By: By Tammy Daniels On: 11:21PM / Monday September 12, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expected to file building permits as soon as this week to construct a 160,000 square foot Super Walmart on Curran Highway.
"Because we are getting so close to final design on the Walmart project we're going to be submitting applications for building permits shortly," attorney Jay Sabin, representing developer Ceruzzi Properties, told the Planning Board on Monday night.
Planners review changes requested for the Walmart project on Curran Highway in North Adams.
The announcement came during the board's approval of a boundary change to slice three acres off the 26-acre Walmart parcel and an alteration at the exit from the jughandle to the accessway to the parking lot.
Jon Brodeur, of engineering firm Doucet & Associates, confirmed the plans could be filed by the end of this week and said construction will take about a year once shovels are in the ground.
The board was thrilled to hear the project was moving forward but was concerned that moving the boundary line — eliminating land investigated by the state Department of Environmental Protection — would leave the tainted property as is.
"It's very important for us to know that by doing this that someone is ...," started Planner Donald Keagan, who had his sentence finished by Vice Chairman Paul Hopkins, "is not getting out of having to clean it."
Sabin said it would fall to Ceruzzi to remediate the problem and that plans have been made in cooperation with DEP.
"Walmart is very, very cautious when it comes to their acquisitions and the way that they look at this, very appropriately look at this, is that ... Walmart would rather see my client deal with that than deal with it themselves," he said. "Especially since it's a property they don't need."
Large concrete rubble was dumped on the 3-acre site without informing the DEP, which allows concrete fill crushed to no larger than 6 inches with approval. Sabin said other expected environmental cleanup will also take place on the property.
Walmart is expected to purchase the larger the parcel.
The board continued the public hearing of Snoford LLC to operate a package store until October because of concerns over the lack of site plans, parking and the owner's frequent violations of conditions and property tax issues. Charles "Rusty" Ransford and Thomas Snow are seeking to open the store at 76 Union St. building owned by Ransford under the name of the former Pops Package Store that was torn down some years ago.
The owners had received licensing to operate a package store after being denied an all-alcholic license last year. The hearing had also been delayed several times until back taxes owed on the property were paid.
The hearing, however, brought up more issues including the condition of the building and the amount of parking and possible requirement to pave the lot behind the building. The discussion revealed that a business the board was unaware of was using the building and that a condition on the Crystal Hard Hat that included leasing parking from Ransford was in dispute.
Planners considered whether to reject the application outright because of Ransford's past history. "I don't have any confidence no matter what we do that he will be in compliance," said Keagan.
However, the board voted to continue the hearing, giving Ransford a list of information it required and setting a site visit prior to the next meeting.
:: Approved the application for a change of use permit for Security Supply Corp. to operate a wholesale plumbing and heating business at 50 Roberts Drive. The company expects to close on the property this week.
:: Approved a special permit to change and upgrade signage for NBT Bank N.A., which is moving in the former Legacy Banks building on State Road, on condition the signs not be internally lit.
:: Approved an application of MCLA for properties located on Blackinton, Church and Porter streets. One lot will be gifted to the commonwealth of Massachusetts for the MCLA Science Center and lot two will remain with the MCLA Office of Admissions and Wellness Center.
:: Approved the extension of hours for Supreme Pizza until 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 1 a.m. from Thursday through Saturday.
:: Approved the installation of an exterior cooler on a concrete pad behind Desperados on Eagle Street. Owner David Atwell said the cooler will be framed and painted over to blend in.
Planning Board to Look at Ordinance Change
By: Tammy Daniels On: 08:55PM / Monday August 15, 2011
Planners are concerned that once-commercial properties are now useless because of a two-year time limit.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board will work on a solution to a vexing issue that's left some properties in limbo around the city.
The board next month will begin discussions on changing an ordinance that limits buildings that were grandfathered under zoning to a vacancy of no more than two years before they revert to the current zoning, which is often residential.
"There are several properties in this city that have defaulted on that status and are nonconforming but no longer in continuous use. Therefore they are kind of in a state of limbo," said Chairman Michael Leary on Monday night. "I want to generate a discussion at the next meeting to see if there are options that we can recommend to the City Council to amend ordinances so we can get those properties out of limbo and help the owners of those properties."
The issues came up earlier this year when the board sought an opinion from the city solicitor as to the fate of the West End Market. The building had been under renovation but owner Barry Garton was running into a two-year deadline that would revert the commercial building to residential use. The solicitor found the renovation could be determined a "substantial" enough use to allow the board to extend his special permit.
Planning Board member Wayne Wilkinson said the most blatant example of the problem is the former NAPA auto parts store on State Road.
"Technically, the building is rendered useless," said Wilkinson. "The only use that's allowed there is residential; for someone to spend the amount of money to develop that proerpty for residential ... I don't even know if you could because of the size of the lot.
"Eventually, it will be taken by the city for back taxes and there will be nothing left at that time but to demolish it."
One option the board will look at is removing the section that refers to a nonconforming structure being "abandoned or discontinued."
