed a Right to Farm Bylaw (RTF).
Finally, White said that there were as many as 10 other Warrant items under consideration by other boards and committees.
About Residential Tax Exemption (RTE)
RTE is a state initiative. Enacted in 1979, a part of RTE is an option under the property tax classification that shifts the tax burden within the residential class from owners of moderately valued residential properties to the owners of higher-valued properties, vacation homes, and residential properties not occupied by the owner, including vacant land and apartment buildings. It is in Mass General Law: C 59, sec. 5C, and grants the Select Board the ability to enact this exemption without input from the pubic or any committee, commission or board. However, the SB may choose to bring it to Town Meeting for comment (binding or non-binding).
RTE does require knowing who is and who is not a resident. The definition of a resident is not determined locally; it is state law: "A resident is a person who maintains a permanent place of abode in Massachusetts and spends more than 183 days of the taxable year in Massachusetts. Whether a person maintains a permanent place of abode in Massachusetts is a factual determination." (Mass General Law: TIR 95 – 7)
About Right to Farm (RTF)
This General By-law encourages the pursuit of agriculture, promotes agriculture- based economic opportunities, and protects farmlands within the Town by allowing agricultural uses and related activities to function with minimal conflict with abutters and Town agencies.
It would be a Town Bylaw requiring a 2/3 vote and falls under Mass General Law Chapter 40A Section 3, paragraph one.
(There was no SB meeting on February 4.)
Notes from Board of Selectmen meeting February 11, 2021, 6:30pm via Zoom
Present: Chuck Cardillo, chair
Roxanne McCaffrey, member
Patrick White, member
Michael Canales, Town Administrator
The Select Board decided to decline the grant from the state to add temporary propane heaters to the outdoor locations of Stockbridge restaurants.
The Board determined it would not have the Planning Board recommendations by the 25th to act on the special permit application regarding 82 Interlaken and discussed continuing the hearing to a later date.
The board discussed using the remaining Federal CARES Act monies to assist residents with food, rent or heat.
Highlights from the budget agenda item:
Michael Canales, the Town Administrator, walked the Select Board through his preliminary budget, including revenues, expenses, existing debt and debt service costs.
- Michael Canales discussed upgrading at least one Police Department patrol car to a hybrid.
- The Board agreed to reduce the town's litigation budget.
- The BHRSD/school budget will grow by over $200,000 in the next fiscal year.
- The Board discussed an increase in the salaries for the PB and CC secretaries due to the significant increase in the Board's workload.
- Michael Canales proposed to consolidate our senior driving services to a regional approach with Great Barrington.
- The Board discussed financing options to repair the Chimes Tower and whether to budget to repair the second Averic Road bridge sooner than would be necessary if we waited for a state small bridge grant.
- Patrick White advocated to increase the Tree Warden salary and budget for tree work, as well as an inventory of old-growth Hemlocks at Ice Glen as a first step in inoculating them against Woolly Adelgid.
Highlights from the Bylaw Warrant Items discussion:
The following items were discussed regarding Bylaw/One-Time Expense Warrant Items:
- Downtown Sign Bylaw
- Driveway Bylaw
- Downtown Parking Bylaw
- Bear/Trash Bylaw
- 911 Bylaw
- Short-Term Rental Bylaw
- Housing Trust Fund Bylaw
- Residential Exemption Non-Binding Question
- Dog and Kennel Bylaw
- Right to Farm Bylaw
- Mosquito Control Participation
- Planning Board Appropriate for Bylaw Updates
- Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Commission/Budget and Bylaw
- The Beachwood request for a Road Maintenance District
A new beaver dam with an old abandoned, pumping station in the background. Photo: Patrick White.
Notes from the Planning Board February 9 via Zoom
William Vogt, Chair
Jennifer Carmichael, secretary
Consultants: Jeff Lacey and Philip Arnold
In addition: On behalf of special permit requests: Brent White, Mike Parsons, Carla Krasnick, Bill Loutrel, Earl Kramer, David Brause, Lori Robbins, Joan Cohen, Rick Fynnan
- Michael Parsons outlined the transfer of a half-acre parcel to cure an encroachment by 12 Manitauk into 7 Rattlesnake. The transfer of ownership would not include frontage on a road or create a building lot. The matter was continued so that two corrections could be made in the documentation.
- 82 Interlaken. During the last session, the public meeting was closed, which prohibits other than PB members to speak. Given the unresolved issues, it was first suggested that another consultant be hired. That was abandoned in favor of a motion to reopen the public meeting. Town Attorney was present by telephone to walk the PB through the process. The public meeting will be reopened and advertised per OML.
