Common Ground
February 2021
A Newsletter for Community Planning in the Berkshire Region
Invite others to read Common Ground! Share this link with your colleagues.
Welcome to Kate Hill Tapia, who recently joined BRPC as Office Administrator, and to William Thornton, Jr. who will join BRPC as a Housing Specialist. We're excited to welcome Kate and Bill to our team!

Congratulations to Gwen Cariddi, recently promoted to Senior Planner. Gwen is part of the Community and Economic Development Program at BRPC.
Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge
Update! Finalists have been announced in the Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge: Adventure East, Berkshire Bike Tours, Remote Harvest Sensors, VacationLand, and Western Wigwam Summit are competing for a $25,000 grant in early 2021 through LEVER. The grant will be awarded by a panel of independent experts who will assess businesses based on their business plans, customer validation, market traction, and a ten-minute pitch to be presented at the Challenge’s culminating event. Read more about all of the finalists HERE.
Grant Opportunities

Applications accepted on a rolling basis until May 7Conservation Assistance for Small Communities

Applications accepted on a rolling basis while funds are available - Community Development Block Grant Microenterprise Assistance
Community One Stop for Growth
On January 21, 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of the Community One Stop for Growth, a single application portal and collaborative review process for grant programs. This will allow applicants—including municipalities, public entities, community non-profits, and private companies—to use a single portal to access ten different grant programs.

For more information, please visit
Download event flyer HERE.
Funding Municipal Water & Sewer Infrastructure in Small Towns: A Discussion with MVP, MassWorks, and MEMA

The session will focus primarily on the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, MassWorks Infrastructure Program, and the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. The presentation & discussion will provide an overview of existing State grant programs available to small towns for water and wastewater infrastructure, discuss the impact of the new Community One Stop for Growth (a new single application portal and collaborative review process) on existing grant resources and previously established application processes, and provide a forum for municipal leaders to discuss funding priorities in their communities with granting agencies. Read More...

Date: Wednesday, February 24th, 2021 Time: 6-8pm
Community & Economic Development
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).
Community Planning
Amendments to 40A, The Zoning Act

On January 6th 2021, Massachusetts legislators approved the conference report to advance An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth. This is a $626.5 million economic development bill (H.5250) designed to aid small businesses, provide equitable housing opportunities, and spur economic development in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was signed by Governor Baker on January 15th 2021 and went into effect immediately. 

A portion of the bill made amendments to several sections of The Zoning Act (M.G.L. c.40A). These changes include the insertion of multiple new land use definitions, revised voting requirements for ordinance or by-law adoption, new provisions for the special permitting process, and new regulation for judicial review.

The zoning amendments provide new opportunities to municipalities with particular focus on housing development. The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is available to provide technical assistance to municipalities in Berkshire County as relates to these new zoning regulations.
The following link provides a summary of the recent amendments to M.G.L. Chapter 40A:
Data & Information Services
School District Enrollment - Berkshire County 2021

Berkshire County public school district enrollment has been declining over the last several decades. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the question has arisen on how the pandemic has impacted the enrollment.

As of October 1, 2020, the student population in the Berkshire County public school districts for K-12 was 14,258. On October 1, 2019, the enrollment was 14,748. This is a loss of 490 students, or -3.3%, in one year. This loss occurred in all but the smallest districts, as Farmington River, Florida, and Hancock all experienced slight increases, and Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter School stayed level. The remaining school districts mostly saw a decline of 0-5%; however, a few districts saw steeper declines, such as North Adams (-7.5%), Richmond (-9.1%), and Savoy (-16.7%).

Emergency Preparedness
“Disasters and How We Overcome Them" - APTNE Annual Meeting & Symposium, Feb 26

APT Northeast is a chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology International, encompassing New England, New York State, and northern New Jersey. APT is an organization that supports historic preservation efforts for built structures. Their exciting line up of speakers for their Annual Meeting and Symposium on Friday February 26th, certainly seems to extend beyond just the built environment, however. $40 for APTNE members, $70 nonmembers.
March 10th Webinar: “Incorporating Pandemic Preparedness in Institutional Emergency Plans”

The Conservation Center for Art & Historical Artifacts (CCAHA) is hosting a webinar titled: “Incorporating Pandemic Preparedness in Institutional Emergency Plans,” on March 10, 2021 at 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The speaker, Dyani Feige, is the Director of Preservation Services at CCAHA and works with libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural organizations to conduct needs and risk assessments, assist in disaster planning, and help develop policy and planning documents for collections. Registration is $30 and is limited to 30 participants.

