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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sturbridge, Beware!

The following was submitted by a reader.--ed.

by Marilyn Desy

Having attended a kick-off for Route 20 improvements in Sturbridge/Fiskdale I must ask the registered voters in this town to please attend the upcoming town meeting.

 As soon as information is printed and available please read it very carefully. Life as we know it here could be about to change not only at our expense, but, to my mind, to our detriment. 

Can you imagine having 2 or even 3 rotaries within the span of  Route 20 at New Boston Road and the corner of Route 148 and Route 20 ?  Can you imagine one of the travel lanes on Route 20 being removed and made into a bicycle lane?  Can you imagine this span of road being tightened up to be come narrower? These are only some of the serious proposals, with monies being spent right now.

Would you approve of the destruction of Turner’s Ball Field to be used as a parking lot? That’s not as likely because they are presently turning the field around, yet its destruction was suggested by a Conservation Committee member at the meeting, and a member of the Planning Board said that if such a thing was done, we could just find another parcel and build yet another ball field.

$128,000 was approved at last year’s town meeting for consultants, engineering, etc. for kicking off these proposals. That money, or most of it, has already been spent.

There were just a couple of us that showed up and spoke up against most of the ideas. I was told pleasantly told that we really shouldn’t have shown up because we were not in favor of these projects.

This is not the Twilight Zone folks, it is real and coming unless we put a stop to it.

                                                                                   --submitted by Marilyn Desy


  1. Those improvements are going to do nothing to bring in business or even foot traffic.

    They want to do a improvement for the Town of Sturbridge, make the State Move out of that Gas Station/Town Barn on Main Street. Anyone coming into Sturbridge off the Pike see that mess. They should if anything get a Grant from the Federal Government & State and make a Gateway Park for everyone which would include sports, jogging, walking, skateboards and just everyone enjoying it like they do at Lake Park in Worcester. At least thats a improvement and would make our Town look classy and inviting.

    This is what people would like and would be for all ages, interests and for generations to come.

    Let them go for a Grant like Worcester did for their parks and it won't cost us the taxpayers.

  2. I also was at the meeting, and this is in the very early stages of planning, ideas were exchanged, and at this point that's exactly what they are ideas. I think most would agree from Rt. 148 to New Boston Road could use some type of face lift, whether it be by landscaping or burying wires, improving sidewalks, maybe all of the above and perhaps none of the above, but if there are to be improvements it will take many come to the next meeting and find out the sky isn't falling.

  3. We have spent over $100,000 already just to get to this pipe dream stage. By the time we would be able to afford to pay for, let's say, a stage two, three, four or five development, we would need to spend more money for more planning because times would have changed, methods would have changed, desires would have changed, and the old planning/engineering would be outdated. That's what's happening right now! We are planning on changing the "new' stuff already.

    The idea that slowing traffic down on Main Street is going to cause more people to visit merchants here so they can pull off the street to park in back of a building (yes, one of the ideas is to make merchants move their parking to the rear) does not make sense to me either. Who is going to want to find a way to get back into that line of traffic when they leave the store?

    Finally why should the tax payers be forced to pay for parking (the Turner's Field idea among others) for the merchants. The small merchants that do have parking issues, all put together don't bring in enough tax revenue to make that a sound investment.

    These ideas need to be brought out to the public and not just into a meeting where those who question are really not wanted and put down if they ask questions or make statement which are not "positive."

  4. A Route 20 face lift? And how much have we spent so far just in the planning stages? I could use a face lift too, but can't afford it, besides they just look phoney anyway.
    Ask for traffic lights where we need them.

