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Residents seek redevelopment for cottage era estates in Stockbridge

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Albany/HV: Residents seek redevelopment for cottage era estates in Stockbridge
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There are over a dozen cottage era estates in the Berkshires. Hundreds of acres of land that were once owned by single families. But now, they've become a little difficult to maintain. YNN's Madeleine Rivera went to Stockbridge to find out how the town is tackling this issue.

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. -- They're sprawling in size. Multimillion dollar pieces of land that are symbols of wealth. But what happens when the rich houses are poorly maintained?

"We're trying to find adapt reuses for these large estates," said town administrator Jorja-Ann Marsden.

These estates were built during the Gilded Age of the country, between 1870 and 1920. During that time, many vacation mansions were built in the Berkshires. These cottage era estates are no less than 80 acres with a single family home. But times have changed.

"We have all these estates in town that are not necessarily used as single family homes as they once were," said Deborah McMenamy, chairman of the board of selectmen.

The town does have zoning laws that allows for these estates to be preserved and restored for other uses. Still, during a special town meeting, residents made it clear: They're particular about how they want these properties to be redeveloped.

The Chesterwood Museum is on a cottage era estate, so there are many uses for these properties. They can be used for hotels and restaurants, commercial greenhouses and even weddings. One thing that residents are concerned about is whether resorts would be allowed on these properties. Residents are worried that resorts would be a precedent for other uses like timeshares, something that they're not too thrilled about.

"They like things to remain comfortable," said McMenamy.

Also in question at the meeting was the construction of a 60 foot building on Elm Court. A developer has bought the land, hoping to turn it into a hotel or getaway destination. But residents rejected the 60 foot building.

"A 60 foot high building in Stockbridge doesn't exist. We don't have any," said McMenamy.

At the core of the issue is a town's intention preserve its scenic view while finding the best uses for these properties.

"I'm hoping we can find ways to keep these properties the way they are now and in these hard economic times we're in that we can find ways to help the owners maintain the properties in the state that they're in now," said Marsden.

And town officials say they'll continue the conversation with residents to come up with solutions.

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