Berkshire updating development regs


A tractor pulls a wheel-harrow preparing the field for planting in East Berkshire. A possible update to zoning regulations in town would give the town tools for preserving its agricultural land.

BERKSHIRE – The Town of Berkshire is set to possibly update its zoning regulations, the culmination of a Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC)-assisted planning process initiated by a 2017 planning grant and underscored by a high-turnout meeting last April.

That planning process was, according to NRPC’s Taylor Newton, intended to revisit Berkshire’s zoning regulations for the first time in ten years.

In the decade since last updating their regulations, development in Berkshire had slowed to a pace unlikely to ever meet the buildout that initially informed zoning in the town.

The town was, however, still growing according to Newton, leading to capacity concerns at the Berkshire Elementary School also explored in the planning process.

A buildout study conducted as a piece of the planning process concluded that, while there was room in Berkshire’s village areas for some form of development, limitations to wastewater infrastructure made possible infill development a challenge.

That buildout study also suggested that Berkshire’s extant zoning laws “may not be compatible with maintaining the quality of forest and agricultural lands.”

While NRPC planners proposed the creation of a forest district to assist in preservation through limiting development, a hearing in April drew somewhere between 30 and 40 residents that ultimately opposed the formation of that district.

Another update to the regulations would be the addition of a conservation subdivision process, optional for the town’s rural district.

The proposal would allow developments to carve up a parent parcel with a minimum of 20 acres, “allowing the subdivision of smaller lots for future development and allowing the subdivision of larger lots that will be conserved in perpetuity for agricultural, forestry, or recreational use,” per an NRPC presentation.

Those subdivisions would require 60 percent of that lot to be conserved as either agricultural or natural land, while the rest would be permitted for some kind of development confined within two-acre minimum subdivisions.


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