Dalton, Adams, Richmond, Great Barrington Seek Housing Grant

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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BRPC's executive committee approved applying for the grant on Thursday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Dalton, Adams, Great Barrington and Richmond are teaming up in an attempt to reel in a state grant to increase housing density.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on Thursday approved applying for $40,000 to $50,000 from the Department of House and Community Development.

Dalton is taking the lead but all four towns are looking to use the funds to set the groundwork for future development.

According to Executive Director Nathaniel Karns, Dalton is taking the lead because officials there want to encourage housing development in former Crane & Co buildings and the former Nessacus School. The state asks for an array of plans be to be completed and in place in order to receive other types of funding and this grant could help do that, Karns said.

"We fully expect there will be some other communities that will carry this out," Karns said.

Adams is looking to use the funds for similar reasons but with different buildings. The town has been very active in redeveloping downtown parcels with developers who include housing. Now, the town is looking to reap state benefits by adopting 40R zoning regulations, which the state highly incentives, Karns said.

Great Barrington, too, is looking for more housing development, particularly to increase its affordable housing stock. Richmond joined the application as a potential way to increase population. Karns said Richmond has room for greater enrollment in its school but a lack of affordable housing prevents more families from moving there to fill those seats.

BRPC is now working on the application and will be talking with the state about the grant. A total budget is expected to be hashed out now that the executive committee has given the approval.

In other business, BRPC has gotten back to work on a passenger rail study. The organization has been researching locations and needs of train stops along the rail line from Pittsfield to Connecticut — the same line Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed to restore.

However, the state Department of Transportation halted that study in the fall over questions with the billing the Housatonic Railway had been filing. Karns said the issue was a minor disagreement that had little to do with the study but that until it was sorted, their work had to stop.

The stop-work order was rescinded as of Dec. 5 and the group is now rescheduling meetings with stakeholders. The organization is also looking for a six-week extension to finish the work.

Karns' executive director report said the stop work order on the passenger rail study has been lifted.

On Thursday, Karns reported that the county reel in about $5 million in MassWorks grant funding in 2013.

Those awardees were Mount Washington, getting $1 million for Bash Bish Falls Road, which was damaged by Hurricane Irene; Pittsfield for $2 million for the next phase of the streetscape project on upper North Street to Berkshire Medical Center; Savoy, $997,112 for repairs to Black Brook Road, which also was damaged by Irene; and West Stockbridge received $1 million for its downtown improvement project.

Karns also reported that the organization had a clean audit for 2013, showing that controls the organization had put into place have been effective.

"This year, we are looking like we are in very good shape. We have a whole lot of controls in place," Karns said. "Halfway through the year, we feel comfortably about where we are financially. Unless anything goes wrong, we should end the year with a reasonable surplus."

The organization had lost money in previous years.

The organization also received its first donation into a newly adopted 501c3 nonprofit. BRPC adopted the Berkshire Learning Initiative's designation late last year and have plans to use it to accept donations for education programming. A bank account will be opened as commissioners continue to craft the organization's structure.

"It.s a nice little start to the new year," Karns said.

Tags: Berkshire Regional Planning Commission,   BRPC,   housing,   passenger rail,   state grant,   

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