  5. Someone's Dreams are ExpensiveFriday, May 10, 2013
    Besides the involvement of our Town Planner and her assistant, our Planning Board, and our Advisory Committee on this manner we already paying an outside team of:

    Consultant Team

    John Shevlin, PE Pare Corporation

    Pam Shadley, ASLA
    Shadley & Associates

    Kathleen McCabe, AICP,EDP
    McCabe Enterprises

    Chris Zarek, Assoc. AIA,
    Paul Lukez Architecture

  6. Good nuff for now.Saturday, May 11, 2013

    While i would like to see some improvements to the town i don't want to pay for them right now so the way it is suits me just fine. I think last year at town meeting we were told that the money spent on the planning and consulting firms was in order to get grants to pay for the improvements. The numbers were astonishing to bury the wires on Rt 20. If we got grants to pay for it all fine, but that will not happen. Also, dont forget that grants are not free money. If its a grant from the state where do ya think it comes from? Its still a tax.

  7. These so called Consultants we hire are just a waste of our money. Instead let the students of our High School do a Town Research Project and get input from the Residents what we want and need. Instead we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for these "so called experts" that have no idea what is really wanted or needed. They always focuse on one aspect and miss the big picture.

    Find out what people want, the stores needed, businesses and services. This is soo simple and does not need all this wasteful reports. We have the money in the School Budget and these kids could do a much better job than these so called experts.

    We have excellent Teachers who could guide these students on these project which would give them experience for the future and also would be a good education for them on the aspects of putting together a plan.

  8. The addition of a rotary on route 20 is ridiculous never mind 2. If anything they should expand 20 to 4 lanes. Traffic on 20 is too heavy to be handled by just 2 lanes. Next week it will be at a stand still with the Flea Market traffic. Parking in the rear of business is a good thing. What were the directions given to these firms who are making suggestions to Sturbridge? That is the million dollar question.

  9. Mark Edmonds-fleeing soon-to-be-former-residentSaturday, May 11, 2013

    I got beat up on another thread on this site for complaining about our high taxes but mentioned our bill was $4800 this year. I was wrong. Found the bill: It was $5043 for a small colonial on a acre, 1/2 of which is wet an un-usable. The is ridiculous. This insane town is 57 MILLION IN DEBT-most of which wont be paid off until 2030 or beyond (look at last years Fincom report). Now someone is proposing more baloney and pipe dreams. Rotarys? Parking Lots? WTF? THE TOWN'S AFFORDABILITY IS AT STAKE. WHEN WILL YOU PEOPLE WAKE UP AND REALIZE THAT YOU ARE KILLING YOURSELVES.

    This Planning Board scheme is just another disconnected acid trip-pipe dream. Do these people take drugs? The definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting the same results. This is the same lipstick on the pig thinking proposed for years through thousands in worthless "studies". Tell me what planet or world these people live in? What a joke.

    $5083. Are you kidding me? We are tired of propping up the same club of idiots that make these more-of-the-same proposals. News flash peeps, the "history" angle wont attact ANYONE HERE. NO-ONE CARES NO MATTER HOW MANY PARKING LOTS AND BRICK WALKS YOU INSTALL.

    Until some folks wake up and realize this is not Wellfleet, Ogunquit, Portland, or the Cape, that we have NO museums, national parks or historic monuments, or ANY OTHER "THING" THAT MAKES STURBRIDGE A DESTINATION FOR TOURISTS this town is doomed to the same madness that has prevailed forever.

    $5083 and rising. For what? Enjoy your flower barrels and rotaries. We are soooooo out of here. Charlton looks like paradise in comparason.

  10. Some day dreams might become nightmaresSaturday, May 11, 2013

    I agree with "Good nuff for now." None of the issues being addressed are all that important. It seems like some people who love to decorate at the expense of others, and some people who would like others to pay for their parking have gotten together with over the top conservationists, and they are having a good old time with their "dream along with me" meetings, or parties, or whatever they should be called. The problem is that WE are paying for these reveries! No, thank you!

  11. Mark Edmonds-fleeing soon-to-be-former-residentSaturday, May 11, 2013

    While I'm at it, and since I'm not getting any Christmas cards for my honesty anyway, why stop at burying all the wires, the bike lanes, rotaries, and MAKING private business owners shoulder the cost of moving their parking lots (What is this, China? You will it and they have to do it?).

