Great Barrington Select Board should reject both redevelopment proposals for Housatonic School building

The former Housatonic School building has outlived its usefulness and the money being asked to give the developers will be better spent to remove the building, allowing the creation of a public pavilion, added green space, and public access to enable the vibrancy of our village life to thrive and continue.

To the editor:

The former Housatonic School building is an imposing structure sandwiched between two public parcels: the vibrant Community Center and the village’s only public park, the Village Common and playground.

As a school, the requirements for parking by teachers and administrators were only active during the school hours. This allowed the function of village activities after hours and weekends. The Community Center is used for special town meetings, voting for Precinct B, various youth sporting activities (especially basketball), and recently for the successful farmers market during the winter.

One has only to visit this hub of activity to see that these functions only work because of the nature of staggered events and public access to parking. Add the Pleasant and Main restaurant and parking for the park and playground activities to the mix, and you get the picture that public access to this area is the essential element for this village’s heart and soul.

Both current proposals are for creating 10 to 14 private apartments which will require 20 to 24 private parking spaces for the tenants. I challenge the Select Board to present a plan for where these spaces will be located on this school property.

One has only to look at the mess that’s been created in the town by the elimination of public parking by private interests. The former Searles School building has yet to be developed which will add to this pressure. One wonders how anyone, who is not within walking distance, will be able to access Memorial Field and the Skate Park.

The Housatonic School sits on prime real estate that is owned by the town. Once sold, it will be gone forever. In addition, the taxpayers will be asked to give the developers between $650,000 to $2.7 million. We are being asked to give this property away, and pay for it to boot.

This property deserves to remain in the village’s hands. The town made a decision 15 years ago to abandon this building when it had the chance to develop it into the school system. The building has outlived its usefulness and the money being asked to give the developers will be better spent to remove the building, allowing the creation of a public pavilion, added green space, and public access to enable the vibrancy of our village life to thrive and continue. I am asking that the Select Board not accept these proposals. For better or worse, your actions will affect and change the village forever.

Tom Norton
Housatonic