GOAL: Encourage land use that preserves the existing rural and agricultural land and provides for the future spatial and economic needs of Charlemont.
Land use in Charlemont is predominantly residential, with a good mix of agricultural and forest land. The Mohawk Trail State Forest, with 1600 acres, is the largest area of permanently protected open space and has a large network of trails for hiking and other recreational purposes. Charlemont has valuable rural, agricultural, and historic land that, if not protected, could potentially be developed. According to the recent Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs build-out analysis completed in 2001, Charlemont has a total land area of 19,225 acres, and 9,563 of those acres have been deemed as potentially developable land under the current zoning in Charlemont. Of that total, some 4,850 acres have no apparent environmental constraints to development, and the remaining land has single or multiple partial constraints that may determine the type and extent of development that could occur. The acres with no constraints are the most likely sites for development if it were to occur.
Charlemont should re-examine its zoning regulations to consider if any additional zoning provisions are necessary and consider the potential effectiveness of zoning overlay districts. Improvement of scenic viewsheds and the use of conservation easements and agricultural incentive areas may also be important to future land use in Charlemont. A Community Development Plan developed under Executive Order 418 would also help to further implement this Master Plan and can specifically address future land use in town.
GOAL: Provide adequate and acceptable housing for Charlemont residents of all ages and income levels.
The single-family home dominates Charlemont and makes up approximately 68% of the total housing units in the town. The majority of homes were built before 1939 and a relatively small percentage was built after 1970. According to Ch. 40 B Subsidized Housing Inventory (DHCD), only nine housing units, approximately 1.6%, are considered as long-term affordable housing. This number has not changed since 1993. However, this inventory doesn't list all subsidized, low- or moderate-income housing in the community. Charlemont has a very high share of mobile homes and trailers. This type of housing makes up 13% of the total housing units and its potential to contribute to long-term affordable housing has not yet been taken into account. Market housing in Charlemont is relatively inexpensive, however, and town residents pay an average of 24% of their income for housing.
The town must identify existing housing that meets the state's affordable housing definition as well as create an inventory of current housing stock. Charlemont should continue to search out elderly housing options. Charlemont must also work with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments on Regional Housing certification under Executive Order 418 to apply for state funding for housing rehabilitation, Community Development Block Grants, and other discretionary state funding. A housing development pattern should be considered for the town that will protect its rural character and protect additional open space.
Historical and Cultural Resources
GOAL: To protect, preserve, and provide for the future management of historically and culturally significant landmarks of Charlemont.
The history of the Town of Charlemont dates from the mid-eighteenth century, when Captain Moses Rice came with his older sons to settle in the area. Charlemont has 126 historic and culturally significant sites, which include a covered bridge across the Mill River and a grandstand at the fairgrounds. Colonial and Victorian styles are represented in the architecture of the community. The Charlemont town center was designated as a National Historic District through the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The Charlemont Fairgrounds are also culturally and historically important to the town. The town holds a three-day event every year called the "Yankee Doodle Days" that brings people to the fairgrounds for festivities. Charlemont should continue the re-use and restoration of historic buildings in town and continue to update the current national historic conservation inventory in the town. Site plan review and design standards should also be encouraged to ensure the preservation of Charlemont's historic and architectural character. The Charlemont fairgrounds should be used for additional cultural events in town. Grants should also be pursued to restore the grandstand at the Charlemont fairgrounds and the Bissell Bridge, two key historic features of the town.
GOAL: To promote a moderate and orderly rate of economic development consistent with Charlemont's small population and rural heritage in order to balance its tax base.
The economy in Charlemont, once dominated by farming and forestry, has shifted to a service base, with tourism and recreation being the primary economic activities. There are also a variety of small enterprises and industries present, from manufacturing to construction. The largest employers in town are found in the recreation industry, such as Berkshire East Ski Area, Zoar Outdoor, and Crab Apple Whitewater Rafting. Recreational businesses provide more than half of the employment in town, but it should be pointed out that many of those jobs are seasonal. Other large employers with primarily full time employees are the Hawlemont Regional Elementary School and the Charlemont Inn. The two primary economic areas in Charlemont are the Route 2 corridor and the town center, both suitable for business expansion. Businesses should be located on Route 2 carefully, so as not to mar the significant aesthetic and rural qualities of the town. Recreational businesses should continue to be promoted in town and Charlemont should find ways to encourage agricultural and forestry enterprises to continue and expand. A business-friendly atmosphere will also be key to bringing businesses into the town center. Charlemont will also need to pursue a communications infrastructure that is consistent with 21st Century technology.
Agricultural, Open Spaces, and Natural Resources
GOAL: To preserve and protect the agricultural heritage, open spaces and natural resources that give Charlemont its historic rural character.
