Home > Uncategorized > Implementers Meta-Plan

Implementers Meta-Plan

December 21st, 2015

Implementers Meta-Plan (IMP)

It’s an IMP-ish impusle I have to see (create, collect) the information and plans which speak to implementation and impetus for improving life in our area.   I’ve wanted this ever since getting very frustrated on the committee formed in 2005 to write a “Master Plan” for the town. (Which Plan is still not written by 2015.) So many things were wrong with the format and method of that Master Plan process.  The process impetus did not arise from the town, but from the Regional Planning Agency (PVPC) recruiting the town as its client so that it could fund its staff through available state grant programs for writing Master Plans.  The 7 topics for the plan were dictated by state policy, not a reflection of what the town felt was most important to discuss.  There was no topic of “Finances” despite the fact that budget factors impact all town planning and implementation, and are such a very important piece to any plan.

The Master Plan survey to collect local input was made of questions slanted by their creators (PVPC and a handful of the Master Plan Committee), then rendered as meaningless statistics. The questions were open to different interpretation about the details meant by respondents. For example, a question about whether people value protecting the environment will get 90+ percent agreement that people value that. But if the Planning Board then interprets the details of that to mean writing more regulations restricting what people can do on their own property, the board will find only 10+ percent agreement.  Instead of a process that gathered participation as it went, it left people feeling burnt-out, disenfranchised and ignored –even many on the 13 member committee, which suffered a drastic attrition rate. 

A new ‘Plan’ from the grassroots up:

The Town of Middlefield –Population only about 500 –is so small that telling its story in faceless statistics becomes ridiculous.  Four people might be in the over 85 demographic, so if 1 moves away, that becomes a change of 25%, which is a meaningless statistic. But we might learn from the details of the story behind that move.  So let the Town’s story be told in the details of individual lives and choices.  Tell your tale, your take, on what impetus shapes your plans; what improvements you envision; what survey questions you would ask of your neighbors; and what answers you’d give about what matters to the improvement of your life/ town/ region.

The tale of my house –the house the Hobarts built –reveals things about the larger backdrop of real estate market bubbles and bust, and the impact of allowing business uses.  #48 Chester Road was built in the late 1980s, when banks went from appraising high and lending like crazy until a huge number of them died in the ‘savings & loan crisis’.  The Reagan years approach of making the middle-class feel rich by lending on the increased value of homes led to a boom in house building that accelerated through the 80s. The Hobart brothers, carpenters and builders raised in Middlefield, tried to cash in on their skills and this real estate boom by building a house on spec. At the time, no house in town had a tax valuation over $200,000, but the costs of building #48 soared on the wings of bubble-fueled factors, and eventually exceeded $250,000. 

In 1991, when we were searching for a home to buy, #48 was an over-priced white-elephant owned by a creditor –an ex-brother-in-law to the Hobarts.  His estimate of real estate value was skewed by the South County Berkshires location he was used to, and did not apply to Middlefield’s location, which is isolated from amenities.  The house had been in the process of being built, and then sitting for sale, for 3 years. The reasons we were finally able to buy it were: the Seller sold at a loss, and offered owner-financing; and the Town answered that running a mail order business from a house in the Agricultural-Residential District was fine – there were already two other mail order businesses in town, operating without a problem.  If the property could serve both as residence and livelihood, then it made a workable, sustainable situation.  Our dream was to live in the countryside without a long commute for our livelihood.  Had Middlefield said that home-based livelihoods were not allowed, we would never have moved to Middlefield.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
Comments are closed.