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Pittsfield Adopts Policy For Commercial Use of Parks

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Parks Commission will welcome commercial enterprises onto city property. But, only if it "enhances the park."
The commission has been weighing the levels at which commercial enterprises can operate on parkland since January, when Todd Fiorentino was looking to open a coffee kiosk, Poseidon Coffee.
Such enterprises have historically not been allowed at the park. But the kiosk seemed to many of the commissioners like it would be a nice addition.
To veer from tradition, the Parks Commission has since been crafting a policy to governor all types of commercial use. That includes an application fee and use fee. A commercial enterprise will also be required to pay for any additional work — such as hooking up to electric or water or having the city level an area — and clean up after itself.
"There may be additional fees the applicant would bear," Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath said.
For usage fees, the commission kicked around a few ideas. To start, McGrath had presented a similar fee structure as the city has for sidewalk vendors. If it was between one and 10 days, then the fee was $15 and from 10 to 30 days, it is $25. But McGrath felt those were too low for park spaces and had increased those to $50 and $70.
The commissioners hiked those to $50 and $100 but only after kicking around structuring it differently. Commissioner Anthony DeMartino said some enterprise ideas, such as renting kites at a park, bring in a low level of income that wouldn't work with the fee structure. But, somebody could do something that makes a significant amount of money and be paying what ultimately turns out to be very little compared to running the business out of a commercial property.
He suggested possibly having it be on a percentage basis. He suggested the vendor would have to submit accounting and the city would take a portion of the profits.
However, others then suggested that would create more trouble bureaucratically than it was worth. That would mean somebody would have to be verifying the sales and then working with the vendor to collect.
The commissioners then cycled back to the flat rates but increased them to the $100 a month level.
"Parkland is very valuable and if anybody is going to use it for commercial use, the city should benefit," said Clifford Nilan.
The is also a $150 application fee. That is non-refundable and solely lets the potential vendor come before the commission to make a pitch. If the commission denies the application, then the applicant will not receive a refund on that fee. The hope is that will help sift out the ideas that aren't well developed or don't benefit the parks.
"I think the biggest piece to this is that we are looking at projects that will enhance our park," DeMartino said.
With the policy in place, the Parks Commission also gave its blessing for the coffee kiosk, provided Fiorentino follows the newly adopted guidelines.
The commissioners said they'll still reserve the ability to change those fees once they have a better understanding of the demand and the type of businesses looking to use the city parks.

Tags: coffeeshop,   food vendor,   parks commission,   public parks,   

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