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Cheshire Looks at New Planning Projects

Thomas Matuszko of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission reviewed six possible planning projects the town can use grant funds to commission BRPC to execute and the board agreed to prioritize reorganizing zoning in the southern Route 8 corridor.

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Matuszko Tapped As Next BRPC Executive Director

After 21 years with the organization, Thomas Matuszko is poised to become the next executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. The commission chose Matuszko out of three finalists Thursday evening. The executive committee will now negotiate terms for employment with who could become just the organization's third executive director since the commission was formed in 1967.

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BRPC to Choose New Executive Director Next Week

A search committee conducted its interviews for the three finalists for the position on Thursday and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission will pick Nathaniel Karns' successor next week. Karns is retiring from the job after 23 years. He was just the second executive director since the commission was formed in 1967.

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BRPC Wants to Know How Towns Spend Chapter 90 Funds

One of the first things the governor did when taking office in 2014 was released an additional $100 million in money for cities and towns to repair the roads. But towns in the Berkshires didn't use it that spring. In fact, in total spending on Chapter 90 allocations dropped to the lowest spending level in the last five years. Baker's announcement had come halfway through the fiscal year and was hailed by local officials. The program is considered one of the most important for a city or town.

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Cheshire Walks Back Housing Grant

The Selectmen and some members of the Planning Board met with Thomas Matuszko of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission last Tuesday to settle a misunderstanding about a state housing grant BRPC was administering on behalf of the town that town leaders did not agree with.

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1Berkshire President Discusses Economic Development With BRPC

It would be difficult for a Berkshire town to recruit a large biotech company on its own. 1Berkshire President Jonathan Butler knows that because he was a town administration. Now his focus is on countywide efforts to build the Berkshire economy by heading the region's designated economic development agency and tourism council. What he would suggest to towns is to get all of the little things in place to seize an opportunity should it arise.

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Data Shows Serious Traffic Collisions On The Decline In The Berkshires

The county's rate of serious traffic accidents in the Berkshires is declining faster than the state average. Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Senior Transportation Planner Eammon Coughlin reported Tuesday projections that show a continual decline in the number of vehicle fatalities and serious injuries. Based on five-year rolling averages calculated each year, there has been a 17.27 percent decline in fatalities and a 15.57 percent decline in serious injuries since 2011.

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BRPC Launching Search For New Executive Director

BRPC's search for a new director will begin in earnest next month. Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Nathaniel Karns is planning to retire in early 2018. A search committee has been formed to find who will become the agency's third executive director. Karns said he wants to retire no earlier than January 1 and no later than September 1, 2018, but is "pretty flexible" with what that date will be.

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BRPC Weighs in on State's Plan to Overhaul Land Use Regs

BRPC supports the state's push to overhaul land use regulations. But, the specifics in the bills from the House and Senate have raised some concern. For months, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's regional issues committee has been pouring over the details of the massive omnibus bills. Two bills are going through the legislative process now - one from the House and one from the Senate - with similar changes to zoning and other land use regulations.

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Hinds Gives BRPC Updates From the State House

Local organizations have great long-term plans for the future of Berkshire County. But, state Sen. Adam Hinds said the state needs to get the "fundamentals right" before that can take hold. Hinds spoke with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on Thursday and reviewed the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. He said 1Berkshire also has a similar blueprint with how to revitalize the Berkshire economy. But, both plans are still two or more years away, he said.

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Local Economic Specialists See Mall Site As An 'Opportunity'

Two years ago, BRPC undertook a survey of the available properties that are zoned for industrial usage, near main roads, and in proximity (not necessarily served by) to utilities. Only 41 of those properties have more than three acres of undeveloped, buildable land.

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BRPC Providing Technical Assistance For 25 Berkshire Projects

In a small town like New Marlborough it can be financially difficult to bring in specialized expertise and attorneys for land use questions. Now the Planning Board there is hoping to craft a right to farm bylaw to protect its farmers. Through state funding, the town can now lean on the expertise of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. New Marlborough is one of 25 towns in the Berkshires to receive help with planning issues through the District Local Technical Assistance program.

