Town meeting members stand to be counted in favor of creating a train station at Monday's special town meeting.
ADAMS, Mass. — Town meeting members Monday night overwhelmingly approved a proposal for a train station on Hoosac Street.
The special town meeting also passed six other articles, four unanimously with no discussion. All of the votes required a two-thirds passage, or 70 out of the 104 attending town meeting members.
The station didn't pass easily: town meeting members spent an hour discussing the pros and cons before authorizing the expenditure of $552,000.
The total cost to the town will be $165,000, taken from free cash, as a federal government grant will reimburse 70 percent of the cost.
Proponents including Berkshire Scenic Railway Vice President Jay Green and Jeffrey Cohen, who is planning a redevelopment of the former Berkshire Spinning Associates, argued to keep the project on track.
Green said the railway was planning a long-term commitment to the line between Adams and North Adams, reinforced by the state's purchase of the tracks and re-installation of the line between 7/11 and Hoosac Street.
Amenities were important in providing the rail experience, said Green, and Adams had the chance to create its own station for the estimated 16,000 visitors riding the rail.
"How do you want them to be welcomed?" he asked town meeting.
The location is currently a long-closed car wash. The building will be renovated to look more like the town's old station and be used primarily as a pavilion area with exhibits, marketing for local attractions and picnicking, with the possibility of adding restrooms. Tickets will be sold at the Visitors Center across the street.
Cohen, who is planning residential units in the mill, said he "selfishly" supported the project because it would eliminate blight and improve the area.
But George Haddad, a local business owner and former selectman, argued that the negotiated price on the property — $195,000 — was far too high. Town meeting member Jeffrey Lefebvre warned the town had taken on projects before that had come to naught.
Haddad said the town had offered $40,000 a decade ago that was turned down by town meeting.
Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said the price was negotiated based on appraisals and with an owner who had no incentive to sell.
"We simply felt that sitting at the table with the owner and arriving at this price was the right way for us," he said.
Myra Wilk, also a selectman when the property was brought up in 2004, agreed the price was tough.
"Yes, they've got us where they want us," she said, but the town should move forward because losing the nearly $400,000 grant would be worse.
Moderator Edward Driscoll reads out the articles before voting.
Butler said it was an investment in the future at time when the Adams is seeing an increased interest in development.
"These are people who think that Adams is at its tipping point," he said. "This project is symbolic of that energy."
Another town meeting member pointed to the investments being made in North Adams toward the project; another that members who were arguing about cost had just passed a $970,000 borrowing for the library without any discussion.
The funding, Article 3, passed 88-13; Article 4, authorizing the purchase of the land, passed easily when discussion was considered moot.
Two other articles held for discussion, Article 5 concerning easements for the proposed roundabout at Friend Street, and Article 8, the new solar array bylaw, passed with only a few comments.
Prior to the meeting, a letter from "East Road Residents" was passed out to members entering the school urging a yes vote on the article.
The missive endorsed the work of the Planning and Zoning boards in drafting the bylaw.
"They have created a bylaw that protects the town's residential neighborhoods, while encouraging business and homeowners to take full advantage of the sun's benefit without threatening the surrounding properties."
The town is named in a lawsuit by East Road residents over the permitting of a large solar array in their neighborhood. The controversial issue prompted the town boards to create a bylaw to limit commercial arrays in residential areas.
Both Planning Board Chairwoman Barbara Ziemba and ZBA Chairman Michael Mach spoke in favor of its passage.
"If we'd had this, this East Road project never would have happened, so the town would never have gotten sued and we'd be all set," Mach said. "So vote for this."
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