To the Editor: On Thursday, the Stockbridge Select Board will hold hearings to determine whether annual entertainment licenses should be renewed for the Naumkeag Museum and the Berkshire Botanic Gardens. (âStockbridge nonprofits are vital community assets. Can they also be good neighbors?â Eagle, Dec. 6)
These organizations, although located in residential areas, have turned into entertainment destinations to the detriment of the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
The Annual Entertainment License is the centerpiece of a collection of licenses that have revolutionized our not-for-profit organizations. Of recent vintage, these licenses provide for catering, liquor sales, retail operations and large-scale public entertainment in residential areas. Their combined effect is to render obsolete the regulations essential to the preservation of the character of our residential areas. It is in fact nothing less than ad hoc zoning by permit.
Naumkeag was once just one of many private homes in a residential area. By special permit, it became a museum, a use in the same category as libraries, municipal buildings and daycare centers. All of these uses are quiet and low intensity. They don’t attract large crowds or create traffic problems. They carry out their activities mainly during daylight hours. They blend in perfectly with the life around them. Unlike today’s Naumkeag, the old, quiet museum and tranquil gardens have never demanded exemption from the laws that protect the peace of the neighborhoods.
Today’s Naumkeag, operating on a different plan, requires an annual entertainment license. This license is generally not associated with residential neighborhoods or cultural sites. Its main beneficiaries are clubs, taverns, cabarets, restaurants, balls, exhibitions and public shows. Apparently Naumkeag is now considered “a public spectacle”.
This year I see low budget traffic signs and traffic cones popping up on our street. Christmas Muzak can be heard on the street for hours during the day; at night, the lights and sounds of the shuttles intensify the commercial soundtrack. Our residential streets are gradually becoming service roads for the commercial enterprises that increasingly dominate our neighborhoods.
Referring to the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, a neighbor recently observed that once we were Bedford Falls, but now we are turning into Pottersville. Only bold action on the part of our Select Board can reverse this trend.
Tom LaBelle, Stockbridge