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BRPC Crafting Succession Plan For Executive Director

BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns knows a thing or two about planning. He's been in the business for 40 years with most recently a 23-year stint as the executive director of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

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State Officials Still Awaiting BMC Intersection Area Redesign

The project to re-do the intersections around Berkshire Medical Center has been pushed back yet again, as the design has not progressed enough. The $7.1 million project for the Berkshire Medical Center area has been ranked as a top priority by Berkshire Regional Planning Commission but the design is too far behind to go to bid in 2018. The project has been 11 years in the making, after a 2006 circulation study identified it as a focus for improving traffic in downtown Pittsfield.

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Cheshire Sees Draft Community Development Strategy Plan

The Selectmen have seen a draft of a Community Development Strategy Plan that is needed for the town to participate in the state's Housing Rehab Program. Berkshire Regional Planning Commission representative Patricia Mullins asked the board on Tuesday to review a draft copy of the plan that was created by a committee of residents. The plan outlines community goals and strategies.

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Berkshire Planning Receives DLTA Funding To Help Towns With Projects

BRPC finally got its local assistance funding and more than 25 towns have requested help. The funding for District Local Technical Local Assistance program was questionable over the last few months as the state pondered budget cuts to address shortages of revenue. The state provides $2.8 million to regional planning committees to help towns with an array of planning projects.

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Four Towns Sharing Economic Development Planner

BRPC is looking to "rapidly expand" a shared economic planner job. Four towns, Hinsdale, Great Barrington, Clarksburg, and Lanesborough, had signed onto a project to bring on a full-time economic development specialist. William Compton was hired for the position and now splits his time working with the various communities.

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Cheshire to Pursue Blight Removal Grant

The Selectmen have agreed to apply for a District Local Technical Assistance through the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to identify processes and possible funding to remove dilapidated homes. Town Administrator Mark Webber recommended to the board last week that they team up with Hinsdale and through BRPC apply for a grant that will provide guidance to remove blight in the community.

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Regional Planners Still Waiting On DLTA Funds To Be Released

BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns wants to help move the Eagle Mill redevelopment along. But, he isn't sure if he'll have the funds to do it. Last year, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission began the process of crafting a 40R zoning overlay district. It is a series of regulations aimed to encourage dense residential and mixed-use zoning districts.

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BRPC Urges Single Environmental Report to Move Scenic Rail Project Along

Because of all of the work done already to bring the Berkshire Scenic Railway to Hoosac Street in Adams, BRPC says only one environmental review is needed. The Berkshire Scenic Railway is already operating on tracks between Renfrew Street and North Adams and the plans have been to continue that all the way to Hoosac Street, less than a mile away. But, the initial round of funding didn't support building out the new tracks to get there.

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BRPC Advocates for Investment in High-Speed Broadband

"As a region that has struggled economically for forty-five years, and is increasingly reliant on entrepreneurs and sole-proprietors, who are often home-based and can be located anywhere, having full, future proof broadband available across the region is critical to our economic rebuilding and sustainability," the letter states.

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Berkshire Planners Remain Concerned About DLTA Program

Berkshire Regional Planning Commission remains concerned about the funding for its District Local Technical Assistance program. The organization lobbied for the state fund the program at $3.4 million during the budget season but ultimately the state Legislature funded it at $2.8 million - level with previous years. But, the administration hasn't released those funds and state revenues have been coming in lower than hoped. Now, many are expecting mid-year cuts from Gov. Charlie Baker and BRPC

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BRPC Worried About Funding For Local Technical Assistance Program

BRPC is starting to worry about the fate of a $2.8 million state budget line used to help cities and towns with various projects. Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is supposed to be in line to receive some $200,000 or the equivalent of nearly two full time staff members from the state to run the District Local Technical Assistance Program.

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BRPC To Towns: Consider Long-term Sustainability of Broadband Choices

PITTSFIELD, Mass. Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is warning towns not to settle for internet which may not be fast enough in a few years. The relaunching of the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative comes with changes to the program which allows towns to craft individual plans for expanding broadband into unserved areas. That includes grants for cable companies to expand - such as Lanesborough, West Stockbridge, and Hinsdale - opted to do or expansion of a wireless system - like Middle

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BRPC Hears Update To 'Last Mile' Broadband Plan

Finishing out the so-called "last mile" of broadband connectivity will take a flexible approach, giving towns an array of options to connect, according to Massachusetts Technology Collaborative implementation liaison Bill Ennen. Ennen was appointed to the role which serves as an middle man between the state's Massachusetts Broadband Initiative and individual towns in June at the same time former Pittsfield state Rep. Peter Larkin was appointed to chair the MBI board. The two are now heading t

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