    While we're at it, why not propose a canal be dug all the way to Narragansett Bay or Long Island Sound so that at high tide we can have an ocean-front (sort of) "promenade". Or, let's get the DPW boys and (and woman) on the task of building a Wachusett-style mountain just off the New Boston rotary so we can become the new Vail of the East and a tubing paradise in the summer. We could a build a overhead tram too, and give rides over the new rotaries so riders could look down on the newly moved parking lots. What'll it cost...maybe a trillion or two. Hey, the taxpayers are an un-limited resource, right? Why not?

    Far-fetched you say? It's just as stupid as some of these ideas we just paid these lotus-eaters $128K in hard-earned tax dollars to come up with. They must be smoking the good stuff.

  12. You can only put so much frosting on a cakeSaturday, May 11, 2013

    The meeting mentioned in this article has been televised more than once and we, the people who have seen it, are beginning to talk about it. There was mention making of a river walk, and building or constructing, or buying, or getting permission from land owners, to build or construct points of access.
    I don't know if it was brought up at this particular meeting, but there is contamination down by the river and the word is that for $28,000 we "should" be able to identify the contaminants, and "maybe" fix the problem. Maybe.
    Why on earth was the town advised to buy this land in the first place, knowing full-well that it was contaminated? Are we willing to spend $28,000 to find out what steps should be planned to take care of the contamination? It has been mentioned at another meeting that we "might" be allowed to fence it off, or we might be able to cover it with clay and post a "no digging" sign. Might. We also might be told that this clean-up will be yet another very costly endeavor. How many plans are they hitting us with at once? Their "Dreams are Getting Better all the Time." Not!

  13. Not who you might think we areSaturday, May 11, 2013

    I would like to correct one misconception about just who is, and who is not, for this Route 20 face lift, fantasy, strangeness, or whatever you call it. Most of those folks whom some are only too eager to call homeys or townies are TOTALLY against this craziness. We want to be able to afford to stay here where we have lived, some of us, for generations. We are not the problem. We don't want to spend the money on pipe dreams and fantasies and other people's parking lots. All we want is to be able to keep our homes. Some people are speaking with, tears in their eyes, about the very real chance that they will lose their homes, because they can no longer afford to pay for water, sewer and taxes - so what's next, the final slap down of our old people?

  14. They have it all figured out...Sunday, May 12, 2013

    I am a bit out of the loop on all the planning of these projects. The history of it escapes me. Is this all part of the master plan? When was it all started and who was asked what are needs/wants are? Was it a survey similar to the one we received about the trails? I remember looking at the results of the trail survey and the amount of respondents was similar to the amount of people that go to town meeting. 4-500 people responded and that was good enough to go forward with the trail system.

    I would like to put the brakes on this whole improvement project. If this was brought to the people 5 or so years ago when the tax rate was quite a bit smaller people may have changed their mind on it. If it is not brought to the people again we will be moving forward with something that a lot of people are against. I do not remember at last years town meeting what exactly was voted on in respect to the improvements but i would have voted against it for sure. Raise your pink or blue cards against any more frivolous spending, if you attend town meeting. If you don't attend shame on you.

    As for Rt 20. Nothing against the merchants on the road but there are very few i patronize. The post office, micknucks, laundry mat and cumby's, that is all. I plan my driving around taking rights and lefts out of parking lots and when i do not need anything in town i avoid rt 20 all together. I love my dunkins like the next person but i have only been to the one across from the post office twice in 10 years and yes i was heading east. So lets add some rotaries, bike lanes more parking lots that we cant turn out of and slow the traffic even more. All it will do is piss me off even more and i will do my shopping elsewhere so i can avoid it all together. Top it all off i will be driving home to a little piece of land where i will be paying a ton of taxes on. Taxes that are almost on par with the monthly rent of an apartment. Give it another year or two and it will not make sense to live here financially. But thankfully i will have all sorts of parking for the little shops in town. With all the disposable income i have i am sure to patronize them all. After all i will be able to window shop driving down rt 20 if the traffic gets any slower. Just imagine the cluster chuck it will be come flea market time. Can you see the line of out of towners trying to negotiate 3 rotaries, i will grab a lawn chair and a 6 pack to see that debacle. That would almost be worth the taxbill, the entertainment value will be priceless. Ya ever notice the rush hour traffic on rt 20? are these people stopping by the merchants? I would venture a guess and say NO, they are trying to get home after a day at work. I guess the way i see it is... when a town has a lot of traffic around rush hour i see it as more of a bedroom community than a tourist destination. I feel bad for the folks that live in Brimfield and Wales if they have to deal with driving Rt 20 on their way home. But they will also be able to frequent our merchants.

