AG Rejects Lanesborough's Zoning Changes

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The Board of Selectmen will schedule another special town meeting in the fall that will be dedicated to zoning issues.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The attorney general has rejected the town's new zoning bylaws, forcing it to start the process over.

The town did not properly post the public hearing regarding changes to the zoning regulations meaning the state could not approve it. The notice did not include the specific changes.

Town officials tried using a waiver process to have them approved anyway but received two objections — one from a resident concerned with home occupation rules and the other from Joseph Sinopoli III, who was seeking a permit for a gravel pit and was unaware that those were to be eliminated.

The complaint was enough for the attorney general's office to outright deny the bylaws, which opens the door for Sinopoli to receive a permit for his gravel pit and forces the town to redo the notification and hearing process. Voters will have to re-vote the changes at a special town meeting in the fall.

In other business, town officials are looking to reduce the police cruiser fleet by one car following an accident that totaled one vehicle. A 2008 Impala was destroyed recently when an officer hit a rock in the Vacation Village parking lot. Police Chief Mark Bashera asked the board to replace the cruiser but the Board of Selectmen were concerned with the number of vehicles as well as the need to replace the fire chief's vehicle.

According to interim Town Administrator Joseph Kellogg, Bashera agreed to reduce a vehicle if the town will purchase a new four-wheel drive cruiser. A Ford Expedition the police have is in need of repair and Bashera will give that sport-utility vehicle to the Fire Department.

The Expedition will need a new motor and Kellogg said the repairs would come out of the police budget initially and then the cost transferred out of the Fire Department's budget.

"The chief said he'd be willing to reduce his fleet by one if he could replace the one that got wrecked with a four-wheel drive vehicle now," Kellogg said on Monday. "He would use his budget to repair the vehicle. We would order the new four-wheel drive vehicle and when that came in, he'd turn it over to the Fire Department."

Bashera had asked for a used vehicle but Kellogg suggested using the town's reserve account to buy a new one and push back the next purchase. However, after talking with the Finance Committee, which needs to approve using those funds, Kellogg said they will have to put it to a town vote on how to pay for the new car.

"Finance Committee thinks this should be presented to the voters in the fall. They don't want to take it out of reserves," Kellogg said.

Also on Monday, the Selectmen approved upping the electrical inspection rates and expressed concern with the amount of construction that is happening without permits.

The new rates include $55 for residential, hotel and motel permits, $55 for inspection (after the first which is included in the permit), $180 for multi-family homes with an additional $50 for each additional unit and a minimum of $100 for commercial and industrial inspections with .07 cents per square foot.

Wiring inspector Joseph Knysh reported that he has found many commercial businesses performing upgrades without a permit or inspection.

"I think we should impose a fine," Knysh told the board. "Some of the stores just hire their own electrician or plumber."

He said he has recently found a store in the Berkshire Mall and a store on Route 7 that were not permitted. However, he said he was asked specifically about them. He can't "patrol" for permits.

The Selectmen said they will get the inspectors together and find a way to combat the illegal building.

"A problem we have is that we have only part-time inspectors," Selectman Robert Barton said.

• The board also denied a resident's request to install a streetlight on Sunrise Street. Kellogg said he twice had police look at the lighting to see if it caused a public hazard but the department was unwilling to make a recommendation either way.

• Selectmen also approved spending about $110,000 of Chapter 90 funds for road projects. An additional $51,000 is being put aside for next year and is eyed for a new culvert on Putnam Road.

• Kellogg reported that 41 applicants for town administrator have been reviewed by the search committee and has been narrowed down to seven. The committee will interview those seven in the next two weeks and recommend three or four finalist for the Selectmen to interview.

• Daniel Mange, owner of Mange Auto in Cheshire, told the board that he is considering moving his business to town and wanted direction on getting proper permits. Mange did not reveal where he was looking to locate the business but that he was looking to be there by the end of October.

• Kellogg reported that the state Department of Environmental Protection is increasing the number of required wells that need to be tested on a yearly basis after toxins were found in a resident's water supply. DEP is still researching the cause of the pollution in Joseph Trybus' well but so far all of the tests of nearby wells has returned clean, Kellogg said.

Tags: attorney general,   police cruiser,   town meeting,   zoning,   

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