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BRPC Eliminates Community Assessment Increases

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission accepted an amended budget Thursday with no increases to community assessments.
The Committee voted to rescind the assessment increases to member communities in response to the financial impacts COVID-19 will surely have throughout Berkshire County.
"The situation has changed dramatically since January and understanding the fiscal challenges that our communities are going to be facing over the next year and possibly longer," BRPC Executive Director Thomas Matuszko said. "It is a recommendation to roll back that increase."
Originally in January, the commission voted to implement a 2.5 percent increase to all member communities but earlier this month agreed it may be better to keep the assessment level funded.
Matuszko said this amount may be small, around $2,600 and is more symbolic.
"I think it is an important symbol to our communities to show that we recognize their plight," he said. 
The committee then accepted the full fiscal 2021 budget of $3,434,072. Matuszko said the budget is actually $574,564 higher than fiscal 2020. This is primarily because of several new grants for Education, Public Health and Environmental programs.
Toward the end of the meeting, the committee took some time to talk about the impacts of COVID-19 and Matuszko asked if any of the communities were considering new zoning that would expand outdoor dining and shopping.
"It seems that the social distancing requirements might be with us over the summer," Matuszko said. "Something that might allow for greater flexibility for outdoor dining."
Sheila Irvin, the Pittsfield representative, said the city is considering such changes. She said other communities have found ways to use public space for dining.
Pedro Panchano, the Great Barrington representative, said his town has had early conversations about closing down roads to vehicles and allowing open markets that would allow social distancing. 
James Sullivan, the Hinsdale representative, said he was hesitant to change town or city codes until there is more information on the virus. 
"Making changes to the zoning bylaws and having to go back and change them again later would be redundant to begin with," he said. "We are 4 1/2 months into this and are literally talking about restructuring everything we do."
He reiterated that the virus was not permanent and noted there is not a one size fits all zoning change that would help all communities and businesses.
Commissioner Roger Bolton said these changes could be temporary and they did not have to try to push full on zoning changes. 
Commissioner Malcolm Fick added that he did not see a zoning change as restrictive but something that could help restaurants and businesses recover and cope with social distancing requirements.
"Every town is suffering a lot and if we can do something small to help businesses that are suffering it is a worthwhile endeavor," he said. " What we can do to help small businesses now is vital."
Chairman Kyle Hanlon agreed and said restaurants specifically are going to "take it on the chin" this summer and it may be helpful if planners could find a way for them to capture more revenue through this next short term period. 
John Duval of Adams said it also may help build consumer confidence if communities can find ways to alter zoning to allow people to visit establishments while maintaining social distancing.
"It is a matter of confidence," Duval said. "They can be open, they can be clean, and have all of the social distancing but if people don't have the confidence to go out and visit these restaurants or stores ... we need to get people confident to help them in the short term."
In other business, the commission approved the Berkshire County Metropolitan Planning Organization draft Transportation Improvement Program that ranges from fiscal years 2021 to 2025.  
Anuja Koirala, senior transportation planner, went through the plan and requested that the chair vote for the plan at the upcoming MPO meeting. 
A comprehensive view of the plan can be found here in the meeting documents.
The commission also accepted the proposed Transportation Unified Planning Work Program for fiscal 2021 and some changes to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program Regulations
Both of these can be found in the meeting documents.

Tags: BRPC,   fiscal 2021,   

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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: July 10-16


Welcome to Cultural Pittsfield's weekly guide featuring in-person and virtual classes and events, information, and more. If you are a Pittsfield business and would like your event listed, please email us at Thank you and be well!
TONIGHT - Thursday, July 9 at 7 p.m.: Berkshire OLLI at BCC presents An Online Conversation with Jim Acosta. The Chief White House Correspondent for CNN will discuss "The Enemy of the People: One Year, One Impeachment, and One Pandemic Later," co-sponsored by Berkshire Gas and The Berkshire Eagle.

NEW DATE! Pittsfield's first everDrive.Walk.Bike City Art Show will take place on Friday, July 10 from 4-8 p.m. Artists will be displaying their paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, fashions, sidewalk art, videos, and more on their porches, trees, lawns, and driveways, in their garages, or projected onto their homesView the list of participants and locations here!
Berkshire Theatre Group presents a virtual benefit performance live from Florence, Italy. Hershey Felder stars in Beethoven: A Play with Music on Sunday, July 12 at 8 p.m. 
Dramatizing Gerhard von Breuning's memoir, "Aus dem Schwarzspanierhaus," Felder brings Ludwig van Beethoven to life through the eyes of the Viennese doctor who spent his boyhood by the Maestro's side. Featuring some of the composer's greatest works, Felder's Beethoven is an intense, illuminating journey. 
Berkshire Artist Profiles NEW Jacob's Pillow Virtual Festival Learn from Home w/Berkshire Theatre Group | Classes w/Berkshire Music School Classes w/Berkshire Fitness & Wellness Center | Classes w/IS183 Art School | Painting Tutorials w/Berkshire Paint & Sip | Virtual Barrington Stage Classes w/Radiance Yoga | Classes w/Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness Classes w/Antil Fitness | Email for Online Drumming Classes | ONGOING Online Classes w/Berkshire OLLI | FRI 1Berkshire Town Hall: Reopening the Economy, Phase 3 | FRI DLE Virtual Culture Chat | MON WordXWord: Dancing in the Street Virtual Poetry Slam | WED I Now Pronounce You Lucy Stone Live Stream | WED 1Berkshire Virtual Team Trivia | THU Live Storytelling w/BCC Alums

Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness is now offering its Radiant Child Yoga class at Brattle Farm. Kids of all ages are invited to join instructor Julie Pellerin-Herrera on Fridays, July 10, July 31, Aug. 7 and Aug. 21 from 10:15-11 a.m. Pre-registration is required as class space is limited. $15/class.
Berkshire Theatre Group presents Sunset Cinema, outdoor film screenings at Taconic High School. Drive up and enjoy family-friendly movies in the comfort and safety of your vehicle ($25/car). A food truck will be on site offering concessions! Friday, July 10: Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical. Saturday, July 11: The Wiz Live! Thursday, July 16: Jurassic Park.Friday, July 17: The Iron GiantSaturday, July 18: Coco.

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