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Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn, left, and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier before the walk begins on Thursday. In the background at left are North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard and, in green, City Councilors Jason LaForest and Benjamin Lamb.
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Members of the Berkshire delegation join Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash for Walk A Mile In Her Shoes.
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Walk A Mile In Her Shoes Draws Hundreds to Benefit Freeman Center

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Marchers hold signs for Christa Steele-Knudslien who was murdered in North Adams last January. Her husband was charged in her murder. See more photos from the event here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hundreds walked, and some stumbled, down North Street in high heels during the Walk a Mile In Her Shoes march to raise money and spread awareness of gender violence.
 
Elizabeth Freeman Center Executive Director Janis Broderick welcomed all the walkers who came out during the event at Third Thursday, including elected officials, business leaders, residents from throughout the county and all those who demand change.
 
"I want to welcome you to the eighth annual march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence and you all are looking so good," she said.
 
Money raised for the march goes to support the Elizabeth Freeman Center and Broderick said they had already surpassed last year's amount of $70,000 without counting donations received on Thursday. 
 
The nonprofit center provides counseling, shelter, and legal advocacy for victims of domestic and sexual violence. It has offices in Pittsfield, North Adams, and Great Barrington and can be reached 24/7 by calling toll-free at 1-866-401-2425.
 
Some people marched individually while others marched in groups. 
 
Broderick said Berkshire County is not free from rape, sexual assault, and gender violence and noted that there have been six domestic violence murders in the last four years. She added that last year alone, the center helped 2,600 people from throughout the county. 
 
"Still we know that we are only scratching the surface … and these are community atrocities that need and deserve a community response," she said. "We are creating a movement right here in the Berkshires." 
 
Broderick noted that there is still much work to be done and said this is obvious by just turning on the news.
 
"Those horrifying excuses for rape that are said: 'boys will be boys,' 'uncontrollable male passion.' They are tired, they are old, and they don't work anymore," she said. "We are better than that."
 
Before the march started, Broderick said if awareness continues to grow and people continue to fight against sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment, the future will be a better one.
 
"We take collective action through partnership, so our response together is faster and better," she said. "We walk tonight because we want change. We walk tonight for a better today and a brighter and safer future for our children."

Tags: benefit walk,   domestic violence,   elizabeth freeman center,   North Street,   

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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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