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The Planning Board discussed the process for changing zoning ordinances to save commercial buildings.

North Adams Wants To Save Businesses From Zoning Doom

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Properties like the West End Market lose their commercial status if they're not in use for two years. The board would like to give owners more time.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board is trying to keep commercial properties that were grandfathered into residential zoning from losing their ability to operate.

According to city ordinances, a commercial property grandfathered into a residential zone would lose its ability to be a business if it is not used for two years  — such as the NAPA building on State Road that's deterioriating for lack of use.

"There is an ordinance that if there is no further use of the business as a business it reverts automatically to residential zone no matter what the property looks like or what the property is used for," Planning Board Chairman Michael Leary said on Monday.

It's unknown how many properties are affected. Building Inspector William Meranti noted the city was full of little neighborhood stores and other commercial and industrial enterprises, many no longer operating. In danger are landmarks such as the the West End Market and the Wigwam Cabins on Florida Mountain, both of which have undergone lengthy renovations.

The board is hoping to find a way to retain those properties as businesses so that they don't become abandoned.

"It obviously has a giant economic impact on the value of the property ...  I've been approached by the owners of these [type of] properties and they've asked me to appraise it and I tell them the value is zero," Planning Board member Wayne Wilkinson said. "The reason that it is zero is because it is a commercial building but it has absolutely no revenue generating potential."

Wilkinson, a commercial real estate assessor, said that if something is not done, the owners of the obviously commercial buildings will stop paying taxes and the city will have to pay to tear them down.

However, the board is not sure how to go about changing the ordinance. The city still wants to retain control of the zoned areas but wants the ability to make "reasonable" exceptions and avoid any type of spot zoning, which is illegal. The former NAPA store is not suitable for housing but could easily be turned back into an auto parts store, the board used as an example. However, if someone wanted to use it for a different commercial activity that does not fit into that zoning, the board wants to be able to say no.

The board will be asking City Solicitor John DeRosa for guidance. That will include some research into the possible ways to do it and looking at other municipalities that face similar situations.

"I just want to make sure that the solicitor is comfortable in what direction we go in," Leary said. "I am certain other communities have the problem, I just don't know how or whether they've addressed it."

In other business, the board:

– Application of Jeremy and Dawn Broadwell for a special permit to install a sign on property located at 184 East Main St.

– Application of Darrell K. English to operate a non-retail educational museum (on the Holocaust) at property located at 45 Eagle St., in the former Papyri Bookstore. English is shooting for a Memorial Day opening.

– Application of Fahri Karakaya for a special permit to operate a restaurant at 67 Main St., in the former Petrino's.

– Application of Dong Liang for a special permit to operate a restaurant at 227 State Road; this is a change of ownership for Oriental Buffet.

– Application of Richard P. O'Neil for special permit to operate a motorcycle and small engine repair shop property at 54 River St., with the condition of parking for no more than three motor vehicles and that all vehicles be inside the shop at night.

– Reviewed new sign package for Adams Community Bank, formerly known as Adams Cooperative Bank, located at 31 Eagle St. The package included what is known as a "routed push through" sign, which lights the outline of the outline of the logo using LED lights.

– Re-elected Michael Leary as chairman and Paul Hopkins as vice chairman; reappointed Kyle Hanlon as liason to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

Tags: commercial buildings,   Planning Board,   zoning,   

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