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New proposal for 100 Bridge St. is a bait-and-switch

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By Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019 Letters 2

To the editor:

Tonight at 7:30, the GB Zoning Board of Appeals must decide whether the new proposal for 100 Bridge St is “substantially different” from the old proposal, which was approved. The clear answer is yes: because the new project goes from bad to worse. It’s a classic bait-and-switch.

The problem is not the valiant efforts of Community Development Corporation to remediate a brownfield: for that they deserve all praise. The problem is that CDC insists on stacking affordable housing on the worst pieceof the site, on a parking lot next to the town sewage plant — while reserving 6 acres of more desirable space for “future commercial development.” In other words, for profit. By now it’s clear the CDC is a lousy developer: for more than a decade they have tried and failed to find that magical tenant. Remember when the Co-op was moving there? Then it was retail plus corporate tenants, now it’s a nursing home – anybody with money!

However, one thing never changes — they keep shoving affordable housing into the gutter. At least the previous proposal showed an overall “campus” with greenspace (mostly parking, but still.)  But in the new plan, the housing will be wedged between two giant toxic berms which are fenced off for safety. No more “campus.” No more greenspace. No breathing room for families, children, recreation. No outdoor space for 42 units of housing.

This all looks bad, because it is. But it’s not too late. Tonight at Town Hall, the ZBA will decide whether this latest (fifth?) plan is still acceptable. The answer is no — this is substantially worse. Dense mid-rise housing that has lost its greenspace is not only not acceptable – it’s insulting.

The CDC needs to answer one tough question: why not devote all of 100 Bridge St. to housing for people, instead of speculating for profits? That’s exactly why our government gave them a $15 million grant: to build decent housing that sends a decent message.

Bobby Houston

Great Barrington



2 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Steve Farina says:

    Bobby,

    I couldn’t agree with you more!

    At my very first Town meeting in GB I presented an opportunity for the voters present to STOP the development in its tracks and thus demand a rework of the plans. The CDC was going before the Town to request permission to reroute a waterway in order to provide a “replacement” wetlands – necessary for DEP approval to proceed. The CDC could have been forced to have to come back to the Town again and again until they got it right.

    I told the nearly 400 voters present that the way to stop the affordable housing being put next to the sewer plant was to vote down the request until CDC came back with a plan to put the housing elsewhere on the lot. Others got up and supported my position, which was encouraging.

    It was a meeting which the grand political statement of GB’s Trust Policy, in which only 2 voters saw as nothing more than a meaningless political statement, was passed overwhelmingly while person after person spoke about “Being concerned for the least fortunate in our community”.

    The TRUE heart of the community shone through as my suggestion was ignored by more than half the voters (15 votes differential). More than 200 of those supposedly “concerned about the least fortunate” voted to allow it the CDC plan to go forward. It shouldn’t even have been close if they truly were concerned for the least fortunate.

    Truth is, those town people didn’t give a shit that the affordable housing was being put next to it.

  2. Mary Ellen Foster says:

    “One important element often forgotten is that additional commercial development on the site is compulsory. Without this development, the CDC will be called to repay over $2 million in grant funds that were predicated on creating jobs at the site; this in addition to over $800,000 in debt that we have been carrying since we demolished the buildings in 2012. The affordable housing without the capacity for commercial development is a nonstarter.” Tim Geller – CDC

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