Common Ground
December 2020
A Newsletter for Community Planning in the Berkshire Region
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The Environmental & Energy Program is pleased to welcome our new Planner, Emily Lange. Emily will be working on Green Communities Regional Technical Assistance Project and Affordable Access Regional Coordination Project as well as Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Projects.

The Community & Economic Development Program welcomes Christie Lewis as our new Grant & Procurement Specialist. Christie will be working on the Community Development Block Grant projects as well as Group Purchasing.
Community & Economic Development
Berkshire County COVID-19 Adaptation Fund Announced

The Berkshire County COVID-19 Adaptation Fund will provide grants to for- and non-profit businesses with up to 25 employees to address eligible business expenses. Preference will be given to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-owned businesses. The fund will also accept applications from non-profits to support technical assistance programs for those impacted economically by COVID-19.
Microenterprise Grant Programs Available in North & South Berkshires

BRPC is helping to administer two CDBG-CV Grant Programs to provide assistance to income-qualifying small business owners in northern and southern Berkshire County. The purpose of each Program is to help low-to-moderate income microenterprise (5 employees or fewer) owners prepare for, prevent and/or respond to the impacts of COVID-19. Eligible applicants will receive up to $10,000 to cover business costs such as rent, staffing and utilities. These grants have been made available by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (MA DHCD) utilizing funds received from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Housing Choice Small Town FY 21 Capital Grant Program
Housing Choice Small Town FY 21 capital grant program applications are due by December 11th. This program is exclusively for communities that have an annual population estimate of 7,000 or less from the US census, and can fund capital projects—construction, modernization, or major repair of physical infrastructure, acquisition of property or interests in property; long-lived equipment; or feasibility, engineering or schematic designs for capital projects. Awards will be made in early 2021 with projects needing to be completed by June 30, 2022. Maximum Grant award: $100,000. Responses to frequently asked questions provide some good ideas about the use of funds: Read FAQs.

Community Planning
Announcing Local Rapid Recovery Planning Assistance to Revitalize Downtowns 
The Mass Downtown Initiative (MDI) is accepting applications for Local Rapid Recovery Planning (LRRP) which is part of the Baker-Polito Recovery Plan to revitalize downtowns, respond to the effects of COVID-19 on local businesses, and prioritize actions and strategies. All 351 Massachusetts cities and towns are eligible to apply. Nonprofit entities such as Business Improvement Districts, Main Street organizations or Community Development Corporations are also eligible to lead the planning process with local government support.  The short application form is due on December 18, 2020 by 3:00 p.m.  
The LRRP program provides technical assistance by consultant teams with expertise in effective strategies to stabilize business districts. There is no direct funding available through this program, applicants will be matched with consultant team(s). There is a total of $9.5 million in technical assistance available, we encourage every interested applicant, whether from a small town center or a group of business districts within a large city, to learn more and to apply. LRRP projects must be completed by June 30, 2021.  
Webinar: December 9. 2020 at 1:30 p.m. Register here:  
Questions: Email Emmy Hahn at  
Citizen Planner Training Collaborative Online Training Series

The Citizen Planner Training Collaborative (CPTC) is a collaborative made up of the Massachusetts Dept. Housing & Community Development, UMass Center for Agriculture, Mass Association of Regional Planning Agencies, Mass Chapter American Planning Association, Mass Audubon, Mass Association of Planning Directors, citizen and professional planners. It's mission is to empower land use officials to make effective and judicious decisions in the areas of development, transportation, natural resources and the environment by providing educational opportunities, access to information and resources, and by enhancing cooperation among and integration of land use boards within local government. CPTC provides training designed for Massachusetts Planners, Boards of Appeal, Zoning Enforcement Officers and others interested in land use in Massachusetts. This Fall’s training sessions will be virtual. The full schedule of trainings can be accessed here:
Data & Information Services
COVID-19 has impacted the Berkshires in many ways, one of which is in home sales. After a lower than the average number of completed sales in the first few months of COVID, sales have rebounded, and homes have sold at a faster rate than in previous years.

Through October, Berkshire County has recorded 1,379 single-family home sales, close to 200 more than the same period in 2019, a growth of 17%. This number of sales is now above the pre-recession 2007 numbers (see map at right).

