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Cheshire Looks at New Planning Projects

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen on Tuesday reassessed some potential planning projects and agreed to focus on re-examining Route 8 zoning.
 
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. 
 
"I think this all sounds good and is a good game plan," Matuszko said. "I will run these by the grant people and I think they will be eligible."
 
A few months ago, the Selectmen rejected some of the projects BRPC had lined up. This prompted Matuszko to meet up with the Planning Board and pick out some new projects the Selectmen were more in favor of.
 
Planning Board Chairwoman Donna DeFino said this new zoning would "tighten up" Route 8 and clear up inconsistencies. She said currently there are some nonconforming uses with businesses in a residential district.
 
She added that it would also be an opportunity to expand the industrial district and allow "light industrial" in the southern Route 8 corridor.
 
"Right now, we don't allow anything like that and if you look at Lanesborough, they have that mold company right on Route 8," she said. "It's a small business and they are innocuous. That is light industrial use and right now we have nothing to address that."
 
The Selectmen marked agricultural zoning as the second project. This would evaluate options for farmers and allow for a broader range of uses such as being able to sell goods from their farms or holding events.
 
"It is really to address the business aspect of agriculture and make it easier for farmers to diversify," Matuszko said.
 
Third on the list was a townwide culvert assessment that would allow the town to take inventory and see what condition the culverts are in. 
 
Highway Superintendent Blair Crane said he was hesitant to make this project a high priority because even with an assessment, it is unlikely the town will be able to afford to do any substantial culvert work.
 
"The problem with that is that all the information in the world is great but if you can't actually fix anything or do anything about it then there is no reason to take that first step," Crane said. "Culverts are unbelievably expensive to repair, update or bring up to code ... you could easily spend $1 million on one."
 
DeFino asked Matusko if having the assessment would open the town up to grants that could possibly pay for culvert repair.
 
Matusko said it would better the town's chances but actually receiving these grant funds would still be a long shot.
 
Right off the bat, the Selectmen crossed off zoning to enable reuse of Cheshire School because they felt it was too soon.
 
"We are not there yet, and it is going to be a long haul," Chairman Robert Ciskowski said. "Maybe in the future but right now we aren't ready."
 
They also crossed out a conservation planning initiative that they felt was under the Conservation Commission's purview and the creation of a scenic overlay zone that would protect certain views in town.
 
Matusko said this project would be hard because it is so subjective.
 
"It is difficult to measure some of those iconic views," he said. "What I think is scenic you may not."
 
Before the regularly scheduled meeting, the Selectmen met with the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District representatives to go over the $19,750,146 budget for fiscal 2019.
 
Although there were no major concerns with the budget, Selectwoman Carol Francesconi asked why the district was hiring a new teacher and school psychologist when there seemed to be not enough books to go around. 
 
"I have no objection to the fact that you are hiring but what drives me insane is that we are trying to improve the education and yet the students don't have enough books in the classroom," she said. "When you can't take your science book home to study because there are not enough to go around something is wrong." 
 
She said she specifically heard that there weren't enough books in a seventh-grade science class.
 
Chairman Paul Butler said this was the first he had heard of it and it should have been corrected in September.
 
Superintendent Robert Putnam said he would investigate it and correct the issue.

Tags: BRPC,   municipal planning,   

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