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The historic Wilkinson House on Church Street was approved as a B&B.
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North Adams Planners OK B&B, Solar Array, Dog Facility

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday approved a new bed & breakfast on Church Street, a doggie day-care facility and a solar array.

Gianni Donati was approved to transform 164 Church St. into a B&B, with an owner's residence and common areas on the first floor.

Donati, represented by architect David Westall, plans to use the four bedrooms on the second floor for guest rooms, with the possibility of opening up the third floor in the future for some related use. There are six parking spaces, four for guests and two for the owners.

"There is a carport in the back of the building that is not original ... that will be demolished to improve the asethetics of the back side of the building," Westall said. "It needs a lot of upgrades and cosmetic work on the interior."

Church Street neighbor and Planner Brian Miksic was approving of the permit.

"I've always loved that building and I'm glad it's going to be redone and reused," he said. "It's a good space and a good location for it."

The Tudor home known as the Wilkinson House was built between 1895 and 1900 and had been the residence of banker and businessman Edward S. Wilkinson, son of the city's third mayor, and his wife, Alice Houghton, daughter of the city's first mayor. It was later occupied by the late Judge Ernest Rosasco and his wife, Mary, who died last year at age 99.

Donati presented the plans for the historic house to the Historical Commission last month.

A 650-kilowatt solar array was given the go-ahead on West Shaft Road, on property owned by developer Michael Deep. The array is being installed by Borrego Solar Systems Inc. on 4.5 acres of the 56-acre parcel.

"The area on top of the hill was previously cleared by the owner and the entire array is going to fit in that footprint," said Larry Rusiecki of engineering firm Doucet & Associates of Northampton. "We are outside of all the regulated jurisdictional areas."

The project will include a security fence around the array and concrete pad for equipment. He told the board in response to questions that the storm water runoff had been reviewed and that the gravel road would be maintained for accessibility but not improved.

Planner Kyle Hanlon wanted assurance that there was a decommissioning plan in place because there was no information in the materials provided to the board.

Borrego's Steve Long said the lease is for 20 years, with options for extensions, and the decommissioning plan is part of that.

"It would be removed from the site and brought back to its natural condition," he said.

"But I don't see it written down in any of this," responded Hanlon, displaying the paperwork. "I would like to see something in writing."

The project was approved on condition the lease and decommissioning plan be submitted for the record.

Dan Sharry and Rachel Clarke were approved for a dog training and day-care facility at 420 Curran Highway, but on condition that the building's owners improve the exterior conditions.

Clarke is a certified trainer and has been operating A Pawsitive Step training for about five years. The facility will be in the front of the structure, where J-Star Gymnastics had been located. The building had originally been the site of the former K-K Home Mart and later the Department of Motor Vehicles office and the adult day care program.

Sharry said there was work to be done inside and a fence that would be repaired or replaced. He anticipated adding grooming and retail components in the future.

Planners and neighbors, however, were more interested in the furniture, cars and other items piling up on the outside.

"I have no concerns with what they're proposing," said Ernie Gamache of Ernie's Auto Sales. "It's what's currently next to me. It doesn't look good ... I'm concerned as to before we do anything further, can we clean up what we've got down there."

Charles Fox, who owns the property with Gordon Leete, who was also present, blamed the messy conditions on a lessee who had overstepped bounds.

"We unfortunately rented to a party for storage purposes in an arrangement that has been repeatedly violated," he told the planners. The lease had been for inside storage but items had shown up outside. "It's been a very difficult party to rein in."

"We have worked with Mr. Meranti ... We've made immense amount of progress in the last few months but we've got a ways to go yet."

Building Inspector William Meranti, however, said the onus was on the property owner.

"It comes down to how long we will wait for the tenant," he said. "I think enforcement can help in that effort but it's up to the owner to take responsibility."

The board approved the special permit for the canine facility but set a condition of 90 days for improved landscaping and cleanup of the property.

Planners want to see the owner of the former BP gas station. The kiosk has continued to operate from the site but there's no gas to buy.

In other business, planners asked that the owner of the former BP gas station at Canal and Eagle streets appear before them next month.

The board had asked Meranti to look into compliance issues at the BP and at the Getty Station at 330 State Road.

The Getty station is functioning as a convenience store only at this point but was approved for demolition and rebuilding last fall.

"They've been through the board and they have a plan," Meranti said, adding he has inquired on the timeframe of when construction will begin.

The other station, however, has not sold gas in some time and has not provided a plan for its future use. Meranti said he had spoken to the city solicitor and the owner, who pleaded his case on behalf of the four people who work in the kiosk.

"It's still operating outside the agreed permit, it's in deplorable condition," he said.

The board also approved plans by Gemini Gymnastics at 1288 Massachusetts Ave. to expand its offerings for preschool gym and flexibility training in currently unused space; a Form A for Greylock Flume; and changing the signage MountainOne's ATM at 1326 Curran Highway to its new color and branding scheme. Planner Joanne DeRose was absent.

Tags: dog facility,   dogs,   gas station,   historical building,   Planning Board,   solar array,   

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