Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Good Day For Comments

Every once in a great while, I receive a great comment for a post that is not only written with passion, it is well thought out as well.  Today was one of those days.  I enjoyed reading the comment, and I agree with everything the writer has said.  The comment is well worth its  own place, and not just relegated to the comments cellar.  I believe there will be some good discussion from this one.-ed.

"I know no one wants to listen but The Future of tourism in this 'burg, Peeps, is a youth-based arts district with relaxed zoning rules that allow little or no investment on the part of start ups. Not more of the same old stodgy "Colonial Theme-Park" BS for rapidly aging white boomers. and not more zoning rules.

Look at the Warrant for town meeting: Page after page of new "rules" from a Planning Board in real dire need of some Ex-Lax. It's just insane. All these rules will discourage start-ups. You're dead before you're even born if they all pass. I'm in business, and the last thing I want to do is invest ANY capitol in this sinking ship of a town will all it's goofy rules and dysfunctional committees run by well-intentioned but narrow-minded self-serving folk with no world view or sense of collaboration. 

We are not an island. We are a ship--one that's sinking under 49 million in debt, voter apathy and disconnect, loss of commercial tax base, decreasing property values, aging demo(s), and town employee rosters largely made up of mercenaries who live in cheaper towns and are only looking out for themselves. This is why 
this town is becoming a toilet.

And all the while, we sit on commitees and discuss paving trails, how to spend the manna from heaven that comes from the hotel/meals tax on frippery, and making up new rules designed to exclude, not include. 

Regulation kills innovation and creative spirit.Look at Northampton and Shelbourne Falls, Bennington VT and the one-time joke of the Berkshires, North Adams. All small outta the way places that now have vibrant arts scenes and restaurants and businesses that benefit from spin off of that art scene. Why? Few rules? Look at North Adams today, now that Moca has taken hold, and all the little krill businesses that are working in it's sphere. Tens of thousands will go to N. Adams weeks from now for rock band Wilco's Festival. No dough to be spent there with that crowd, huh? 

All these arts-based sucess stories started off in the 80s as dumpy little towns the world was passing by. Very little regs, so starving artists took hold like weeds. Now look. I was in Noho in the mid-80s and saw it happen.

Youth and cultural diversity is the answer here peeps. Not more rules and more of the same old. Not more stuff aimed at aging white folks whose idea of hip is a mediocre meal at Cracker Barrel and more flags and flower barrels in the center of town. Yawwwn. Last one out of Sturbridge, please don't forget to turn off the lights."

                                                                                                    ---Mark Edmonds


  1. It’s good to know that someone read the warrant article, and found article 4 to be problematic. Sometimes, I really don’t agree with you, Mr. Edmonds, but I think you see something here that I see, too.

    Re-doing Route 20 would do what? If the town decided to start on the type of plans that are displayed in vivid full-color, which I’m sure you know are linked to the previous article (below on Wally’s blog), we likely would be broke in a few years, with nobody coming in to pay taxes. Remember Greece and the Olympics a few years ago? The Greeks spent, what? Millions? Billions? Yes, they built it and almost nobody came. We all know where their economy is now.

    I have a great love for Old Sturbridge, but we need to do more than to be the OSV town. Older people who could dream about their grandparents and great-grandparents living in the Federal Period felt a real connection with the Village. As we see, today, the Village has begun to celebrate Christmas and Halloween, and they have many functions at the new Oliver Wight Tavern. They also have more discounts than they used to have. Why? ‘Because times have changed, and people have changed. Kids learn about Colonial times, as are portrayed in Plimouth, but the Federal Period, though very interesting, and still dear to my heart, is more obscure in the teaching, and in the minds of today’s world.

    Yes, times have changed, and today people are complaining about the last reconstruction of Route 20 in Sturbridge. So what do we do? Start all over again and reconstruct, add round-abouts (rotaries), remove travel lanes, micro-manage everyone on Main St. – only to find dissatisfaction with that, too, in a few years? ‘Slow the rush hour traffic down to a crawl, so we can “capture” the tourists and keep them here to spend their money? Unless something really great comes to town and “wows” everybody big-time, the tourists will not only refuse to stop in a place where re-entering the traffic flow will obviously be difficult, they will likely not bother to come at all.

