Featured post

A Neighborhood In Danger

COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC PROHIBITED: MEGA-RESORT PERMITTED?COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC PROHIBITED: MEGA-RESORT PERMITTED?

A Denver-based real estate corporation named Amstar (aka Green Tea LLC, Travaasa Resorts or Front Yard LLC) is proposing to transform the Elm Court Estate into a major commercial resort with 112 rooms, a sixty-seat public restaurant and a 15,500 square foot spa that will also be open to the public. Together with the enormous four-story hotel Annex, this additional building complex more than doubles the square footage of an already very large existing mansion, bringing the total square footage to over 115,000 square feet!

The Old Stockbridge Road Neighborhood Association strongly opposes this huge project in our quiet residential neighborhood, and urges the Lenox Board of Selectmen to reject Amstar’s application for a special permit, since Stockbridge made a mockery of their own public hearing. Please note that everyone who lives in the neighborhood – full-time or part-time, year-round or seasonally, as an owner or as a tenant, in Stockbridge or Lenox – has the right to oppose this Special Permit.

EC

THE AMSTAR RESORT WOULD DOUBLE THE SIZE OF THIS MASSIVE EDIFACE WHILE DESTROYING THE CHARACTER OF THE EXISTING NEIGHBORHOOD

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why do you oppose this proposal?

We believe that a project of this scale, essentially the same size as the Cranwell Resort on Route 7, will  negatively impact our quiet residential neighborhood. The Amstar proposal represents one of the largest expansions of commercial use ever proposed in Berkshire County — on a narrow, hilly road, in a family-oriented established neighborhood. Bad for the Berkshires, bad for the two towns, and of course bad for the neighborhood. We also oppose the unwillingness of the applicant to share information critical to evaluating the public interest, and their repeated “bait & switch” changes in the definition of what they intend to do.

But hasn’t Amstar presented a traffic study that shows very little impact?

First, this sort of purely quantitative study, paid for by the applicant, is not appropriate for assessing changes in quality of life and in the residential character of our neighborhood.  Second, Old Stockbridge Road is not Route 7 or 7a. We are a narrow, hilly road with many houses quite close to the street. That means that even relatively small numbers of cars and trucks will have a very significant impact on our right to enjoy our own property in peace and quiet, in our residential zone.

exclusion

Why should we object since the Annex as proposed won’t be visible from Old Stockbridge Road?

That remains to be seen.  But we will definitely see hundreds and hundreds of guest and employee cars as well as delivery trucks and day visitors going in and out of Elm Court day and night.  During the day we’ll see and hear guests using the property.  At night we’ll see lights from 112 guest-rooms and music and noise from parties, banquets and weddings, together with endless headlights from cars arriving and departing Elm Court. Permitting a public restaurant and spa also sets a dangerous precedent, allowing more and more commercial enterprises on our scenic road, and others like it.

Yes, but if this does not go forward, won’t Elm Court become a ruin?

No. Their argument that we must accept this out-of-scale proposal or Elm Court will revert to how it was in 1999 is a scare tactic, and is absolutely false. There are many viable options for the sustainable use of the property that have not been explored, options that will be in keeping with the rest of our neighborhood.  In fact, we do support the preservation of the original mansion but not with a huge commercial Annex, which nearly doubles its size.  To argue that the only way to “save Elm Court” is to destroy the neighborhood is utter nonsense. The neighborhood is wide open to reasonable proposals; this huge mega-resort is not reasonable. We believe it is also illegal.

What do you mean by that?

According to the Bylaws, a special permit can only be approved if certain conditions are met, both within the general zoning bylaws, and within the special bylaw governing the former Berkshire “cottages”.  After consultation with leading land use experts and attorneys, we do not believe these conditions have been met. The bylaws are there to protect the community from inappropriate development schemes, such as the one proposed by Amstar. We will insist that the law be upheld.

What is your biggest worry?

We are particularly concerned with the detrimental impact on the established and future character of Old Stockbridge Road as a neighborhood for a diverse mix of year-round and seasonal residents. At the proposed scale, Elm Court threatens to destroy our quiet, family-friendly residential street. Will we become a “resort neighborhood”, as year-round families move elsewhere? We understand that they intend to transform Elm Court into a “wedding mill”; will these events be alcohol free? We doubt it. Families with young children will not move to a neighborhood with such a huge year-round party house right next door.

