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Greenagers are helping to reconstruct the historic dry-laid stone wall along the north field at Herman Melville's Arrowhead, led by master craftsman Neil Rippingale, thanks to $8,000 in funds from the Community Preservation Act.

Berkshires Beat: CPA Funds Helping Make Improvements in Pittsfield

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Making progress

Community Preservation Act funding approved earlier this summer already has begun to support multiple projects throughout the city of Pittsfield. The first year of CPA funding, totaling $433, 819.11, will support 11 projects in the categories of historic resources and open space/recreation.

City Planner CJ Hoss, who has been instrumental in this process, said community feedback has played an important role from start-to-finish. Voters in the City of Pittsfield adopted the Community Preservation Act in 2016. The act enables a locally supported fund supplemented with a partial match from the state that could be utilized for projects that involve historic preservation, open space, outdoor recreation, and affordable housing.

Initially, the committee received 20 eligibility applications, nine falling in the historic resources category and 11 categorized as open space and recreation.  In January, the committee completed its review of the applications and determined the final selections. The City Council approved the funding for the projects at a June 26 meeting.

The selected initiatives and allocated funding include: Berkshire Athenaeum, preservation of Melville art and artifacts, project cost $20,115, CPA funding $13,000; Berkshire Community College, turf field project, project cost $2,400,000, CPA funding $75,000; Berkshire County Historical Society, rehabilitation of stone walls at Arrowhead, project cost $10,900, CPA funding $8,000; Berkshire Theatre Group, rehabilitation of the Thaddeus Clapp House, project cost $400,000, CPA funding $15,000, Greenagers, Burbank Park invasive species removal, project cost $250,000, CPA funding $4,000; City of Pittsfield, Springside House Restoration, project cost $770,000, CPA funding $75,000, Greenagers, Springside Park trail rehabilitation, project cost $5,000, CPA funding $5,000; City of Pittsfield, pickleball siting and design, project cost $16,500, CPA funding $15,000; City of Pittsfield, Pontoosuc Lake Beach stormwater management and design, project cost $16,500, CPA funding $15,000; City of Pittsfield, Clapp Park Pellerin Field, project cost $90,290, CPA funding $45,000, City of Pittsfield, Taconic High School athletic field improvements, project cost $180,860, CPA funding $50,000.


Colors for Peace

IS183 Art School of the Berkshires' "Colors for Peace," an exhibit of more than 500 Berkshire County kindergarten through fifth-grade artists about "PEACE," is now going to be displayed in Italy. IS183 Art School has procured works from Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota and South Carolina to be added to the 500 translucent Berkshire County pieces displayed at the Berkshire Athenaeum in February. Over 1,000 children's artworks have been sent to Italy to represent the United States in the largest exhibition of child art in the world, organized by the association "I Colori Per La Pace" and their founder, Antonio Giannelli.  

IS183 Art School participated in I Colori Per La Pace in 2016, sending art created in their after-school Learning Through Arts program at Conte Community School, Crosby Elementary School and Morningside Community School to be exhibited during the Summer Olympics in Brazil. This year, with collaborative support from the Berkshire Athenaeum, IS183 was able to display the 500 pieces of art collected from Berkshire County for our community before mailing them to Italy.

When received by the I Colori Per La Pace organization in Italy, the artwork will travel to additional international exhibits. Past exhibition locations have included Dubai, Rio and Quito. IS183 Art School plans for more collaborative exhibits like this in the future. For more information on "Colors for Peace," call the art school at 413-298-5252, ext. 100.


Free on Friday

Berkshire Museum will be open to the public free of charge on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, as part of the Massachusetts-based Highland Street Foundation's summer-long Free Fun Fridays program. This year, 100 museums and cultural venues in the state are participating in the 10th annual program. Free admission at Berkshire Museum on Aug. 17 is available for everyone; no tickets or reservations are necessary. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., including all the galleries and exhibitions.

Visitors can enjoy and explore the entire museum, which offers an array of exhibitions ranging from natural science to history and the arts, as well as an aquarium, Lab 102, and the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation. The exhibitions currently on view include "Art of the Hills" and "Josh Simpson: Galactic Landscapes."

Since 2009, Free Fun Fridays have drawn more than one million visitors to venues across the state, from art and historical museums and zoos to botanical gardens and state landmarks. To learn more about the Highland Street Foundation and for additional information about Free Fun Fridays and a list of other venues offering the program, visit the website.


Manage your money

Berkshire Community College is offering a free course to students that will help them achieve a level of financial independence, thanks to a partnership with Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. The free course will be offered this fall at the South County Center on Main Street in Great Barrington from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. Fall classes begin Tuesday, September 4th.

The three-credit course, called "BUS 139 – Money Management for Life," will cover strategies to help students manage budgets, expenses and debt; save and invest for the future; plan for the unexpected; and establish personal financial plans to achieve their goals. There are no prerequisites necessary to qualify for this course.

Through in-depth lesson plans and presentations, students are offered the chance to learn about key personal finance issues that could impact their overall financial health. The course helps educate and arm students with the critical skills and knowledge they need to manage their personal finances throughout the various stages of their lives. The course explores topics ranging from saving for retirement to insurance planning across life stages, among other important financial issues.