The ordinance states: (Section 12, Part 2) Abandonment of a nonconforming use: A nonconforming use which has been abandoned or discontinued for a period of more than two (2) years or has been replaced by a conforming use shall lose the protection set forth above in Section 12.1. (Ord. of 8-14-1990, § 1)
Building Inspector William Meranti said an ordinance change could run into state law.
"We're an old city ... we have some of these properties that seem like they're in neighborhoods but they're commercial, storefront-type properties that have absolutely no use," said Building Inspector William Meranti, who added there is no process for reviving the nonconforming use.
Meranti said changes may run into the state's 40A zoning but "there could be avenues we can take."
The meeting was a continuation of last week's regular Planning Board meeting, which was cut short when Planner Kyle Hanlon fell ill and was taken to the hospital. Hanlon was in attendance last night and said he was feeling much better.
In other business, the board approved:
• The move of pet supplies store Bark 'N Cat from Eagle Street to 28 Holden St. Owner Christa Abel said the business is outgrowing the space it currently occupies with Persnickety toys; she expects to open in late September.
• Signage for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts presented by Mick Callahan of Callahan Signs. The signage for the new location for the campus police in what was the Brewer Perkins building at 277 Ashland St. is in line with a re-identification plan for the college. There will also be signage to aid motorists and others in locating departments during the ongoing construction on campus.
• Snoford LLC for property at 76 Union St. was postponed to September at the request of the applicant.
• The reaffirmation the community development plan, which has changed little over the decades. The plan is reaffirmed annually; Leary anticipated that the document will change to align with the master plan currently being formulated.
By: Tammy Daniels On: 05:36PM / Monday August 15, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — According to reports from The Manchester (Vt.) Journal, a New York bedding company looking for a new home has decided on Vermont.
WCW Inc., a manufacturer of speciality mattresses for the hospitality and medical industries had also been eyeing the former Sprague building in the Hardman Industrial Park. The city was prepared to offer a property tax incentive and declare the site an economic opportunity development area to open up incentives from the state. The City Council was expected to take up the matter at its meeting next week.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said he had spoken with WCW owner John Wilkinson on Monday morning and Wilkinson seemed to be leaning toward Manchester. However, he had received no notice by late afternoon on Wilkinson's decision.
Alcombright said he had been retooling figures to offer a better benefits package.
The Hoosick Fall, N.Y., company would have brought 100 jobs and a payroll estimated at $4 million to the city with the potential for growth. WCW had narrowed down its new location to either North Adams or Manchester. It was expected to make a decision early this week.
The Manchester Journal quotes Manchester Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie as saying, "Clearly, WCW's relocation from New York State to Manchester is proof-positive that the town's tax and development policies and new economic development office are paying dividends."
Wilkinson told the Journal that he expects the company to begin operating "marginally" in the 160,000 square foot building in 30 days and be fully operations in 4 to 5 months. The building, known as the Applejack building, is currently occupied by Applejack Art Partners.
The paper said Gov. Peter Shumlin's office was expected to make an announcement on Tuesday after the state offered to provide an incentive package for the company to move there.
The town's community development office gave "no comment" last week on which site WCW was eyeing; the Manchester Journal speculated it was the Applejack Arts building but gave no further information.
By: Tammy Daniels On: 12:26AM / Friday August 12, 2011
WCW Inc., a New York mattress manufacturer, is reportedly negotiating to purchase the former Sprague building in the Hardman Industrial Park.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A mattress manufacturer eyeing sites in the city and Manchester, Vt., is expected to make a decision early next week on where it will move 100 jobs.
The city and state are continuing to work with WCW Inc., a maker of specialty beds for the medical and hospitality industry, despite the company's legal tangle over property taxes in New York State.
"This will be resolved," said Mayor Richard Alcombright on Thursday. "I don't see it in the way of the city moving forward in pursuing this company and these jobs."
WCW and the town of Hoosick and the village of Hoosick Falls have been in a standoff over the valuation of the company's 1 Mechanic St. building purchased in 2006 by its realty arm, JW Realty.
The town accuses WCW of failing to pay $1 million in taxes and reneging on an understanding about a lowered evaluation. Rensselaer County, which is stuck with the bill that WCW hasn't paid, is asking the court to foreclose on the property.
WCW says the assessment wasn't lowered enough to reflect fair market value and the town hasn't been willing to work to resolve the issue. The owners also say the town's claim WCW has a bad "track record" on taxes isn't true and that it's up to date on its three other properties.
There have been accusations between them of tactical delays, failing to file paperwork, outsized assessments, and useless negotiations. The matter has been tied up in court since 2007; the most recent move is the summary foreclosure judgment requested by the county.
Owner John Wilkinson has been mostly silent on the issue, declining to speak to the media despite numerous phone calls. On Thursday, he sent a response to Alcombright addressing the recent news articles and outlining his side of the dispute.
Wilkinson said the company had purchased the property for $400,000 and had an appraisal done that came up with a value of $1.2 million, to which it agreed. The village has valued the property at $13.3 million; the town has set an assessed value of $2 million. (New York has multiple taxing authorities.)
