‘Careful decision-making’ needed on Manville Place project

In a letter to the editor 10 residents of Manville Street write: "Taking over Manville Street from its current residents and creating a parking and traffic nightmare is absolutely the wrong way to do this."

 To the Editor:

If we are not careful, we will allow the haven that is the Berkshires to slip away. As you read, please remember that this soon may be the plan for your idyllic street.

Shaded by old growth trees, Manville Street in Great Barrington is quiet and cozy, with no through traffic. Graced by just a few small capes and modest homes with classic New England architecture, the street is the kind of neighborhood where dwellers delight. Children ride up and down on their bicycles (there is no park nearby) and neighbors with a variety of special health support needs and abilities come and go and get their needed exercise without restriction.  

It is here on this bucolic street that Framework Properties has big plans. According to Ian Rasch of Framework, he and his colleagues purchased and plan to remove three modest single-family homes on the street. And what will they build in their place? They plan to construct three 15-unit apartment buildings, with units ranging from one to three bedrooms.  

What will become of the mature old growth trees in the process? And what will the street look like with huge apartment buildings dwarfing the small capes they neighbor? To boot, the company plans to include a commercial entity on the grounds, like a gym or a café.  

Framework’s plan will bring 150 residents to space on a street where six lived a few months ago, and an at least 200 percent increase in automobile traffic to this small street. The street will be lined with cars trying to make a left turn onto South Main Street — and those trying to make a right will be lined up right with them. No more children bike riding. No more leisurely strolling. No more sense of safety for those with special health needs. Only lines of cars and their exhaust fumes.

Now picture this. Mr. Rasch said that he is legally required and only plans to provide 45 parking spaces — one space per living unit. But what of the inevitable multitude of vehicles from the rest of these new residents? What about their guests, the commercial customers, complex employees, and visiting service workers? How is it that all this traffic and all of these parked cars will fit into the end of this little street where six people recently lived and six cars once parked?

Framework Properties calls its venture “Manville Place.” Great Barrington taxpayers take note: suddenly installing this kind of development on such a small street will require infrastructure improvements and investments, upgrades to utilities (such as sewer, water, electrical), more frequent road surface repair — perhaps a traffic light on South Main Street so that the lined-up cars can eventually turn. Existing sidewalks that are in complete disrepair will need attention and new sidewalks will need to be installed where now there aren’t any to allow for pedestrian traffic on the street. 

We support the growth of our community. But we also must ask one another how we grow while still caring for the needs of our current neighbors and the neighborhoods we cherish? The decisions we make together today will affect the Berkshires we share for generations to come. We need careful decision-making about where new housing complexes are placed. 

Taking over Manville Street from its current residents and creating a parking and traffic nightmare is absolutely the wrong way to do this. There are many places in Great Barrington that could support a development of this size. Manville Street is not one of them.

John & Dorothy Fetherolf

Miriam Cohen & Mike Hanagan

Vicky Fleming

Rit & Gail Heady

Ivan & Miral Kruh

Alice Leason

Laura Meister

Katherine Willis

Great Barrington

 The signees are residents of the Manville Street neighborhood.