Do we really want even want more traffic on Old Stockbridge Road, including large numbers of trucks and delivery vehicles? Does Lenox truly think it is appropriate to have a business the size of Cranwell dropped by outside investors into the middle of an existing, long-established quiet residential neighborhood? Do we want a public restaurant, serving wine and liquor, located on a winding rural road, with its low lighting, and many hills? Do we want even more chaos at the difficult intersection by the monument? Do those who love Berkshire history think that it is appropriate that the existing Elm Court mansion will be used as a fig leaf for the 96-room “annex” that to us looks very similar to a franchise-style big-box hotel?

Aren’t you just being NIMBYs?

No. We would welcome a proposal that makes sense: for the neighborhood, for the towns of Lenox and Stockbridge, and for the Berkshires. Yet this proposal makes no planning sense whatsoever. There is no Master Plan, no Gateway Study, and no Green Belt evaluation that indicates that yes, this is a reasonable location for a major commercial development. How can we make a decision of this consequence without the necessary tools? Do we really want intensive commercial use at the heart of one of our most historic and scenic neighborhoods? What kind of precedent will this set for major commercial developments elsewhere in the Berkshires?

But isn’t this good for the economy?

No. Our economy depends on protecting the special historic and aesthetic qualities of Lenox and the Berkshires. If we turn beautiful, quiet and historic neighborhoods like Old Stockbridge Road into commercial thoroughfares, we are undermining the very foundation of our future. Further, there is substantial evidence that suggests we already have too much hotel capacity in the county. Will this mid-market franchise-style hotel be the final blow to our struggling B & Bs? Finally, most of the jobs created by this resort will be low-paying service jobs, not the sort of creative economy growth we are trying to attract, for long-term vitality and growth. In any event, it is impossible to know what economic impact the resort would have, since the applicant refuses to divulge any details about its business plan. We believe that this refusal raises serious questions about their commitment to the Berkshires, and to the local economy. They intend to make their money on the EXIT from this property, not in its sustainable operation.

Where do things stand right now?

The Board of Selectmen, in their role as the Special Permitting Granting Authority, gave permission to Front Yard LLC to proceed with their plans. We believe the process was extremely flawed, but the standard of proof for corruption essentially requires cancelled checks delivered from developers to officials, and such evidence we do not have. We presume the applicant will now move on to Lenox, where they also will require a separate special permit from the Lenox ZBA as well as a sewerage permit from the Lenox Board of Selectmen. We can only hope and trust that Lenox will subject the deeply flawed proposal to a higher standard of review, and think long term, beyond the quick fix of fees.

Note: Unfortunately, the Lenox ZBA approved the project. 

osrna1 OK, so what can I do to help?

Lenox residents: Let the Lenox Board of Selectmen know that traffic is already at a tipping point on Old Stockbridge Road, and that the road is already becoming unsafe for pedestrians, children and bicyclists. Let them know how much we all value our quiet neighborhood, and that an enormous commercial entity would have very negative impacts. They want to hear from you — in writing, or in the open comment session that begins each meeting.

Sign our petition, which is available at the Edmonds residence, at 316 Old Stockbridge Road, and now numbers close to one hundred signatures.

Talk to your neighbors, and carefully consider what this supersized resort will mean to all of us who have lived here for many years and even decades, and who love the special qualities of Old Stockbridge Road as a non-commercial residential scenic and historic road. Join our email list, and come to our meetings.

Call 637-2676 or email info(at)osrna.org. osrna3 “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”        – Margaret Mead

 

NOTE: After lengthy litigation by a number of abutters to Elm Court, the decision of the Lenox ZBA was upheld in MA Land Court. Many in the neighborhood remain strongly opposed to the project, which is the opposite of Smart Growth. It remains to be seen whether Amstar can secure financing for the project in an area where hotel capacity has expanded dramatically.

We offer the materials on this website as resources for other residential neighborhoods who may be similarly besieged by outsized and inappropriate commercial development, including the Stockbridge neighborhood  surrounding the proposed DeSisto resort.

As We Predicted

From the recent edition of “Travel Weekly”:

Miraval Group has acquired the Travaasa Austin Resort from Amstar Group and will spend the next two years expanding and redeveloping the 220-acre property into what will become the Miraval Austin.

Miraval will increase the hotel’s room count to 120 from 70, expand the property’s main restaurant and more the double the spa space. Miraval plans to finish the redevelopment in January 2019.

