In the spirit of reflection and self-examination, herein lies The Edge’s second annual Great Barrington year in review. It includes some select stories from other South County towns as well, along with embedded links to Edge stories for more information.
Proposals for how to use the cannabis revenue windfall will be discussed by the selectboard and the finance committee in the upcoming deliberations for next year’s budget, with voters having the final say on how to spend free cash at the annual town meeting in May.
Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire executive director Tim Geller said he expects environmental remediation to begin late this month and construction on the apartments to commence in late October.
The language that is always being used is that the CDC is ghettoizing our poor, or low- and moderate-income families … We think that description is absurd, given where the site is … and the fact that … 50 percent of the families in Great Barrington qualify for these units.”
— Tim Geller, executive director of the CDC
2018 has provided enough Great Barrington news to keep journalists busy and observers of town politics highly amused, signaling that the community dubbed “best small town in America” by Smithsonian Magazine continues to be a place in transition.
The money for the acquisition would come from a special revenue fund containing proceeds from the sale of town-owned real estate. O’Brien has been in violation of multiple cease-and-desist orders since 2011.
The selectboard has held a pair of closed-door meetings on the possible purchase and related litigation this month, and has said its goal is to add the item to the warrant for a special town meeting scheduled for Monday, Aug. 6.
When Framework Properties first proposed the 47 Railroad Street project in Great Barrington, which included only 13 market-rate apartments, they learned that it was the first building permit taken out in the town for a structure containing four apartments or more since 1990.
In a unanimous vote Monday night, the selectmen urged the Great Barrington Zoning Board of Appeals to reject the appeal of Gary J. O’Brien, whose trucking company has been told to halt its illegal practices on Roger Road.
“The new zone would continue to allow retail and commercial establishments, like the current B-2, but it would also allow for a variety of residential uses.”
— Great Barrington Town Planner Chris Rembold
Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant, who directs Multicultural BRIDGE and co-chairs the Du Bois 150th Committee, was in Town Hall Monday night with Randy Weinstein, founder and director of the Du Bois Center at Great Barrington, to gain approval to mount banners on utility poles in town and to report on the progress the committee had made on celebrating the birthday of iconic scholar and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois.
Selectman Steve Bannon then made a motion that, if building inspector Edwin May attends a hearing in front of the Great Barrington Zoning Board of Appeals or goes to court in the Gary J. O’Brien matter, the town will provide an attorney to represent him. It passed unanimously.
“My immediate concern is the [fuel] trucks. Any fuel storage has to have 110-percent containment under it. How that’s okay, I don’t understand. If something happens, there nothing between that truck and the ground.”
— Selectboard member Ed Abrahams
Neighbors are worried about what will happen when an increasingly busier airport changes, possibly leading to even more future expansion. The pilots and plane owners say the airport is a critical piece of the town’s economic engine and a treasure that brings people here from far and wide.
Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire’s executive director Tim Geller noted that these changes are “insubstantial” enough not to trigger another public hearing, as state regulations require it for “substantial” changes to the comprehensive permit, which was already granted last fall.
Inspector Edwin May did his job by interpreting what was available on the books. He treated Kearsarge’s project, which is to generate power at discounted rates for three central Massachusetts municipalities, as “light industrial” and so not allowed on the land the company planned to lease from farmer Bob Coons.
Among the usual farm stressors, lowered milk prices prevented farmer Bob Coons from expanding the cowherd, leaving him to look for new ways to survive and leasing 20 of his roughly 200 acres, mostly wetlands, being his only shot at staying on the land his family has farmed since the 1950s.
Steiner board president Tom Sternal said, while some administrators knew the school’s neighbor was considering building a solar array, neither the administration nor the school’s board understood the size and scope of the project until around one week ago.
“Until last week the school did not understand the location, the size, or the timing of the project. We’re just attempting to collect as much information as possible to share with our families, hear their concerns, and work with Kearsarge Energy to bring about a solution.
— Tom Sternal, president of the board of trustees at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School