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Tom Matusko of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission updates the Board of Selectmen on the completion of the Master Plan.

Cheshire Master Plan Complete

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The town's master plan is largely complete and the town will soon start the implementation process.
 
"The master plan is pretty much wrapped up and finalized and we just have to make the final document and presentable," Tom Matusko of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission said Tuesday.
 
Over the past few years, the Master Plan Committee has been developing the plan with the help of BRPC. The town allocated $25,000 for the creation of the plan in 2015.
 
The Planning Board approved it earlier this week.
 
Matusko lauded the committee and its vision and said it was a pleasure working with the town.
 
"It was a very good process working with the committee I think you selected some great people to work on it," he said. "It was a very strong committee with great vision. It was a lot of work but there were some great ideas."
 
Matusko said now the hard part starts — implementation. 
 
"I look forward to working with you on the implementation of the items going forwards," he said. "There is a lot of potential in this town to make some noticeable changes."  
 
The Selectmen also voted to begin the process of applying for Green Community Designation.
 
Matusko said the state program would allow the town to use and apply for grants to make it more energy efficient.
 
"This is a program that provides funding to municipalities to reduce overall energy costs in the town," he said. "So in town buildings and your fleet and those types of activities." 
 
If designated, the town would probably receive $135,000 to fund efficiency projects but also be able to apply for more through competitive grants.
 
Matusko said the town would have to meet five standards many of which it already meets.
 
It would have to pledge to reduce its energy baseline by 20 percent over five years and adopt the stretch building code.
 
"It's a little more stringent than the current building code," he said. "But this program has been around for quite a few years now and when they first started the stretch code was a big leap but the state building code has gotten tighter so now so it's not a really much of a burden for the towns." 
 
Matusko said the application would be due in the fall and town meeting would have to adopt the stretch code. 
 
In other business, officials finally received a legal opinion on a fence viewing issue: it isn't their problem.
 
"I'll make it short and sweet for everybody," special legal counsel Jeff Grandchamp said. "At the end of the day at this point, the town of Cheshire does not have to do anything when it comes to those fences except send a viewer up when there is a claim." 
 
Last year, the board was charged with settling a shared fence dispute between Edward Clairmont, owner of Gulf Farm on Savoy Road, and neighbor Bertram Beisiegel. Clairmont felt the fence viewers overstepped their purview and mandated that Clairmont make repairs to his fence so his animals would stop wandering on to Beisiegel's property.
 
Clairomont felt parts of Beisiegel's fence were also in disrepair and he should be forced to make repairs.
 
Beisiegel does not have any animals that need to be contained.
 
Grandchamp said the fence viewers ultimately decide where the fence needs to be repaired, how it is to be repaired and a time frame in which it can be repaired.
 
The attorney also felt the fence viewers have the right to revisit a fence and amend their original decision. He said circumstances change and someone may decide to stop farming and lay all fence expenses on their neighbor.
 
"I think that is quite frankly illogical, everything with real estate at some point can be altered or amended," he said. "I think there are circumstances when they can come back with a different decision."
 
Grandchamp said it is incredibly difficult to research fence viewing law and cases because it is such an old law. 
 
"The cases and the law of fence viewers are every bit of 200 years old I think the most recent case was in 1956 and it said the statute didn't apply," he said. "I think in this day and age the fence viewers should be able to take into account change in circumstances."
 
He said some cases suggest that only the parties can agree to change the partition but he thought that was in a time when people either farmed their land or did not.  
 
He added that the fence viewers have the right to look at the entire fence and an individual cannot complain about their neighbor's fence if their own is in disrepair.
 
The Selectmen said they would forward Grandchamp's memo to the fence viewers and Grandchamp said he would be willing to help them sort out any issues.
 
"They are old statutes and they are complicated ... they are not easy to follow and there are no meaningful cases that happened in anyone's living lifetime," he said. "When you start reading cases and laws that are that old, they can be largely incomprehensible to the modern reader."
 
Town Administrator Mark Webber said the Sand Mill Road Bridge should be complete by June 9.

Tags: fence viewers,   green communities,   master plan,   

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