PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has submitted a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau opposing several proposed criteria changes for urban areas.
BRPC's Executive Committee unanimously approved the document on Thursday, which includes concerns for proposals that will eliminate Great Barrington and Lee/Lenox as urban clusters and reclassify the urban area of Pittsfield.
Out of the six critiques, two were positive.
"We have concerns regarding several of the criteria," the letter reads. "Berkshire County, located in western Massachusetts, currently has one urban area and three urban clusters. Based upon our analysis of the new criteria using 2010 data, the new criteria will result in the region reduced to two urban areas of less than 50,000."
An urbanized area is a densely populated area that is defined by advanced geographic information systems (GIS) modeling. The Berkshire's current urbanized area is most of Pittsfield and Dalton, little bits of Hinsdale, Lenox, Richmond, and Lanesborough, a corridor that goes through Cheshire, and most of Adams. This is usually called the Pittsfield Metro Area.
BRPC opposes the minimum qualification for urban areas being increased from 2,500 people to 10,000 people or 4,000 housing units because it will eliminate two urban areas from the region: Great Barrington Urban Cluster and the Lee/Lenox Urban Cluster.
Both areas are urban with "thriving downtowns and dense residential development," members said.
This proposed change concerns the commission because the areas have large seasonal populations that push them over the 10,000 people limit and also have seen an influx of migration due to COVID-19 and so-called "climate refugees."
The proposed Census change will reportedly result in 29 miles of roads throughout four communities no longer being eligible for federal aid and cause a significant financial impact on the communities.
"I appreciated the comment about Great Barrington and Lee/Lenox cluster and I'm thinking that these kinds of clusters are probably pretty common in New England, and also in areas of the Midwest and the South," member Roger Bolton said. "So I wouldn't be surprised if the sentiments expressed in your letter are one of many, many letters from regional planning agencies and local government officials that the Census Bureau will get, that's my sense."
The proposed decrease will reduce the current metro areas of Pittsfield from 59,211 people to 45,555 people by eliminating Adams and Cheshire. BRPC "strongly opposes" this because the single change will reportedly cost the region over $2.4 million a year in direct funds from federal agencies because of the reclassification of the Pittsfield Urban Area from an area with greater than 50,000 people to an area with less than 50,000 people.
In addition, the commission opposed the exclusion of low-density territory located within indentations and low-density hop or jump "corridors" in urban areas. Excluding these corridors would allegedly result in one large urban area and more than 30 small urban islands for the Pittsfield Urban area.
"BRPC believes urban areas should be contiguous areas and not a core with multiple islands," the agency wrote.
"This change seems to be a purely statistical change and not based on how an area is used or considered by its residents."
On the other hand, BRPC supports the proposed switch to a housing unit density threshold for qualification of census blocks from a population basis. This may benefit the county because it has a lower population per household than the nation.
It also supports the change to stop differentiating types of urban areas.
The commission began drafting these comments in March for the May 20 due date. The Census Bureau in February put out a notice outlining the proposed criteria for defining urban areas based on the results of the 2020 Decennial Census with a request for public comment on the proposed criteria.
Data from the 2020 Census will be coming out in late September or early October and the new version of the "urbanized" Berkshire County will be released in the winter.
The Census Bureau defines urban areas after each decennial census by applying specified criteria to the Census and other data. Since the 1950 Census, the bureau has reviewed and revised the criteria as necessary to improve the classification of urban areas by taking advantage of newly available data and advancements in geographic information processing technology.
Following this meeting, the BRPC Finance Committee reviewed the fiscal 2022 proposed budget of $4,493,869. This is $1,059,797 higher than the FY21 budget, which is primarily due to several new grants for economic development, education, and public health programs.
The Finance Committee made a positive recommendation on the budget but made no amendments. The full commission will act on the budget on May 20.
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — On Tuesday June 29, Big Y will hold their first ever company wide "monstrous hiring" event at over 75 locations across Massachusetts and Connecticut.
According to a press release, Big Y are simplifying their application process. Every store plus the distribution center will hold interviews and hiring managers will be able to make on-the-spot job offers on June 28 from 3-8 PM
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Currently, there are openings at all Big Y supermarkets, Big Y Gas and Convenience Stores, Table & Vine Fine Wines and Spirits, and Big Y's Fresh and Local Distribution Center.
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Pittsfield's Emmanuel Nda broke a meet record and helped the Generals break into the top 10 at Saturday's Central/Western Massachusetts Division 1 Championships at Westfield State University. click for more