Miraval, which operates its eponymous resort in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this year took over spa operations at Southern California’s Monarch Beach Resort as part of its expansion plans for its Life in Balance Spa brand. Miraval also said this year that it will redevelop the Cranwell Resort in western Massachusetts.

As opponents of the Dumb Growth project to “save” a rotting Gilded Age mansion by building a massive new big box franchise-style hotel have stated from the start: Amstar, the Otto Happel family office real estate portfolio, is not in the hospitality business.

Amstar buys and sells commercial properties. Most of their total return is generated in the exit strategy, also known as “the grave”. Main investor Otto Happel may eventually decide to exit the “Travaasa wellness” brand entirely; then what happens with Elm Court?

In our opinion, bamboozled by unrealistic promises of tax revenues, boards in the towns of Stockbridge and Lenox failed to grasp what was behind the bizarre idea of using a derelict mansion as a fig leaf for a Courtyard By Mariott or Hilton Gardens, or whatever is at the end of the exit ramp when Amstar dumps the property. Let us hope that Amstar investor Otto Happel has a closer look at the project and concludes that building a project in a neighborhood overwhelmingly opposed to the idea is just plain bad business.

The purchaser of the Travaasa “flagship” in Austin, Miraval, recently purchased the nearby Cranwell resort, slated for significant expansion during 2017. With massive development also proposed for the former Desisto property across the town boundary in Stockbridge, we ask once again: how is any of this sustainable? Dumb Growth compounds to absurdity and then inevitably collapses.

 

 

Due Diligence?

Anyone who has been involved in the ongoing struggle to prevent a monstrous big-box style franchise-ready motel — not unlike the one that now looms over Route 7 north of Lenox — from being dropped into the middle of a historic, residential neighborhood, will remember the spectacle of a red-faced Amstar CEO Gabe Finke lecturing and chastising  the “little people” gathered inside the Stockbridge Town Hall.

finke

HOW DARE YOU GET IN MY WAY

Having heard Finke express Amstar’s long-term commitment to the well-being of the town and for the careful restoration of Elm Court, grandly throwing in an offer to pay for a controversial, unwanted and unnecessary sidewalk that would forever change the character of the road and the neighborhood, the curious reader might ask: where is Gabe Finke now? For that matter, where is Amstar?

Amstar Group, the real estate fund that owns the Travaasa brand, represents one part of the global real estate holdings of German billionaire industrialist Otto Happel, with a family office based in Lucerne, Switzerland. Finke once worked for Happel, but roughly a year ago the boss apparently had enough. Who knows what the distinguished Mr. Happel made of the Elm Court acquisition and the absurd plan to hatch a luxury resort in the middle of a neighborhood overwhelmingly opposed; what we do know is that Finke was shown the door in a split described in the business press as a “messy divorce”, with Amstar Advisors (Finke still at the helm) parting company with Amstar Group.

A year later, even the name is gone: Finke re-incorporating as Ascentris. We note the complete absence of any holdings in the hospitality industry in the revamped Ascentris portfolio. In any event, Finke, the man who hoodwinked a naive Stockbridge Select Board, is long gone from the Elm Court scene. So much for long-term commitments!

ascentsis

WHICH SHELL HIDES THE PEA?

 

None of the town boards reviewing the proposal seemed at all concerned that Amstar Group lacks a track record in the hospitality industry; by industry standards the Travaasa “brand” is both too small (a mere two resorts in operation) and too young to have been adequately tested by market cycles. In any event, Amstar Group is not in the hospitality business. They are in the “cradle to grave” portfolio flipping business.

We predict that such lack of basic due diligence regarding the private partner in this high-impact and dumb-growth project will come to haunt both towns with a long list of unintended consequences. If the monstrous thing is ever built. Maybe the honorable Mr. Happel will finally have a closer look at where his money is being spent, grasp the fundamental unsustainability of the idea, and pull the plug.

Occupy Elm Court

Lenox-ZBA-470x353

From our perspective, the public review of the Front Yard/Amstar proposal for Elm Court represents a Berkshires variation on a “too big to fail” bail-out, strikingly similar to the sorts of public bail-outs of fraudulent corporate activities during the financial crisis of 2008-2009, bail-outs that precipitated the Occupy movement.

