• Charlemont
  • 157 Main Street, 01339
  • 413-339-4335
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Economic Development

Charlemont's economy has its roots in its agrarian history, small size and rural backdrop. The economy once dominated by farming and forestry has shifted to a service, tourist and recreation based economy. This is punctuated by a variety of small enterprises and industries from manufacturing to construction.

Labor Force

The total number of jobs available in Charlemont has almost doubled, from 171 in 1990 to 376 in the year 2000, with government and service industry jobs being responsible for most of the 120% increase. The total labor force itself has remained relatively flat over the same time period, with only a small increase. The unemployment rates have followed the state's decline of the past ten years, but still maintain a percentage point above the state average. The largest employers in town are found in the recreation industry such as Berkshire East, Zoar Outdoor, Crab Apple Whitewater and the Charlemont Inn. The Hawlemont elementary school is also a large employer.

Fiscal Impacts

The tax burden weighs heavily on Charlemont residents. Residential property owners are left to pay the largest portion of the town revenues. State aid is the second largest town revenue source, with commercial revenues accounting for less than 15% of the total revenue collected.

Charlemont had a tax rate of $19.61 in the year 2001. This rate is the 15th highest in the state. However, the average tax bill per single family is $2020, which is 16% below the state median of $2418. While this might appear encouraging on the surface, Charlemont's equalized value for 2001 is $52266, or 280th in the state. A high tax rate coupled with a low average equalized property value puts a tremendous financial burden on Charlemont property owners. The 1990 median annual family income for Charlemont was $32,366 and ranked 335 out of the 351 municipalities in the state.

The lack of diversity in the tax base keeps the burden on the residential taxpayer. The total commercial assessed value for 2001 was $6,097, 081, while the total residential assessment was $58,019,869. Commercial property represents only 9% of the total assessment. The need to alleviate the burden is clear, and increased business activity in the town center can help without impacting the rural landscape.

Recreation and Services Industry

Clearly this category has the largest impact on Charlemont's economy. Recreation has not only been a growth industry for Charlemont, but it provides more than half the employment positions available in town. It should be pointed out, however, that these are generally seasonal rather than year round positions. The service industry has added 115 jobs to the economy since 1990. This growth underscores the need to recognize the impact of the tourist industry on the community.

Farming and Forestry Industry

This segment of the economy has seen a significant decline over the years, and today is but a small segment of the Charlemont economy. There are only a handful of working farms that produce milk, vegetables, maple products, lumber products, and hay. The town has expressed a willingness to support and encourage the farming and forestry industries and agrees that it should seek ways to bolster these industries. Despite their small economic impact, these are still important and visible sectors of the community. The maintenance and promotion of a viable farming and forestry segment is an oft-stated goal of the community.

Business Environment

The Route 2 corridor and the village of Charlemont provide two critical areas for businesses to locate. There is a strong business presence in the area east of the village along Route 2 known locally as East Charlemont. This is where most of the motel rooms are located. It is also home to a mix of retail, restaurant and antique shops. Because of its location closer to Shelburne Falls and Greenfield, this area has the potential to attract additional residential and commercial development. This potential must be weighed against the desire of the town to have businesses locate in the village. Development along the Route 2 corridor has the potential for significant aesthetic impact. The community should take this into consideration when reviewing the adequacy of its present zoning.

The village of Charlemont has a variety of retail, restaurant and office uses, as well as town government offices, the post office, and the school. The main street is also home to a large general store. At the western end of the village are Zoar Outdoors' headquarters and retail store. There is adequate space and infrastructure for business expansion in the village core. The timing is right to form a local business association to promote and attract businesses to the town. It could be to the community's benefit to identify the village as being receptive to future commercial development.

GOAL: To promote a moderate and orderly rate of economic development consistent with Charlemont's small size and rural heritage in order to balance its tax base.

Objective 1: Maintain an appropriate balance between economic development and the preservation of open space, natural resources and a safe environment.

1.1 Designate appropriate areas for commercial development.

1.2 Create a Route 2 overlay district to protect the corridor as a major tourist attraction.

1.3 Promote and invite businesses that practice good environmental stewardship.

Objective 2: Maintain the health and stability of the resort industries that help drive Charlemont's economy.

2.1 Explore upgrading all rest areas along Route 2 with added amenities and access to

2.2 Form a business association to guide appropriate business and tourism development.

2.3 Develop a marketing and promotion plan for the town.

2.4 Utilize the Old Brick Schoolhouse as a tourist information center.

2.5 Work with the whitewater, skiing and hiking industries to develop ways to keep their customers in town longer.

Objective 3: Encourage the continued operations of agriculture and forestry enterprises.

3.1 The Planning Board and the Select Board should investigate to what degree local regulations create barriers to the successful operation of the agriculture and forestry industries. (e.g., local support of the state APR program, local tax breaks, local permit revisions, etc).

3.2 Encourage the clustering of development to protect meadows and agricultural lands.

3.3 Work with FRCOG (Franklin Regional Council of Governments) to develop a
"Stewardship Guide" that would educate and inform landowners about programs and
methods that help preserve, maintain and perpetuate the agriculture and forestry industries.

Objective 4: Pursue a communications infrastructure that is consistent with the technology of the 21st century.

4.1 Acquire high speed internet access that is appropriate for the town by collaborating with FRCOG on the Franklin/Hampshire Connect initiative.

4.2 Encourage local businesses (to include cottage industries, home occupations, farming, etc.) to have an Internet presence. Provide the necessary support and education to achieve this.

Objective 5: Maintain and promote the village as the economic center of the town.

5.1 Identify and promote a portion of the village for more intense commercial
development (e.g., smaller lot sizes, reduced setbacks, by right use, etc).

5.2 Refurbish the downtown area (e.g., façade improvement, landscaping, etc).

5.3 Develop consistent signs that promote and inform (e.g., directional signs, promotional banners on light poles, historical markers on buildings, etc).

Objective 6: Promote economic diversity.

6.1 Identify buildings/parcels available for commercial or multifamily development
and keep an inventory of them.

6.2 Encourage the establishment of environmentally benign light industries, professions, home-based businesses and mom & pop stores that will not negatively impact the rural and aesthetic quality of the area.

6.3 Establish a promotional/marketing partnership with surrounding towns.

6.4 Define "Light Industry" and "Home Occupation," and redefine "Cottage Industry".
Develop performance standards for those industries.

6.5 Re-examine the Special Permit process to determine its adequacy as the primary approach to land use management in town

Town Calendar
Thu, Apr 18, 2024, 6:00 pm
Town Hall and Via phone conference
Posted to: Planning Board
  • Attached File: Hinata Hearing Continuation
  • Attached File: Hinata Updated Application material
  • Attached File: 4-18-2024 PB Agenda
  • Mon, Apr 22, 2024, 6:30 pm
    Town Hall and Via phone conference
    Posted to: Board of Selectmen
    Mon, Apr 22, 2024, 7:00 pm
    Town Hall and Via phone conference
    Posted to: Board of Selectmen
    Wed, Apr 24, 2024, 4:00 pm
    Hawley Town Hall
    Posted to: Town Hall
    Tue, May 28, 2024, All Day
    Posted to: Board of Selectmen