Disturbing behavior at a Monday night Planning Board meeting sparked outrage online and defense of the community as a whole from town officials on Thursday.

The Berkshire Eagle  reports the hearing was regarding a proposed amendment to the zoning bylaws to create a "Smart Growth Overlay District," also known as the 40R program, a tactic that is encouraged by the state to allow redevelopment in town centers of underused or blighted properties. These districts include affordable housing for low- to moderate-income renters.

The hot room was packed, and the crowd seemed agitated. The comments from residents regarding low-income families described scenarios where town services would become overwhelmed, crime and drug use would rise, and schools would be flooded by students of low-income families with special needs.

The rhetoric pushed one woman to publicly note that she moved to town as a single mother with a low income and an autistic child. She said she volunteers in the community and works hard, but now wonders if she should move out of Adams.

As she left in tears, several in the crowd encouraged her to act on her notion to move out of town.

When The Eagle posted an article about the meeting on Facebook, readers expressed outrage at the behavior of some audience members, and disappointment in the town of Adams in general.

 

Donna Cesan, director of Community Development for Adams noted that there had been a swirl of misinformation circulating on social media before the meeting about the proposal that incited unwarranted fears among some residents, which resulted in a fearful, irritated crowd. She said she also regretted that the town didn't provide more widespread notice about the hearing, which also sparked irritation among those in attendance.

 

She referred to the "drawbridge mentality" that some folks have — they move into town, and then they don't want anyone else moving in.

Cesan did find it frustrating that while more than 58 percent of Adams residents have low to moderate incomes, some of those same people are afraid of others with a low to moderate income.

She emphasized that the community as a whole isn't in line with that way of thinking.

Town Administrator Jay Green and Select Board Chairwoman Christine Hoyt were also at the meeting. Both said they were disheartened by the behavior of some people in the crowd.

 

Green also felt bad about the town staff that was trying to present the case for 40R.