NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Some 40 people showed up tonight at a North Adams church for a two-hour planning workshop -- the first of three countywide staged by the Berkshire County Regional Planning Commission. It's part of a three-year process to develop a new master plan for the county, which hasn't had one done in 10 years.
The "Sustainable Berkshires" public work session organized by Berkshire County Regional Planning Commission (BCRPC) was held July 6, North Adams. The met at All Saints Church, where the fellowship hall was filled with 40 people at five tables with scratch pads on each table. They were surrounded by 25 color posters illustrating planning topics and data.
Amy Kacala (pictured, above, right) opened the evening. She works for BCRPC and explains that the three-year planning grant they got was one of only 25 granted nationwide for sustainability planning. The sustainability focus means expand to include new topics like greenhouse gas, reductions and climate change, renewable energy, waste reduction, water conservation/protection, green building and site design, social equity, local food production etc.
"I’m very pleased we have full chairs today," said Kacala. "This is a visioning workshop," she added. The key question for the night she posted: What is your vision of Berkshire County for 2030?"
For first 30 minutes participants looked at charts, then Kacala gave a slide-deck overview of trends: now tables are discussing and logging. Among topics the five tables are writing on their scratch pads about are: economy/biz, arts/culture, historic resources, open space/recreation, agriculture/local food, health/wellness, social service.
Among key trends:
- Economy in transition -- between years 2000 and 2008 there was a 22-percent decline in manufacturing jobs in the county. What's left is imebalanced, but two emerging clusters are around the creative economy and local agriculture.
- Aging demographic base creates issues around housing options, health-care access and affordability, age-appropriate recreational activities and job-succession planning.
- Land use.Population was 149,402 in 1970 down to 131,219 in 2010. In the last decade, the county lost 3,374 people -- but gaind 2,200 housing units. The cities and larger towns lost population; the smaller towns gained.
- Land use –- population lost from large and mid-sized towns, gained most in smallest towns. Population has gone from 149,402 in 1970 to 131,219 in 2010. Between 200 and 2010 county population declined by 3,3734 people but county gained 2,2707 new housing units.
- Housing quality and affordability. the median home sale price in the county is up to $264,000; the median total household income is $119,000. North Adams demolished 59 structures representing 217 residential units over a decade.
Here are some trends Kacala identified as worth planning for:
- What will broadband expansion mean for the region?
- How can we plan for climate change?
- What are the pontential impacts of passenger rail service from NYC to the region?
- How secure is the region agaisn escalating energy costs?
Kacala in response to question from Bill Densmore says information ecosystem effectiveness will be considered next year. Densmore, who describes himself as a “future and sustainability of journalism researcher” urges a community-information ecosystem assessment, since social and news communication are vital to democracy.
Session ends at 9:02 p.m.