Pittsfield Panel Advances Zoning Change for Self-Storage

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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A zoning change that would allow a self-storage facility by special permit at the Pittsfield Plaza is being recommended by the Ordinance and Rules Committee.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A plan to tweak the city's zoning ordinance to allow more retail-style storage facilities to operate within a commercial business zone with a special permit moved forward on Monday, with the support of the City Council's Ordinance & Rules Committee.
Alfred Weissman Real Estate, which proposed the change, said this would allow it to seek approval to redevelop part of the Pittsfield Plaza on Route 20 to address what its representatives called an underserved need for a new kind of self-storage operation that would be unlike the more industrial, open-air facilities currently in the city.
"We're here to tonight hoping that you will look at this as a change that is not only better for our property," said Joseph Genzano, general counsel for the company, "But one that recognizes the growing market of client-controlled, more retail-oriented storage, and one that will help foster a more competitive free market."
The amendment was previously endorsed last month by the city's Community Development Board, which after some concerns put forth to the City Council the petition that this type of operation be allowable in a BG zone with a special permit, retaining the city's right to approve such businesses on a case-by-case basis.
"This proposal does not allow for a million little huts on West Housatonic Street," clarified Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, who further amended to expand the change to light industrial (LDI) as well.
Councilor Christopher Connell expressed concerns about proximity of residential housing and possible safety issues such as fire access in the current draft design for the anticipated Pittsfield Plaza business, but City Planner C.J. Hoss said this change would merely allow for special permits to be granted, and a site plan for this particular project would still need to go through a separate approval process. 
The Pittsfield Plaza, built in 1962,  originally home to the Big N discount department store, has also contained a multiplex movie theater, restaurants, a furniture showroom, and other retail establishments. The shopping center's last major tenant left eight years ago, and the complex was in a state of serious disrepair when the current owners purchased it in 2007. A year later, Big Y World Class Market announced it's intention to relocate there, before eventually abandoning the plan in 2010 to maintain and renovate its existing West Street location.
Weissman was first denied a variance by the Community Development Board earlier this year because of the zoning ordinance's rules about uses within this BG zone, prompting the petition to amend the ordinance to allow application for a special permit.  
If approved by the rest of the City Council, the company said it will work with the Office of Community Development and the development board to insure that the design of the new retail self-storage structure fits the city's idea of acceptability for this special permit use.

Tags: special permit,   zoning,   

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