    I just had an epiphany... We will screw up traffic so bad on rt 20 that people will just give up and go to the local businesses until the traffic lightens up. They will all have rush hour specials. But don't forget to check the bike lanes before making your turns. So instead of being able to pull around the person trying to take a left we will have to wait for them to make the turn along with the 100 cars behind you. Thank GOD we will have the bike lanes. No more swerving to avoid the man holes that are way to far into the traffic lanes either. We will have to hit them all, but that's good for C&R tire. Good lookin out for a local merchant. Its also good for the sign police, they will never miss a single violation. I am so glad that the powers of this town are looking out for me and all my neighbors. They have it all figured out and when in doubt we pay a consultant from god knows where to figure it our for us.

  15. The addition of a rotary on route 20 is ridiculous never mind 2. If anything they should expand 20 to 4 lanes. Traffic on 20 is too heavy to be handled by just 2 lanes. Next week it will be at a stand still with the Flea Market traffic. Parking in the rear of business is a good thing. What were the directions given to these firms who are making suggestions to Sturbridge? That is the million dollar question.

  16. To Mark Edmonds fleeing ....

    When you spoke at the BOS meeting on the tax rate you were right on the money--mine also is in the $5000 range--ranch on 1/2 acre--nothing extravagant.

    It was laughable that Mary Blanchard told you not to "scare" people because the budget was still a "moving target". Yeah, moving in the direction of an increase!

    This is the way I see it:

    1) If the budget is kept at FY2013 (very unlikely), the tax rate will increase for residents if the BOS votes to go back to a flat tax rate for residents and business, which TC says he is favoring.

    2) If the BOS budget is approved plus BOS votes to go back to a flat rate, the increase will be more significant. Glad TC, PG, and MR have tried to make cuts, but it is still not enough, IMO.

    3) If the FinCom budget is approved plus BOS votes to go back to flat rate, the increase will be so significant, the effect to some residents will be devastating.

    Unemployment is still high, wages are stagnant, fuel/oil costs are up, food costs are up, sewer/water rates have increased significantly (again!). Why is anyone talking about flower baskets, bike lanes, and all this other nonsense?

    You're absolutely right--Sturbridge does not have or will it ever have any great attraction to warrant this senseless spending!

    Mary B and Suhoski threw the word "minimal" out regarding the effect on a tax bill when TC wanted to increase the tax relief amount an additional $30,000 or so. I'm glad MB and SS are doing well enough to think that saving even $30 is "minimal". Shame on them! The fact of the matter is any increase is too much!

    Sturbridge's tax rate is the highest in the Commonwealth. We cannot afford anymore!
    And yes, there are a lot of residents who don't go to the town meeting. However, for the working person who is on the road at 4:30 AM to commute 50 miles to work (as I am), much of the voting takes place at a very late hour. Some residents who come to the meeting have to leave by ten PM or so. These votes should not be occurring at midnight. It's bad enough the week night meeting time excludes shift workers and many seniors!

    That's what this town is good at--exclusion.
    I, too, want outta here! But the outrageously high tax rates are deterring home sales as well. Three houses went up for sale last spring within a three house radius of my home--two are still for sale and one was sold well below asking price. The others have had significant price reductions and still not selling.

