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West Stockbridge and The Foundry need to take accountability

As a queer person, I think the space The Foundry offers for queer and trans artists is extremely important (and unusual in the Berkshires), and I don't want to see it get shut down. But that doesn't give The Foundry a right to disturb the family’s home or disrupt their business.

To the editor:

I have been attending hearings in West Stockbridge related to the granting of The Foundry’s special permit and ongoing noise issues for almost four years, and I am disheartened and frustrated to see how mean spirited and unproductive the discussion has become. At a recent Planning Board meeting, supporters of The Foundry suggested that Trúc Nguyen and her family are lying or otherwise exaggerating their experiences. One resident even suggested Trúc’s house must be made of cardboard. I found this extremely insulting and disrespectful; Trúc and her family deserve to enjoy their home in peace and shouldn’t have to fight so hard just to have people acknowledge that.

I don’t think that Trúc and her family’s right to quiet enjoyment of their home means The Foundry shouldn’t exist—no one is actually calling for that. Personally, I think The Foundry offers great shows. As a queer person, I think the space they offer for queer and trans artists is extremely important (and unusual in the Berkshires), and I don’t want to see them get shut down. But that doesn’t give The Foundry a right to disturb the family’s home or disrupt their business. Inclusion should be a consistently held value, not a shield used to excuse causing harm to one of the few families of color in the town. This is not a zero-sum game.

I think the most disappointing part of the latest meeting was seeing how this zoning and permitting conflict has devolved into a fight between two sides, Trúc vs. Amy. Not only is it unproductive—allowing town members to continue to fight along divided lines lets the town entirely off the hook for its role in this whole mess, which I see as a key point in this conflict. In the initial series of hearings that culminated with The Foundry getting its special permit, it became quite clear—and the Town acknowledged—that it allowed The Foundry to operate without the special permit that should have been required for over a year. This not only led to noise issues for Trúc, but also led Amy to invest into starting a business, having been told by the town that she had done everything she needed to and that she didn’t need a special permit. To me, this means that the town, in large part, caused this situation and has still not taken accountability for resolving it. I believe we should own our mistakes, learn from them, and repair them as best we can. Letting this situation drag on hurts Trúc’s family and Amy’s business. Allowing the town to tear itself apart while people endlessly debate the finer intricacies of sound monitoring is not repairing anything. Fix this!

Personally, I would like to see the town demonstrate actual leadership and resolve this once and for all, in a way that ends the harm to Trúc and her family and allows The Foundry to keep operating. There are certainly many options—update the special permit for clear and independent monitoring, allow unamplified music only, or fully soundproof the building. As one speaker noted at the last meeting, nearby Housatonic is a great case study on how to do this successfully with an old church converted into a recording studio in a residential neighborhood. But could the town please acknowledge their role in this, not keep pretending this is just some private feud between Trúc and Amy, and take leadership to get the issue resolved? If resolution requires The Foundry to spend real money on soundproofing, well, that is the cost of doing business. But endlessly arguing back and forth about how to do sound monitoring is clearly tearing the community apart and going nowhere. The town administration should step in and change that by pushing for a permanent solution, and stop allowing this to fester. Trúc—and the town—deserves some peace, and the town has a responsibility to make that happen.

Jeff Lowenstein

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