In the case of Elm Court, a wealthy family (Vanderbilt-Wilde-Berle) has allowed their sprawling mega-mansion to decay, and then has effectively transferred the cost of the repair to the public, by selling the derelict property to a corporate “partner” who will dump a four-story spa hotel into the heart of our densely settled residential neighborhood, all in the name of “saving” Elm Court.

We are disappointed that our local boards appear to be playing along with this toxic bail-out, without giving serious, detailed consideration to the carefully researched and wide-ranging objections submitted by the neighborhood.

Elm Court is not the only history worth preserving. Our neighborhood, including other former Gilded Age properties such as Bishop Estate and Winden Hill, has its own strong, vital history worthy of respect and preservation. Instead, we now face a future of digital speed signs, road-widenings and other so-called traffic calming measures that will forever change one of the most distinctive and appealing roads in the Berkshires. Over the long run, this will be seen as a profound loss to the town, and to the Berkshires.

Why has everyone — from Selectmen to town staff — so passively lined up behind such a preposterous scheme, without exploring more sustainable and more reasonable alternative uses? Why is the disrepair of a private property, once owned by one of the wealthiest families in United States history, a matter of public interest? Is there some deeply entrenched pattern of obedience to the Lord of the Manor in play here?

From the start of this long process, the applicant has refused to budge on the core issues of massive scale and high intensity of use. We hope that the Lenox ZBA will listen carefully to the depth and seriousness of our concerns, and impose strict conditions on the special permit, introducing a measure of moderation and balance to Front Yard LLC’s monolithic proposal.

Without such moderation and restraint, Front Yard can be  sure that the neighborhood will be openly hostile to their wretched big-box “Travaasa” spa-hotel for many years to come. Further, the town of Lenox will have alienated an entire neighborhood by selling us out to a shadowy real estate “fund” who successfully played rope-a-dope with town boards, slipping through review with major aspects of their plans left undisclosed and undiscussed.

The problem with such actions? Public trust and good will are currencies you can only spend once. Once they are gone, they are likely gone for a long time.

Neither Restored Nor Preserved

SAVE THE MANSION AND DESTROY THE NEIGHBORHOOD?

SAVE THE MANSION AND DESTROY THE NEIGHBORHOOD?

Architectural historian Carole Owens has written an excellent essay for the Berkshire Edge. Her analysis of the relationship between the “cottagers” and the Berkshire economy is well worth reading in its entirety. We excerpt only the concluding paragraphs below:

Another big change is that today corporations not individuals are developing properties. The difference in density and land use is significant. Elm Court is an example. Instead of a single family residence (however grand), the developers propose 112 bedrooms, a 60 seat restaurant, and a spa. The original house is 53,538 square feet and the addition is over 52,000 square feet for a total over 105,500 square feet. The developers project 100 jobs on the site. Elm Court sits on 90 acres, and next, without undue legal machinations, the developers could build homes or town homes on the massive acreage as they did at Wyndhurst and Erskine Park. If they did, the concentration of commercial and residential square footage and people on that site, in that corner of Stockbridge, would be greater than on Main Street Stockbridge. Developers could create the new town of Stockbridge next door to the old: hard to overestimate the impact.

Is the impact negative or positive? The arguments made in the affirmative were that the project would create jobs and save an architectural gem. However, jobs in the Berkshire hospitality industry are most often lower-paid and seasonal. And it is hard to argue that the plan for Elm Court is preservation. The proposed addition is a change in size and style so significant that is cannot be identified as a model of preservation or even a restoration.

Will corporate development help or harm the Berkshires? In the absence of hard facts, an argument could be made either way. However, we already know two things: corporate development is distinctly different from a return of the Cottagers, and second, the Stockbridge Select Board made a mistake approving the Elm Court plan.

It was an error for three reasons: first the citizenry opposed it; second the fundamental nature of Berkshire County is to be sparsely populated and the fundamental nature of corporate development is to propose density, and third Elm Court established a frightening precedent for how the remaining cottages in Stockbridge can be used.

Round Two

As reported by the Berkshire Eagle, Front Yard LLC recently submitted its application for a Special Permit to the Lenox Zoning Board of Appeals. The Lenox Zoning Bylaw identifies conditions for approval that are strikingly similar to the Stockbridge criteria, though they were largely  ignored or trivialized by the Stockbridge Selectmen.

