NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission gave the Porches its blessing to go forward with a plan to add parking.
Charlie LaBatt, of Guntlow & Associates, went over the River Street hotel's plan to expand parking and green space on the campus as well as to remediate the former Sunshine Pools property across the street.
"This is basically a riverfront redevelopment project trying to encompass all of what the Porches campus is trying to do in and around their property," LaBatt said.
LaBatt said parking will be expanded on the west and the east sides of the campus and the current central parking lot will be removed.
"They would like to remove that and make it better for their patrons with more wild space or unpaved areas," he said.
He said the plans also include the erection of a new structure for gatherings.
LaBatt said the project will encroach on the riverfront and that the corresponding remediation will be done on the recently purchased Sunshine Pools property at the corner of Marshall and River streets. Berkshire Hills Development Corp. bought the pool property last December for $250,000 and giving the company control of three corners on the four-way intersection with Houghton Street.
"We want to demolish the existing structure and the pavement, which is primarily impervious," he said. "We want to use that lot for a lot of the riverfront mitigation."
LaBatt said the plans did include parking on the Sunshine Pools lot and although that would still meet mitigation criteria, it is something the Porches may end up not even doing.
"They don't really want to do it but ... even the Porches needs overflow parking and certainly Mass MoCA needs it at times," he said. "It is forward planning, so we have all of our ducks in a row so if five years down the road if they feel as though they need more parking that can pursue it."
He said for the time being the Porches would likely make the area green space. The commission did note that the order would expire in three years.
The commissioners placed a few stipulations on their approval and asked that the contractor manage dust control and make sure debris and soil from the work does not travel. They also asked that the Porches provide a report on existing underground retention structures.
Chairman Jason Moran did note that demolition and excavation work has already begun without commission approval.
"It would appear to me that they have already started without our permission," he said. "I am not running around with red cards but put it in the record that they did start work."
LaBatt did not deny that and said at this point the Porches is playing catch up.
The entire project would likely be phased with the most immediate portion of the project being the demolition of Sunshine Pools, he said.
In other business, the commission heard from Tourists hotel project manager Eric Kerns, who told the commission that plans are to scale back work near the 1813 farmhouse adjacent to the hotel.
"We have reduced the scope of work on this site, and we elected to not do that restaurant construction here," Kerns said. "Partially because of the kind of tenuous nature of some the excavation around the farmhouse."
The developers had been approved last year for a restaurant and patio area connected to the farmhouse. The project will now focus on developing the former Incarnation Church on Massachusetts Avenue as a restaurant with a kitchen farm.
The former Sunshine Pool property could also make way for overflow parking for both the Porches and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Instead of excavating 4,500 cubic yards of earth to accommodate a new building and parking near the farmhouse, Kerns said plans are to excavate just over 1,000 cubic yards.
He added that there are still plans to clean up behind the farmhouse although instead of going down a foot or two above the 100-year floodplain, they are only going down 6 feet.
"There is a lot of historic debris and garbage that is in that bank, along the top of the bank and we wanted to make sure that part of the work that we did was to remediate that," he said. "We will continue to do that, and it will create this kind of lower lawn."
The plans will still have to come before the commission for an official vote.
The commission also approved a request from Berkshire Gas to bring a gas main under Curran Highway that will ultimately provide increased pressure to the West End and Williamstown.
The commission also saw and approved a request from the city to install a water line in the Bradley Street area and extend a sewer line that residents around the lake can tap into.
The city is doing this to eliminate septic systems and reduce bacteria and infiltration into Windsor Lake.
The Conservation Commission also gave the Brooklyn Street Alliance the go-ahead to remove some invasive species from a 230-foot stretch of Wheeler Brook.
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