It’s wrong to exclude second-home owners because of COVID19

To the editor:

It has been distressing to hear of harassment and abuse, even if only oral, of second-home owners by local citizens on account of corona virus fears. But it was particularly disappointing to read the rather harsh statements of the elected town leaders of Stockbridge, Lenox and (in somewhat more measured terms) Alford directing our second-home owners to stay away — out of their own homes.

It is objectionable on Christian, Jewish or Muslim ethical principles for anyone to turn away another in need. But it is especially regrettable that our town officials, in doing that in their diktats, gave no consideration to the participation and value of the second-home owners. They know — and should have taken into account — that these now unwelcome persons provide approximately two-thirds of each town’s tax revenue, make minimal calls on town services, are generous to our not-for-profits out of all proportion to their numbers, and are the lifeblood of the cultural institutions about which we brag to all the world.

We are all justifiably concerned for our own safety and that of our neighbors, and it is reasonable to ask or insist that our second-home owners take all the precautions we do: temporary self-isolation, social distancing, etc. But to tell them not to repair to their own homes is simply wrong.

Do a hypothetical thought quiz: If you, a Stockbridge resident, learned that Stockbridge was highly contagious but that Lee (remember, this is a hypothetical) was COVID19 free, wouldn’t you want to visit your sister and family there for the duration? And our second-home owners have an even better argument: they own their homes — and they were your welcome neighbors just a few months ago.

Jean J. Rousseau

Stockbridge

The writer is former Chair of the Town of Stockbridge Finance Committee.