The course will conclude with students having a financial plan for the next 15 years and it counts as a free elective for students as well. For more information, call the BCC Admissions Office at 413-236-1630


Wood Badge Reunion

Wood Badge alumni and their guests are invited to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first American course at a reunion picnic on Sunday, Aug. 26, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Horace Moses Scout Reservation in Russell. Wood Badge is an advanced leadership and management course that includes six full days of instruction and practice followed by completion of agreed to goals utilizing skills learned over several months.  Topics covered are the same as trainings many local companies invest in for their employees.

The Western Massachusetts Council of Boy Scouts of America expects alumni who completed their Wood Badge training both in western Massachusetts and in other councils to come "Back to Gilwell" to enjoy historical exhibits and look back at this important Scouting training program. Gilwell, England, was where the first Wood Badge training was held in 1919, and where several traditions used around the world today originated. When Wood Badge requirements, which include practical application of leadership and management skills, are completed, a taupe neckerchief with McLaren tartan patch, a leather woggle, and two wooden beads are presented.  These are the same recognition used in 1919.

The first course in the United States ran from July 31 to Aug. 8 in 1948 at the Schiff Scout Reservation in northern New Jersey.  Since then, the course materials have evolved and today are focused on modern leadership and management skills.  The core skills and delivery methods are also used in the week long "National Youth Leadership Training" (NYLT) for Scout, Venturer, and Explorer youth registered in those Boy Scouts of America programs.

The Western Massachusetts Council will offer Wood Badge again in October 2019 and NYLT is offered every July. Information on both can be found online. Tickets for the commemoration are $10 and can be purchased online.


Housing and jobs

The Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation has made a $16,235 grant to the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire, funding its work building low-moderate income housing and creating jobs in the Berkshires. This grant will provide capacity building support for the organization’s work in incorporating environmentally healthy housing into comprehensive, sustainable community revitalization efforts in the southern Berkshire region.

Rural LISC, a national program created to expand LISC’s reach beyond urban areas, provides a wide range of services, including training, technical assistance, information and financial support, to help rural community developers address the problems rural communities face. They use their Comprehensive Community Development Strategy to support their partners in expanding investment in housing and real estate, increasing family income and wealth, stimulating economic development, improving access to quality education, and growing healthy environments and lifestyles.
CDCSB is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating job opportunities, promoting economic development, and building low-moderate income housing in southern Berkshires. In collaboration with other like-minded organizations, CDCSB has helped build more than 60 affordable housing units and leveraged over $19 million in private and public funding.

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Letter: Problematic Proposed Lenox Short-Term Rental Bylaw

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Under the proposed short-term rental Lenox bylaw, "up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be rented year-round by right provided that the owner or tenant is occupying the dwelling unit at the time of the rental."

Presumably, bedrooms may not be rented at all if the owner or tenant is not occupying the dwelling unit.

In other words, literally, the very same use is allowed by one type of owner (an owner occupying the dwelling unit), but not another type of owner (one who does not occupy the dwelling unit where bedrooms are being rented). Because there is identical use and intensity and the only thing that differs is the type of owner or renter; it is hard to view this as mere regulation of use and not ownership.

The other provision suffers from the same problem. Suppose there is a duplex or land with two houses on it (perhaps an old robber-baron estate) but with separate owners for each dwelling unit. Under the rule regarding "dwelling units being rented in their entirety," "an entire dwelling unit maybe rented up to 75 days per calendar year by right," and "an entire dwelling unit may be rented for an additional 35 days (up to 110 days) per calendar year by Special Permit."

But then suppose there is unity of ownership and one person owns the entire duplex or both houses. In that case, "the above totals apply to the entire parcel" and "the day limits defined above shall be apportioned among those dwelling units."

A town can regulate the number of days a short-term rental may be utilized under the newly passed statute: but this additional restriction based on who owns the premises is a regulation of ownership and not use.

The same is instinct through other parts as well. Of course, Lenox residents or their guest can park in the street. But if you are renting a short-term rental, "All overnight parking must be within the property's driveway or garage." If you own or rent property, so long as you get the right permits, you may entertain on your property. But if you are a short-term renter, "events that include tents or amplified music or which would customarily require a license or permit are not allowed."

Since 1905, when Home Rules was put into the [Massachusetts] Constitution, towns could pass their own bylaws, so long as there was no regulation of a civil relationship unless it was an incident to a legitimate municipal power. This meant, among other things, zoning laws had to regulate use and not ownership. It is now a fundamental principle of Massachusetts zoning that it deals basically with the use, without regard to the ownership of the property involved, or who may be the operator of the use. This bylaw appears to violate this fundamental tenet.

By way of example of the you-may-regulate-use-but-not-ownership rule, it has been held that a city did not have authority under the Massachusetts Constitution to pass an ordinance that affected the civil relationship between tenants and their landlord, who wished to convert their rental units to condominiums. In another case, a municipal ordinance which restricted a landlord's ability to terminate a lease and remove his property from the rental market in order to sell it was invalid.

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