- On behalf of 1 Grove Street, Mark Volpe described the two-story structure, garage on the lower level and artist's studio above, that requires a special permit. Conditional upon a correction in the application, the special permit was approved.
- On behalf of 1 Lakeview Drive, Mark Volpe described the construction of a "basement" under a house built on piers. It was approved.
- Consultant Jeff Lacey described the various components of a Natural Resource Protection Zoning Bylaw (NRPZ). Currently Stockbridge has two-to-four-acre zoning in most residential areas. NRPZ is a plan to direct subdivisions and development. There are various configurations: fixed acre, cluster housing, and ratio. Most contain a ratio for percentage of developed to conserved land. The ratio varies from 65% - 90% conserved. The Commonwealth recommends 90%. Lacey presented slides illustrating how each would look after development.
While NRPZ appears to limit growth, it may not. Lacey explained underlying aspects of NRPZ that may pave the way for growth. First, NRPZ is not necessarily more limiting than the two-to-four-acre zoning Stockbridge currently has. Once the developer meets the requirements of NRPZ, the developer operates "by right", that is, the developer can do as he wishes and cannot be constrained. NRPZ includes Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) which means additional development rights can be purchased. For example, if the 41 acres of Camp Mahkeenac on Stockbridge Bowl were sold to a developer, under current zoning it could only be divided into 10 building lots or fewer. With TDR, a developer could possibly create 30 - 40 building lots. How?
For example, in Stockbridge, where there are numerous nonprofits on large parcels, a developer could make a donation in exchange for the development rights a nonprofit has by virtue of its acreage but does not wish to use. Tanglewood has 528 acres in Stockbridge, Norman Rockwell has more than 36, and Laurel Hill Association has over 460. Utilizing TDR, developers could build massive developments on land they owned.
Lacey presented a formula – calculated on a design work sheet – to determine the land to be conserved and the land to be developed. There is a conservation analysis that identifies "constrained land" that cannot be developed.
Questions that arose:
The consultant asked if there was land surrounding the Berkshire Cottages and how many such properties there were. In an earlier PB meeting, Lacey said he was placing before the PB a plan he developed for another Massachusetts town. The question then arises, is this consultant developing bylaw changes that are Stockbridge-specific? If not, much work would remain for the PB and SB to make Lacey's work Stockbridge-specific.
The Chair of PB asked how a developer could make money rather than how development would impact Stockbridge. Another PB member, Marie Rafferty, asked if NRPZ is for houses only or if it could include hotels and other businesses. Another PB member, Kate Fletcher, pointed out that if so, it would not align with "smart growth". That is, it would decentralize rather than concentrate businesses and would promote residential sprawl. Finally, a question for PB: if NRPZ requires identification of "constrained lands", shouldn't the Conservation Commission be involved?
- Consultant Phil Arnold reported on proposed bylaw changes to driveways, parking, and signage. When complete, the PB will forward to SB. Before placing on the warrant for Town Meeting, the SB may hold a public meeting to gather citizen input – watch for the announcement.
Before the meeting adjourned, it was suggested that the PB subcommittee working with the consultant is probably not in compliance with the OML. The Chair agreed to check. (See editorial above)
Lily Pond. Photo: Patrick White.
Notes from the Stockbridge Bowl Stewardship Committee – February 5 via Zoom
Present: Jamie Minacci, Chair
John Loiodice, Sewer and Water Commission
Charlie Kenny, Board of Health
Michael Nathan, SBA
Roxanne McCaffrey, SB
Mike Buffoni, Water Dept.
Consultants: Ben Burpee, Dr. Bob Kortmann, Chris Mayne
In addition: Richard Seltzer
Dr Kortmann, Lake Management expert, gave a comprehensive report of his survey of Lake Mahkeenac – Stockbridge Bowl. There was much technical information (see article by Charlie Kenny, Chair, Board of Health). In general, the report found that the lake has been stable over a period of 40 years, 1980 -2020. That is a good sign and supports what the Town, including Conservation Commission, have and have not done in managing the lake.
Kortmann suggested we focus on whole lake management; that we continue to monitor the lake annually, and that we adopt a holistic approach as recommended by both the Board of Health and the Conservation Commission. Dr Kortmann did not recommend for or against using Fluoridone in the lake. However, if Fluoridone were used he strongly suggested the concentration of any Fluoridone application be carefully monitored to avoid negative impacts on non-targeted plants. Kortmann was opposed to "contact herbicides."
One member mentioned a decrease in water level. If that is so, then according to the experts, dredging to increase depth and enhance flow may be indicated. Some oppose dredging fearing it will "stir up" toxins. However, the depth recommended is unlikely to cause that.
Overall, it was a very positive report, reinforcing decisions Stockbridge made and opposed over the last four decades.
Photo: Joan Gallos.