    So, what are our priorities? What comes first – our own families, or those tourists who are already perfectly happy visiting the Host, Yankee Spirits and OSV as it is now?

    Change will come, if we let it in. Should it be controlled? Sure, but it shouldn’t be micro-managed into being something we can’t recognize for what it is. It is, after all, life today. Each generation has a right to leave its mark as it honors those who came before them. We need a little more reality here. That doesn’t have to cost a lot. Put up a nice sign, or just find a better location for the one we already have on Route 20 West – just a sign – not a gateway to bankruptcy.

  2. Thanks for posting that, Wally. Just want to add the Warrant has 25 pages of scary regulations proposed by planning board in Articles 4,5, and 6 that will impose a "village gateway district" status on every home and business owner located on any road in and out of town. Scary stuff. If it passes THEY will tell you how to landscape your yard, what color to paint or side your building, IF you can have something they may or may not deem "acceptable". It's Soviet-style rule at it's worst, and will burden homeowners and businesses even more than now, discourage the bootstrap arts or small businesses I spoke of yesterday from even taking a look here, and in sum, kill Sturbridge's future.
    This is the same Planning crowd who paid a bunch of Lotus-eaters $126,000 of taxpayer funds to dream up ridiculous plans to move Route 20, force property owners to move parking lots at their expense, and spend tens of millions on a Tourist District that will not attract tourists. Vote No on 4, 5, and 6. We have enough regs in this town.
    And while I'm at it, vote against the rubber-stamp Finance Committee and it's spend-thrift ways. Vote NO on Article 20, which taxes you for another $150K for the stabilization fund (already at millions); Vote with the Selectmen and SUPPORT THE SELECTMEN'S BUDGET ON ARTICLE 8, which cuts more than $200K off the top this year; SAY NO TO THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE IN ARTICLE 8, and their half-hearted attempt to keep their budget increase to only $521,000; and SUPPORT ARTICLES 21 & 22, which takes your money, some $300,000 of it, out of town accounts and puts it into badly-needed tax relief.
    Check out for more.
    It's for all the marbles this year folks.

  3. Does Sturbridge have a future as anything other than a bedroom for MetroWest? Other than OSV, the town has NOTHING to offer (other than several fine restaurants). Mark Edmonds is spot-on in calling them Lotus-eaters ........... it's the same old "SaveOurSturbridge" crowd who are so unwilling to see that the only future Sturbridge has is to recognize that it's future once lay in being at the confluence of Rtes 20, 84 and 90 ... that's beyond us now - malls in Milbury, Natick and Holyoke will keep retail out of here forever. I'm sure voting against 4,5 & 6 ..... article 8? I'm not so sure ..... the memorial to Rosemary Joseph on Rte 148 might have been an extravagance, but more so because not all the members of Union 61 support education beyond the 8th grade.

  4. Oh, forgot to mention the malls down the road (I-84) tend to forget about them, since I'm not a supporter of UCon athletics -- shop MASS & keep at least some of your bucks at home!

  5. Did Anyone Ever Drive Kelly Square Rotary in WorcesterThursday, May 23, 2013

    Then they want a Rotary, did anyone take a ride to Worcester and see Kelly Square in Action around 2:00 pm when the kids get out of school till around 7:00 pm when the people are getting out of work. Ask anyone from the Police, Fire or Ambulance Service what problems this Rotary is. Did anyone from the Planning Committee take a ride to Worcester and see it first hand.

    I know this video is in high speed but this is the same mess we are going to fund.

    Watch this Video it might be funny but its actually reality of what a Rotary will bring for traffic problems.

  6. Right now we aren't being asked, as far as I can tell, to actually fund the Gateways and Route 20 Improvement projects, but we are being asked to add the Gateway zoning, and to put the first project (at Route 20 and New Boston Rd) right into that zone. These are articles 4 and 5 on the town warrant, and will be voted on at the June 3 Town Meeting - 7 PM Tanatsqua High School.

    Please vote no on articles 4 and 5. As I see it passage of these zoining articles would be the REAL beginning of a bottomless pit of our tax money, restrictions, design demands, and who knows what else. We already have "skiddy-eight" million rules and regs now, and do not need to hem in Route 20 from New Boston Road to Brookfield Road (Route 148), to "capture" the tourists who might travel towards Fiskdale.