The growth is not uniform throughout the county, with some municipalities experiencing growth and some experiencing reductions. Read More...
Emergency Preparedness
Public Engagement in the Time of COVID-19: A Look at Otis

Public participation is essential to the planning practice. Without gathering community input, we can miss critical details necessary for plan success. Recognizing the importance of involving the people potentially affected by a project in the visioning and decision-making process, public outreach is often a requirement of many grants. Grants with public outreach requirements include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to complete local hazard mitigation plans, and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) planning and action grants. Read More...
Environmental & Energy
Mass Save 3-Year Energy Efficiency Plan For 2022-2024

The 2022-2024 Three-Year Energy Efficiency Plan is under development and will outline the budgets, economic benefits, and energy savings for the statewide energy efficiency programs branded as Mass Save®. Included in the Three-Year Plan are descriptions of proposed energy efficiency incentive programs to be implemented during the three years of each plan. These programs are for residential, income eligible, and commercial and industrial (C&I) utility customers.

Mass Save programs are funded by utility customers located in investor-owned utility territories through their utility bill. The Three-Year Plan directs how these funds will be spent. Public engagement is highly encouraged to help the EEAC understand what programs and incentives would benefit the Commonwealth’s residents and businesses, and how existing program offerings can better serve Massachusetts customers.

Workshops and Public Comment Sessions have begun and will continue through December and January. The last of six Public Comment Sessions will be held on 12/14 with additional sessions anticipated in Spring 2021. For more information, see
Regional Services
DPH Town Meeting Guidance
As of November 23, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued Town Meeting Guidance to provide municipalities with instructions to help protect against the spread of COVID-19 as in-person meetings resume. To view the guidance document, please click here.
Remember to Identify by Name the Members of a Board Attending a Virtual Public Meeting
The Division of Open Government (DOG) recently issued a determination that it is a violation of the Open Meeting Law (OML) for the chair of a public body to fail at the start of a meeting to identify by name the members of a board who are attending remotely (see the decision at OML 2020-138.)

Remote participation rules were relaxed on March 12, 2020 in response to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic when Governor Baker issued an Executive Order temporarily suspending the requirement of the OML that meetings be physically accessible to members of the public and that a quorum of a public body, including the chair, be physically present at the meeting location. All other provisions of the law and regulations remain in effect, including those pertaining to remote participation. The OML regulations state “[a]t the start of the meeting, the chair shall announce the name of any member who will be participating remotely. This information shall also be recorded in the meeting minutes.” 940 CMR 29.10(7)(b). Failure to announce the name of any member participating remotely is a violation of the law.
Public Health
October Flu Clinics Reach Over 1,400 Berkshire County Residents

The Berkshire Public Health Alliance conducted eighteen flu clinics throughout Berkshire County during the month of October. Over 1,400 people were vaccinated during the clinics, an increase over previous years. Especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the flu vaccine is an important resource to help keep everyone in our communities safe. These flu clinics tested out new procedures such as online pre-registration, outdoor clinics, and new locations. Overall, they were a great success, and we thank everyone who attended. Additionally, we would like to thank Leslie Drager, Berkshire Public Health Alliance nurse, and all volunteers and partners who helped run these clinics. For more information on flu clinics or emergency dispensing sites, please contact Christine Ector. For more information on the Alliance Public Health Nursing Program, please contact Laura Kittross.
MassDOT Announces New Funding for Municipalities via “Shared Winter Streets and Spaces”

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), on behalf of the Baker-Polito Administration, and in partnership with the Barr Foundation, is announcing applications are now being taken from municipalities for the Shared Winter Streets and Spaces Program, a new phase in the Administration’s Shared Streets and Spaces Program which was launched this past June. An additional $10 million total will now be available to municipalities to conceive, design, and execute improvements to sidewalks, curbs, streets, plazas, and parking areas in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce in light of the COVID-19 epidemic. Shared Winter Streets and Spaces will be focused on supporting communities during the next several months, when the need for physical distancing poses challenges. The program will invest in cities and towns in order to facilitate outdoor activities and winter programming by creating safe spaces for people of all ages and abilities to walk, bicycle, eat, shop, play, and enjoy community events. 
For more information, access the full press release here.
Berkshire Communities Receive MassWorks Grants

On November 19th, the Governor announced $68 million in MassWorks funding for Infrastructure projects during this time of economic recovery. MassWorks is a competitive grant program which provides capital funds for infrastructure that support housing, spur private development and create jobs. Thirty-six public infrastructure projects were awarded funding and these projects will support new housing, economic development and enhanced safety in communities across the Commonwealth. In the Berkshires, two communities received funding. The City of Pittsfield was awarded $3 million for the Tyler Street Streetscape Project and the Town of Sheffield received $1 million to reconstruct two bridges. Read more about the MassWorks program and 2020 awards: