The Berkshire Eagle reports when town officials tried to change zoning laws this year to encourage people to move to town, they ran into an outcry with some residents worried about how the community might change.

But when the board formally rolled it out, it was met with fear and confusion. It also caused the board to seek a better way to reach residents it serves.

And it's all about outreach.

The board has set up new events — Community Coffees — to bring townsfolk together with board members to chat in an informal setting about planning and zoning issues.

Andrew Groff, director of community development, said the board realized that, although it might be working hard on something for a long time, the community might have no idea what the board is doing, or why.

While the previous plan has been withdrawn, the town remains committed to its goal of encouraging more housing priced for working professionals to increase the population, bring in more children to attend local schools, and enhance economic activity and diversity.

Members hope the new meetings will educate the public and allow community voices to be heard throughout the process, not just at the end.

By having small sessions, with just two board members on hand in local venues, the board's free-flowing discussion will allow more folks to understand the issues and the process.

The Planning Board meets formally at Town Hall, typically once a month; the Community Coffees are set for the first Wednesday and second Saturday of every month.

With just two members of the Planning Board on hand for the coffees, there is no quorum needed and no agenda. That is meant to give people who attend the freedom to speak their minds.

About a half-dozen residents turned out for the first Community Coffee on Wednesday at the Log on Spring Street.

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