Editorial: Proposed housing developments can create angst in sleepy towns

Monday, January 08, 2018

Here are some brief thoughts on some of the events making news from around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area:

Franklin County isn’t exactly a subdivision boomtown, so it’s always intriguing, if not a bit scary, when people see a development sprouting. The 70-home condominium project for seniors at the foot of Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield is one example.

Most recently, in tiny Hawley, Berkshire East Mountain Resort is contemplating a cluster development subdivision of up to 30 houses. This idea was first floated about 40 years ago but never built on the roughly 76-acre parcel near the outdoor recreation area. Hawley is certainly a beautiful place to live and like adjacent Charlemont, has become an attractive location for anyone who likes active outdoor recreation — summer or winter.

Hobby Lobby, the latest

Athol’s North Quabbin Commons seems to have reached enough critical mass to continue attracting commercial development. Recently, the state’s third Hobby Lobby store held its grand opening there.

The 55,000-square-foot arts and crafts store at 223 Reservoir Drive has joined several popular retailers like Starbucks, a Marshalls and the anchor Market Basket supermarket. Workers Credit Union, Wendy’s and Tully Family Medicine opened their doors in the past four months also.

Athol Town Manager Shaun A. Suhoski thinks North Quabbin Commons will continue to have a positive ripple effect across the region, and we hope he’s right.

Here’s how he sees it: “Taken together with Athol’s ongoing and substantial investment in education and cultural facilities — through a new elementary school, major expansion of the public library and planned improvements at the high school — the housing market should continue to blossom by offering affordable options to families that commute east toward the metro Boston area.”

Happy Birthday, Gill

As 2018 unfolds, we will be joining the town of Gill in celebrating its 225th birthday. Last week, a town singalong brought out townspeople for one of a series of events planned throughout the year.

Other events scheduled so far include a contra dance, a puzzle swap, community skating and a summertime pig roast.

The Greenfield Recorder’s progenitor newspaper was a year old when Gill was incorporated in 1793. We’re both still around, and we hope to chronicle Gill’s anniversary.

Starry Night standout

More than a dozen performers were featured this year at the 22nd annual Starry Starry Night, Orange’s traditional New Year’s Eve celebration. Deep freeze temperatures Sunday night didn’t stop local residents from coming out to see the performers, the ice sculptures in Memorial Park, the Parade of Stars or the late-night fireworks.

The event has been a regional favorite since its inception.

According to Orange resident Ann Miller, one of the original volunteers, organizers with the Orange Revitalization Partnership wanted “something for the North Quabbin area” so people didn’t have to travel to First Night Northampton, or to Boston.

“We wanted to have a First Night sort of thing of our own,” Miller said. “It’s a way of really putting Orange on the map.”

Mission accomplished.

Under budget

What a happy counterpoint to the Greenfield Middle School reconstruction fiscal fiasco.

The approximately $60-million Greenfield High School replacement project wound up last year with $1.6 million unspent and returned to taxpayers.

Outgoing School Committee Chairman Tim Farrell, who has served in Greenfield politics for about 19 years, including as Town Council president, points to the high school building project as the high point in his political career.

His constituents are just now enjoying the prospect of getting such a classy new school, under budget — unlike the badly mismanaged Greenfield Middle School reconstruction that became the poster child in the state for how not to build a school.