    I wish you the best Mark, but I will miss you! You're not afraid to tell it like it is. Anyone who's saying you're wrong on another link is definitely smoking the good stuff!

  17. Don't they look before they leap?Sunday, May 12, 2013

    If you take a good look at the businesses in Fiskdale - Rovezzi's, the big red building that houses many businesses up near the Country Inn, the businesses in the old mill houses on the same side of the street as the Mill Yard, even the Blackington buuilding, etc., you will find that they would have a terrible to impossible time trying to put parking "behind" their buildings. Rovezzi's and that big red building that houses several businesses have large parking lots that don't appear to me that they can be moved.
    Our own people are coming up with some of these ideas and feeding them to the costly consultants.Our own people, I guess, aren't even familiar with the locations they want to "better." I say better not.

  18. Mark Edmonds said it the best.

    They are spending all this money on studies when $100,000 could be used for the snow budget or other unexpected expenses that everyone knows in life will creep up in reality.

    Mark Edmonds commentary should be put in the Worcester Telegram and the Sturbridge Villager, as they always do a one sided story. Its time for the residents to do the same tactic the Selectmen use to push their agendas put it in the papers. I like to see Mark's commentary in these papers.

    As far as all these improvements this Town need to be business friendly and just welcome investment to lower our taxes. Look at Palmer they are begging for the Casino and the investments in their town. Reading the papers they have a very good chance of getting this. Do you think when Brimfield has market weeks will the vendors stay in Sturbridge or opt out for Palmer with a New Hotel, Casino, Business, Restaurants and a Town who welcome business. This is going to suck a lot of visitors to that part of the state. Second, you know with our high taxes do you think people are going to live here or move where jobs, night life, shopping, business will be opened and people will be welcomed. And third all their proposed improvements did not cost Palmer's taxpayers anything as the businesses are paying for their own proposals and consultants costs.

    Look at all the houses on the MLS this month there is like 160 and growing for sale in Sturbridge, not counting the foreclosures which you remember Mr. Creamer stated last years Town Meeting was in the 100 plus range.

    Thats a lot of residents telling us they cannot afford high taxes and fees and getting upset and leaving or loosing their homes. Shame on the Town of Sturbridge Political Forces to allow this to happen.

  19. See it as it is. Tell it like it is.Monday, May 13, 2013

    My sense of most of the residents who have lived here "forever" is this. It a horrible wrong to treat our fire chief, a man who has saved many of our homes and lives in the past 38 years, the way he was bullied,tarred feathered and hung out to dry. Awful. If he needed to be replaced, did he need to be hung, too? Awful!

    On the other matter, these so called town improvements, rotaries, missing travel lanes, and all this other crazy stuff, no thank you! You see, we care. WE CARE!

    You cannot rule with your head alone, your heart must be involved, too. Are we being ruled by the Wizard of OZ? We all know what a big shot he turned out to be. Not.

    This Route 20 improvement thing would be laughable if it weren't so expensive. People who are promoting this are the same people who opposed (tooth and nail) Wal Mart, who talked the townspeople into paying a surtax on their property tax and using the money to help us get over $50 million dollars in dept by buying up land, lots of land, and opening up our woodlands with trails, and "roads", even encouraging tourists to go out into the woods at night. What's that going to coast us in the end? Injuries, crimes, lost persons - police calls, ambulance calls, law suits?

    This townie gives a damn, and is tired of screaming into a "sound-proof" town.

    Go to the town meetings. PLEASE go to the town meetings, and to the BOS meetings, too, if you can.

    Vote with your head and your heart. Tell it like it is.

  20. In my view -- beyond the Village and the restaurants, there is NOTHING tourist-attractive about Sturbridge. Most of the other retail establishments can be found just about anywhere else. After 35 years in town, I've seen nothing but a lessening of small, individual, unique shops. Where are the gallerie, the artisans .................... the SOUL of the community? Sad to say, but they ain't here!

  21. 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.


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