Hankin letter about selectboard ‘blackmail’ way off the mark

In a letter Craig Okerstrom-Lang writes: "Our town has not contributed a dime nor offered to contribute to the maintenance of these parking lots (snow plowing, sweeping, striping, repairs)."

To the editor:

In response to Jonathan Hankin’s earlier letter, Great Barrington Selectboard should not give in to extortion:

There is not any “behind the door negotiating or blackmail” but rather good negotiating on the part of the applicant for the School Street parking lot. Leigh [Davis] has the right to question this, but it is a common technique used for permits and businesses of any sorts. Leigh should know; she is in the real estate development business.

Our town has unfortunately been able to twist the arms of applicants who own large parking lots to allow for their use during “non-business hours.” Our town has not contributed a dime nor offered to contribute to the maintenance of these lots (snow plowing, sweeping, striping, repairs). Nor have they offered a property tax break for this free parking service.

The Berkshire Block has invested mightily to upgrade their building into one of the only Class A buildings (with an elevator) in town. The layout is a series of smaller-boutique offices connected to the fastest internet in South Berkshire. It is beautiful and is attracting new tenants (three so far according to their directory). They will easily rent out their remaining 25 spaces because they can offer parking spaces. That is what the new parking lot on School Street is for. The Foster’s lot is for more of the office tenants and the merchants who rent spaces on Main Street in that building.

In this day and age of electronic information and technology, it is a 24/7 world. If you have an office downtown and you don’t live downtown, then you need parking 24/7, not just from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. As far as “boycotting those 28 businesses,” that is a pretty negative threat by Jonathan.

These new businesses will be your friends and neighbors who live in Great Barrington and South Berkshires and want to have an office in our wonderful downtown. Instead of boycotting them, our Planning Board, Selectmen and residents should welcome new businesses. They will not only work in our downtown but shop and dine downtown. Maybe even buy a home in town, if they don’t live here now.

Those of us who rented from Foster’s for parking spaces have lost our spaces as of Jan 1, 2020. We are local downtown business owners (about 25 of us) who will have to find other parking downtown. We luckily were able to rent two spaces from Wheeler & Taylor to fill our void. Many downtown business owners are not that lucky.

As far as selectboard member Kate Burke having a “conflict of interest” in this special-permit vote due to her managing the Farmers Market, well that is a stretch. The market is one Saturday, each month, from spring till fall. She does not control parking for the market nor parking for the downtown. The town does. And the town lost numerous spaces by removing parking on each side of Church and Bridge streets last year in the street re-designs.

Craig Okerstrom-Lang

Great Barrington