Find the full description and registration information here: 
Environmental & Energy
Virtual Learning Opportunity: Understanding the Mass Save and Related Program Benefits for Low and Moderate Income Households

BRPC is partnering with Berkshire Community Action Council, Center for EcoTechnology, and Berkshire Gas/Avangrid to host a virtual learning opportunity on March 3rd, 2021 from 1–2:15 pm.

This event is well-suited for anyone working with low-to-moderate income or otherwise vulnerable populations that wants to connect their clients with free and low-cost clean energy technologies and energy efficiency through state-subsidized programs. These programs help households cut monthly energy bill costs, make homes healthier and more comfortable, and reduce their carbon footprints.
This virtual learning opportunity will cover:
1.   Residential clean energy technologies available
2.   The basics of home weatherization
3.   The financial, health, and environmental benefits of clean and efficient energy
4.   Fixed-income and market-rate state incentive programs
5.   Step-by-step process of accessing these programs locally

Representatives from Berkshire Community Action Council, Center for EcoTechnology, and Avangrid/Berkshire Gas will explain how their organizations can help households access clean and efficient energy technologies in Berkshire County. They will also hold a Q&A after the presentation.
Event participants will receive promotional and reference materials after the event as well as recording of the presentation. Please feel free to share this invitation with coworkers, clients, etc. All are welcome.
*While fixed-income programs will be the primary focus, market-rate clean and efficient energy incentive programs available to Massachusetts residents of all income brackets will be discussed. 

Register HERE to save your seat! For questions or more information, contact Emily Lange.
Save money and energy with Mass Save

Good news! If you are a homeowner, landlord of, or renter in a 1 – 4 unit building you are entitled to money and energy savings benefits through the Mass Save program. Find out how...
Regional Services
Mass Internet Connect

The Baker Administration recently announced a new subsidy program, called “Mass. Internet Connect”. Launched by the MBI in partnership with the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD), and working with MassHire one-stop career centers on the rollout of the program and collaborating with internet service providers across the state, including Comcast, Charter, and Verizon, this program will offer subsidies and devices to job seekers.

In addition, MBI will expand a Wi-Fi hotspot program statewide, delivering free high-speed access points to Gateway Cities, helping expand internet accessibility in areas hard-hit economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs are part of the $774 million economic recovery plan announced by the Administration in October. Read More...
Public Health
COVID-19 Vaccinations

In Berkshire County, COVID vaccination efforts are happening through the Berkshire County Vaccination Collaborative, a partnership of Berkshire County Boards of Health Association, Berkshire Health Systems and Community Health Programs. Three large mass vaccination centers have been set up at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, St. Elizabeth’s in North Adams and WEB Dubois Middle School in Great Barrington. Starting Monday, February 1, the state will enter Phase 2, starting with those over the age of 75. Several thousand appointments were made available for the next couple weeks, and additional appointments will be added as vaccine becomes available. Please note that drugstore & supermarket vaccines are through a separate system and not controlled on a local level. For more information, please go to or call the Berkshire County hotline at 413-449-5575. 
Berkshire Transportation Management Association (TMA) Feasibility Study

As part of the Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, 1Berkshire created a Transportation Strategy Group to explore the concept of creating a comprehensive and cohesively networked public/private transportation system in the Berkshires. Previous studies have identified limited access to public transportation and first/last mile connections as major transportation barriers in the Berkshires. To overcome these transportation barriers, the concept of a Berkshire County Transportation Management Association to provide demand responsive micro-transit was explored. Read More...
FY22 Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance

The Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) has posted a Pre-RFR announcement for the upcoming FY22 Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance grant program. The purpose of this program is to encourage municipalities to replace undersized, perched, and/or degraded culverts with better designed crossings that meet improved structural and environmental design standards and climate resiliency criteria. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact DER during the Pre-RFR period (January 12th – February 18th, 2021) to ask both general and project-specific questions related to the upcoming grant opportunity. Total funding available for all projects selected in FY22 is anticipated to be $750,000-$1,500,000. Program details including funding, eligibility, and project evaluation can be found here:

Pre-RFR questions should be directed to Bernadette DeBlander at or by phone at 617-921-0661. The application deadline for this grant opportunity is 5:00 p.m., March 18th, 2021.