Charlemont has large areas of undeveloped land, including expansive meadows and parts of the Mohawk State Forest. The town is predominantly rural and the Deerfield River runs the whole length of the town. The Deerfield River and hillside slopes attract tourists and provide opportunity for recreational activities. The attractiveness of the area, its accessibility, and the availability of developable land present significant potential for residential and commercial development. The town must have the means to control any potential development and to take action on future land-use patterns if it wishes to maintain the town's rural character and to protect its natural resources. Charlemont can protect its agricultural and forest land through such state preservation programs as Chapter 61. Individual landowners can seek conservation easements through land trusts, such as the Franklin Land Trust, to provide additional open space preservation. Protection of the Deerfield River and the portion of the Deerfield River Watershed in Charlemont should receive additional attention to ensure this natural resource is protected. The Charlemont Open Space Plan is currently being updated under Massachusetts Executive Order 418.
GOAL: To improve public safety, traffic flow, and pedestrian movement in the town of Charlemont.
Charlemont is bisected by two major roads, Route 2 and Route 8A. Route 2 is the "primary arterial route" traveling east-west across the entire length of the town (and the State) and connects the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts with the Hudson River Valley in New York. Route 2 crosses scenic agricultural and forestlands adjacent to the Deerfield and Cold Rivers and is important visually to the town, especially in the Fall season. Route 8A, a "local arterial route," provides north-south connection to the town of Heath to the north and Hawley to the south. Residents of Charlemont have expressed concerns regarding the safety of their roads, primarily Route 2 but also on other town roads. Traffic passing through the center of town is a threat to pedestrian safety. Large commercial and passenger vehicles speed through the town center endangering pedestrians and disrupting nearby residents and business owners. There are also roads within the town that don't have posted speed limits. Safety and better visual aides should be installed in the town center to make the core of the town more pedestrian friendly. Traffic calming measures, such as street trees, islands, and narrow road markings, can also be designed by working with the Massachusetts Highway Department. Additional parking spaces in the town center should also be created, town roads should be evaluated for improvements, and speed limits should be posted and enforced.
GOAL: Provide essential and effective municipal services in order to satisfy the needs of residents and visitors in Charlemont.
Charlemont provides a range of services to its residents including public works, police, fire, recreation, and education. Charlemont has a Volunteer Fire Department and provides some local police service. The State Police regularly patrol the major roads in town. Residents of the town can also participate in some Franklin County programs such as limited transportation programs, a few medical programs, and the Meals on Wheels program. Charlemont students, and those of the neighboring town of Hawley, attend Hawlemont School, located in the town center, for grades K through six. Secondary students attend the Mohawk Trail Regional High School, located in Buckland, for the seventh through twelfth grades. In the eastern section of town there is also a private school, the Academy at Charlemont.
Charlemont should continue to ensure adequate services are being provided to its residents. The implementation of a capitol improvement plan would help to integrate costs and future demands of needed improvements on roads, safety equipment, and building maintenance. The town should also explore the feasibility of hiring a Town Manager to conduct day-to-day business for Charlemont. Increased communication is also needed in town, which could include additional notice boards and a Town newsletter. Additional educational opportunities and services for Charlemont's elderly population should continue to be top priorities.
GOAL: To maintain, improve and create adequate recreational opportunities for residents and tourists of all ages.
Recreation is extremely important to the economy of Charlemont, for both its residents and visitors. The recreation industry is one of the largest areas of employment in Charlemont as well as the highest grossing industry in town. The Mohawk State Forest offers a scenic picnic area along the Deerfield River and provides many additional recreational activities. Many of the old Indian trails still exist in Charlemont, including a portion of the original Mahican/Mohawk Trail footpath. Berkshire East Ski Area and the Deerfield River are also key recreational features in Charlemont. Three rafting companies, Zoar Outdoor, Crabapple Whitewater, and Moxie, provide rafting and boating opportunities in Charlemont.
Charlemont can better utilize existing town open space for recreational use for such purposes as a resident town beach and a walking path/greenway in town. Establishing a network of multipurpose trails that can be used for year-round use and promoting recreational uses on existing state owned land would help to increase recreational opportunities as well. Charlemont should improve existing after-school programs for children, to include additional music programs, library programs, and affordable ski programs. The potential for bike paths in town should also be examined.
GOAL: To create a pedestrian friendly environment that is attractive to businesses and will preserve the historic character of the town center.
Charlemont has a traditional, well-defined town center that can be used for further economic and recreational development, historic preservation/revitalization, and for the development of compact forms of housing. The center has been given its own section in the Master Plan because many residents view the town center as important to the town's identity and cohesiveness and as the primary location for improving economic and social development. Charlemont's town center has been designated as a National Historic District. Promoting compact housing development and economic development in the center should be consistent with the existing architectural and historic character of the center. Concentrating commercial and industrial activities in the town center will enable the town to utilize the existing infrastructure to its potential, and to lower the demand on valuable open space outside the town center. The town center should also be a visually appealing place, as well as pedestrian friendly. Aesthetic improvements and traffic calming measures can improve these qualities. A special business district might be considered that would make small business development within certain limits a matter of right, rather than a requirement for special permits.