Self Storage Proposal For Pittsfield Plaza Passes First Hurdle

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Joseph Genzano presented the bylaw changes to the Community Development Board on Tuesday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The owners of the Pittsfield Plaza on West Housatonic Street is looking to change the city's zoning bylaws to allow a self storage development.

The Community Development Board voted in favor of recommending the petition changing the zoning to allow small scale self storage businesses to operate in the business commercial district with a special permit.

The bylaw will now go to the City Council and likely referred to subcommittee.

"We've been trying to redevelop that shopping center," Joseph Genzano, representing the owners Alfred Weissman Real Estate, said, adding that they were unable to put together the right mix of businesses.

After embarking on a marketing study, the small, enclosed self storage business was identified as an ideal project, particularly for the West side of the property which is somewhat out of view from West Housatonic Street. The company sought and was denied a variance allowing them to open and is now seeking changes in the laws.

Genzano said the proposal specifically limits the size and the structure of the units to separate the "mini self storage" from larger warehouse storage. He liken the aesthetic and operations to that of a retailer. Additionally, his proposal called for a special permit in commercial and industrial zones.

"Our view is not to look at it as a storage use but more as retail," Genzano said.

Realtor Beverly Milenski said allowing a self storage business to open would help he do her job of leasing the rest of the property. She said one business will help trigger others because "no one wants to be the first."

"Once the building, the facade and everything gets started, I can attract new tenants," Milenski said. "This, in my opinion, would get the ball rolling."

However, the board raised questions about how to move on the proposal because self storage units are already allowed in three zones but not the business commercial. Board members debated if they need to create one definition for all of the types of storage units and if which ones would be allowed in the various zones.

Only David Hathaway voiced hesitation with allowing storage businesses in the zone at all but he voted in favor of an adapted version of the proposal, which allowed the businesses to operate by right in the zones where storage is already approved.

"I think it is flawed. I think it needs more work," he said, adding that particularly the special permit clause for the smaller units in zones where larger storage facilities are allowed by right was particularly inconsistent.

The board opted to adopt the language specifying the smaller businesses and allow those to operate by right in the zones where other storage units are currently by right as well as by special permit in the business commercial zone.

Requiring a special permit seemed to be the sticking point for the board, saying they want to be able to have some controls over the proposed businesses there because of the proximity to residential areas.

"I'm more inclined to support it with a special permit," member Alf Barbalunga said.

Ward 5 City Councilor Jonathan Lothrop also spoke in favor requiring a special permit.

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