Those six specific areas of concern are highlighted below, in bold. We trust that the Lenox ZBA, with input from the Planning Board, and from truly independent consultants, will carefully consider the long list of questions that went unanswered in Stockbridge.

1. Community needs served by the proposal.

Has the applicant persuasively demonstrated the need for yet another spa resort in our community? What market analysis and demographic projections have they submitted to substantiate the need for this resort? What is their business model, and how does it compare to other large resorts such as the recently permitted Spring Lawn development? What impact will this massive development have on our B & Bs and existing inns and resorts?

As for claims of new jobs: have they submitted detailed information as to the wage and salary structure of their proposed staff? Will these wages and salaries permit employees to actually live in Lenox, with their children attending Lenox schools?

Does this proposal meet the statewide criteria for “Smart Growth”? The answer to that would be an obvious “NO”, in stark contrast to the Spring Lawn development, which does in fact meet most of those criteria. Numerous young (21 and under) Berkshire residents stated during the Stockbridge “hearing” that their vision of the future Berkshire economy centers on local food production, small creative businesses and sustainable enterprises, NOT on franchise-style resorts such as the proposed big-box annex at Elm Court. Such testimony fell on deaf ears. While many will pay lip service to the “needs of Berkshire young people”, very few ever listen to what they have to say.

We urge everyone within the process to keep in mind that the parent company Amstar is not in the resort or hospitality business; they make their money on the exit from properties. There is no guarantee that the “Travaasa” brand will be around in five years from now, let alone a generation or two. What happens when they flip the property to Hilton, who then flips to Holiday Inn, and onwards down the food chain?

2. Traffic flow and safety, including parking and loading.

The materials submitted by the applicant are restricted to idiotic “level of service” traffic studies, using a methodology that is truly in the dark ages of pseudo-science. Our position from the start has been that this methodology may be fine for evaluating whether to put another Dunkin’ Donuts in downtown Pittsfield, but is wholly irrelevant to evaluating the impact of dropping a 112 room mega-resort into an historic, residential neighborhood. Our concerns center around safety, having to do with the road topography and alignment characteristics, as well as with speeding and other driving behaviors that suggest that adding a major new category of traffic will end in tragedy.

Beyond those “big picture” concerns: how will staff be trained to arrive and depart work? How will large commercial service vehicles be routed, to mitigate safety and noise concerns in the neighborhood? How will guests be directed to arrive to the resort?

Much has been written about the idea of a sidewalk; it should be clear that while there are some neighborhood residents who favor a sidewalk, there are many others who believe that such an “amenity” will further destroy the character of our neighborhood. Surely, such a major project can only be pursued on the basis of solid consensus. At present, there is no such consensus – far from it!

3. Adequacy of utilities and other public services.

We are aware that there is adequate capacity at present to serve the water and waste needs of the proposed development. However, large projects inevitably carry unforeseen consequences, and thus it is prudent to make sure that the town is protected should the sewage hit the proverbial fan in the future. To build new town infrastructure just because because a single corporate land owner promises to pay for it (short term) represents a terrible way to conduct local planning. It’s the sort of impulsive money-grabbing that invariably creates major headaches down the road.

4. Neighborhood character and social structures.

The most respected neighborhood character expert in New England expressed dismay that such a massive project would ever be considered in a low-key, family oriented neighborhood such as Old Stockbridge Road. His detailed report is available here, and summarized here. For a general description of existing neighborhood character from the point of view of those who live here, see this post.

There is a persistent rumor that the applicant intends to market the Elm Court facility as a regional Wedding Mill, with multiple weddings scheduled every day of the wedding season. Such intensive use (particularly on weekends) would have massive impacts on the ability of residents to enjoy their properties in peace and quiet, as well as raising serious safety concerns of alcohol use and driving on our hilly, winding road. Reasonable limits must be placed on the hosting of weddings and other such events, e.g. one per weekend.

Similarly, the restaurant should not be open to the public; does the town of Lenox truly suffer from a dearth of restaurant options? We think not.

5. Impacts on the natural environment.

Much has been said about how this proposal protects “open space”; yet there is presently no guarantee that this is not merely Phase A of a far more intensive development yet to come in Phase B and Phase C, via townhouses, condos, mansion “units” and other amenities such as tennis courts, stables, etc. Will the applicant agree to placing a Conservation Restriction on the rest of the property, held by the Lenox Land Trust, or by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council?