Alcombright, a former banker, said it was not unusual for such a dispute to take four or five years to resolve. But it has raised eyebrows on this side of the border and fears of a fly-by-night business taking advantage of the city.
Alcombright said the letter was in line with what Wilkinson had discussed with he and Michael L. Vedovelli, regional director for the state Office of Business Development. The city and state are crafting an incentive package to induce Wilkinson to choose the Berkshires over the Green Mountains and the deadline is tight for both the public initiative and the private relocation.
"I'm not seeing this as a huge red flag," the mayor said. "To slow down this process because this has been politicized is insane."
WCW is looking to purchase the empty Sprague Electric building in the Hardman Industrial Park owned Curran Memorial Realty Trust. The city would offer a limited property tax discount, estimated at about $175,000 over five years based on the current assessment of $2.2 million. The valuation of the building has been abated several times and is about the half the value from when Sprague was operating there. Its fiscal 2011 taxes were $70,781.
The City Council will have to approve any agreement.
Wilkinson wrote that a final attempt in June to talk to the town and village was rejected and the failure to achieve a resolution was the determining factor in the decision to relocate.
"At the time WCW/JW Realty determined a new location was essential and would be leaving Hoosick Falls," he wrote.
By: Tammy Daniels On: 10:21PM / Wednesday August 03, 2011
Finance Committee Chairman Michael Bloom and member David Bond endorsed the creation of an economic opportunity area and tax incentive for a company looking to move 100 jobs to the city.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is hoping a Hoosick Falls, N.Y., company will make its beds — lots of them — in North Adams. The move could bring at least 100 jobs.
WCW Inc., a family-owned manufacturer of bedding for hospitals and the hospitality industry, is eyeing the former Sprague Electric building in the Hardman Industrial Park. The growing venture wants to consolidate all three of its current facilities into one operation.
The Finance Committee on Wednesday eagerly endorsed a request by Mayor Richard Alcombright to designate the nearly 100,000 square-foot building and property in the industrial park an economic opportunity area and the accompanying five-year special property tax assessment. A resolution and tax incentive will go before the City Council on Aug. 23.
The incentive is part of a package to sweeten the deal over a competing site in Manchester, Vt.
"[Owner] John Wilkinson really likes North Adams, he's made that very clear," said Alcombright, who was knowledgeable about what Vermont was offering. "I looked at the numbers that he had ... we certainly seemed to be very, very competitive; in fact, I think we're more competitive."
The mayor said the condition and size of the building, the city's lower property prices and taxes, significantly lower state workers compensation rates and state tax credits, and McCann Technical School and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts were all attractors. It also hasn't hurt that Housing and Economic Development Secretary Gregory Bialecki has spoken to the Wilkinsons on the city's behalf.
In a letter of intent to the mayor, WCW President Jeffrey Wilkinson wrote, "this project would involve the purchase of an existing building suitable to allow the relocation of our entire operation and staff. This would involved relocation of approximately 100 jobs with an annual payroll in excess of $4 million."
Local and state officials have been working with the company to bring the deal to fruition over the past six weeks.
"This is by far the most exciting, encouraging thing since ... Mass MoCA," said Councilor Keith Bona.
Michael L. Vedovelli, regional director for the state Office of Business Development, said the City Council's approval will be necessary to wrap up a package including state tax credits by a September deadline for the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council.
"It's viewed as a three-way partnership with all parties coming together," he said, describing the state's package as "aggressive."
Where a TIF, or tax increment financing, agreement allows reductions on capital investments, the STA provides for property tax discounts over the entire value. That's important, said Alcombright, because investment into the building is expected to be small while the assessment on the property is $2.2 million.
WCW mattresses are sold to hospital and hotels — and exported to China.
"The STA will provide, I believe, the incentive we need to have this company locate in North Adams," said the mayor. "Their commitment, on the other hand, is the purchase of the building, capital improvements, corporate growth and expansion of jobs over time."
The STA would would tax the company at 25 percent increments, starting at 0 and ending at 100 percent over the five years.
John Wilkinson has been in the bedding business for some 30 years; WCW was established in 1992 and holds 16 patents for various types of bedding and mattresses. It currently operates an administrative headquarters and a manufacturing facility for sewing, foam cutting and assembly in Hoosick Falls and customer call center in Bennington, Vt.
WCW is looking to relocate before the end of the year and the former Sprague building is "the perfect size" for them, said the mayor. The structure is about 20 years old; it has been vacant for some years but is in good condition. It also has space to the south that would allow for future expansion.
About 80 percent of current jobholders are expected to follow the company; that percentage would decrease as jobs opened for local residents and the company expanded.
Alcombright and Michael Nuvallie of the Office of Community Development toured the facility last week and were impressed with the operation. In addition to being family owned and an American manufacturer (that exports to China), the company is very green: everything is recycled, it's very clean and it uses nontoxic materials.
"I think everybody in this city is ready for some good news," said Bond. He asked, "is there any way for the council, the community, to communicate with this company and really let them know ... how well received they would be?"
"I think supporting the STA shows how committed you as a council and the city of North Adams are toward this project," said Vedovelli, "and if you're talking about welcome, I think that's a very strong sign."
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.