    Please get everyone you can to go to the Town meeting and vote NO on articles 4 and 5.

    BREAKING NEWS: Other than the 15 copies of the town warrant obtained somehow for the pre-town meeting town meeting, I'm told by the powers that be at the town hall that the warrants won't be available (except online) until May 29th or 30th. (The town meeting, being June 3rd.) How many folks will either not show up, or show up uninformed because they either have not had time to read the warrant or have not even had the opportunity to get one on such short notice? Please rally your friends and neighbors and get them to the town meeting.


  7. Yes, and there's another beauty of a rotary in East Longmeadow ............... unless the nation goes to rotaries, so many people are ignorant about how to drive them they'll only be a source of accidents not improvements. From my teen days (MANY years ago): "Sit on it and rotate!"

  8. Would mass DOT allow a rotary or two on Rt 20? I do not know the answer to that. Could you imagine when the kids from Tantasqua get out? a lot of calls to Geico will be happening. The only place i see a rotary working well are on the Bourne bridge.

    I agree with Mark about the telling of the home owners and businesses how to landscape and build etc. That is not what we need in town.

    I am wary of anything like this. How many people made these decisions on what they feel is best for the town? I know its all contingent on a vote at town meeting. As we have seen time and time again, once something makes it to town meeting many many times it gets approved. Fancy presentations and a lot of hard work make things seem like it is what the ton needs and people will often vote to approve it. I urge all residents to carefully read all the warrant articles and make an informed decision. Something that i have failed to do in the past but it will never happen again. If you dont understand something ask a question. Put people on the spot.

  9. Are there any opinions on buying the property next to the town hall? I am against it but have not heard anyone anyone else share my opinion. Just wondering what others have to say about it.

  10. It was brought up and the seller wants too much $.

  11. An article relating to the purchase of that house is being brought up again this year, for $180,000 plus the selectmen are asking for another $25,000 or so to tear it down. The finance committee doesn't approve of the extra $25,000. Get this - although the selectmen placed this purchase and the extra funds on the warrant, they neither approve nor disapprove of the article.

    I believe it's something like 150 years old and there is some sort of a restriction which would mean that the town would have to wait a period of time (6 months?) before tearing it down.

    The question then becomes, "so what will we do with the property if we do buy it?" The answer for now is that we will plant grass. Our planning board likely would disapprove of a parking lot which could be seen from the road, so unless we put up a barrier of trees and hedges in that "not so big" space.. but then it seems like there wouldn't be much left for parking.

    Also, a the last town meeting, we learned that there was a dispute by the family who owns it about selling it at all. When questioned about this at a recent BOS meeting, the town administrator seemed to be saying there may be only one name on the deed, perhaps making this a non-issue.

  12. Hi Mariyln,
    Nice letter in the Southbridge paper and your comments here about Village Greenway fiasco coming our way if planning is able to sell that Albatros to the voters.

    RE: this house thing next to town hall: I was at the BOS meet the night this came up and heard Creamer's explanation then why he wanted it on the warrant and again the other day when I spoke to him about another matter.

    I was surprised to learn at that BOS meeting that the town rents the lot behind town hall from the church next door (!). He said because of this it might be a good idea to put buying the house and knocking it down for parking on the warrant as a referendum question to get the community's input on that concept now that it has been reduced to $180K. It came up at last year's town meet for double that.

    Problem is, true to form, the Rubber-Stamp Squad (aka FinCom) couldnt leave it be and waded into it like hippos into a muddy pond. While they were just jake with 753K in budget increases this year the $25K in this article would bankrupt the town (egads!) so they gutted it out. Since ya can't buy it and let it sit, the selectmen are not supporting it. Hence, methinks, the language in the warrant about this.

    But as you correctly say, the Ex-Lax team over in Planning would prob have a cow anyway over a parking lot on the sacred "Gateway" main drag anyway. One can predict the hand-wringing over what the parking lot would look like ("Uhh, black with cars on it...maybe white lines?"), how many flower barrels it would need to gussie it up ("Many", I'm sure) and other "major" questions.

    Forget Global Warming, North Korean nukes, Syrian genocide and super bugs that may kill all of us...the world hangs in the balance on these dilemmas right here. Years would go by fiddling while Rome burns...and the building rotted into it's cellarhole. Long answer, but hope that clears things up. Peace. -M


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