6. Potential economic and fiscal impact to the Town, including impact on town services, tax base, and employment.

We do not know what the impact will be; and in the absence of a professional, independent study and analysis based on hard data from the hospitality industry, neither does anybody else. It is easy to say that “all development is positive”, but what happens if, over the long term, as this resort slides down the hospitality industry food chain, the value of adjacent properties (most of which are in Lenox) depreciates by 30%, or even 50%? What happens to the tax base then? Or: what happens if this resort is the final blow to our B & Bs, most of which are already struggling to sustain themselves? Lenox could well end up with a net fiscal loss to the Town, a loss that will make any short-term fee revenues appear like fool’s gold.

———-

Following the one-sided and unfair process that unfolded in Stockbridge, we trust that the Lenox Planning Board and ZBA will consider all issues objectively, with particular attention to the legitimate and deeply held concerns of abutters and other directly impacted neighbors and longstanding town citizens, concerns that were summarily dismissed during the sham process in Stockbridge.

We urge that Town Manager Chris Ketchen, Town Planner Gwen Miller and members of both the Planning Board and ZBA walk (not just drive) down Old Stockbridge Road, and get a sense for the neighborhood and the character of the road, from ground level. We extended this same invitation to the Stockbridge Selectmen, though it seems they were only willing to attend tea & champagne parties at Elm Court.

A Very Bad Fit

Among the many materials ignored by the Stockbridge Board of Selectmen during their kangaroo hearing, there was a report researched and submitted by a nationally recognized expert on neighborhood character, Dr. John Mullin.  He writes:

There is no definition of the neighborhood in the submitted material. Concerning the physical characteristics, it is a long settled and established neighborhood, marked by the gentle curves and slopes of a narrow scenic road, without the need of sidewalks. It is a place of multigenerational families, committed to place and community, who enjoy the seasons and the natural environment. Their homes can be characterized by steady reinvestment with a significant number relying on their own water and sewer systems. I would ask the applicant to compare these traits with their proposal to determine the degree of compatibility between the neighborhood and the project. It would appear that they are not.

Dr. Mullin then includes an excellent chart that compares the values and qualities of the neighborhood to the values and qualities of the proposed resort. This chart clearly demonstrates that dropping a corporate mega-resort into an established residential neighborhood is a very bad fit.

chart

Did the Stockbridge board of Selectmen consider these excellent points? Of course not, since their minds had already been made up, many months before. They smelled money, and figured there was no downside to a project where the revenues would accrue to Stockbridge at the expense of a neighborhood that was located for the most part in Lenox. People in the neighborhood were belittled, bullied and ignored.

So will the various Lenox boards pay closer attention to the expertise and analysis of Dr. Mullin? We hope so, but it seems that many towns don’t care anymore about neighborhoods or families: corporations, and their interests, rule the roost. Unfortunately for our towns, such a large and ill-considered scheme is likely to carry very substantial unintended consequences, and the smell of money may quickly turn into a far less welcome stench.

We urge Lenox board members to exercise maximum due diligence and to pay close attention to every aspect of this project, above all, input from the people who actually live here.

The Telling Detail

Sometimes, the deeper meaning of a long story finds expression in a single document. So it is with recent minutes of the Stockbridge Board of Selectmen, that offer readers a sad chronicle of naive boosterism and derogation of due process. Here is a snippet from those minutes early in the process of “reviewing” (read: shamelessly promoting) the Amstar proposal for Elm Court:

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 1.23.49 PM

Chuck is Selectman Charles Gillette; Chris is Chris Manning, one of the former presidents of the revolving door real estate operation that carries the pseudo-Sanskrit brand name “Travaasa”. The snippet speaks for itself, but here’s the neighborhood response to Mr. Gillette, Mr. Manning and to Travaasa president-du-jour Adam Hawthorn: that “little elderly lady” has a name, and a life, and a residency on Old Stockbridge Road that spans five decades. She deserves to be treated with respect, not dismissed as powerless, and thus considered irrelevant. Rather than caution Mr. Manning for his arrogant statement, Mr. Gillette merely wonders if the fact that “she is in Lenox” may become a problem. So much for the ideals of public service!

The Stockbridge minutes are full of telling vignettes such as this one; we recommend them to all Stockbridge voters. Is this who you are, the sort of town you wish to be? Do such “leaders” truly represent the best and brightest of Stockbridge and the Berkshires?