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Planning Board Mulls Rezoning on State Street

Tammy Daniels

Building Inspector William Meranti shows planners where the Industrial-1 zone is located.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A slice of land along the Hoosic River and State Street could be rezoned away from industrial to commercial.

The Planning Board is requesting the City Council hold a joint public hearing to review the possibility rezoning the area after the owners of 420 Curran Highway asked that their split property be zoned in a single category. The council had referred the matter to the board last week.

The city will schedule a public hearing on changing a section of the I-1 zone along the Hoosic River to commercial.

The property, once occupied by the Registry of Motor Vehicles and, before that, K-K Home Mart, was purchased by Charles Fox and Gordon Leete several years ago. The pair had approached the city a few months ago about the possibility of rezoning the three-acre lot. The front of the parcel is zoned CC-1 and the back section Industrial-1.

The industrial zoning allows greater use — but prohibits residential — while the commercial zoning has limits but allows residential. Fox said the partners had no immediate plans for the property but single zoining would "enhance the redevelopment of the property."

"We had considered the possibility of live/work studios for artists ... there's some need for people who don't quite fit into the niche at Eclipse Mill," said Fox. "But we wanted it in uniform zoning because it just makes sense."

Planners seemed amenable to the change but were concerned that it could be construed as "spot" zoning, which is illegal in the state.

"We would have to look at changing zoning for the entire area not just Mr. Fox," said Planner Wayne Wilkinson. 

Chairman Michael Leary agreed. "We could make a recommendation for the entire lot outside the property be rezoned so we avoid even the appearance of rezoning," he said, adding, howevever, "I would be uncomfortable recommeding to approve this not knowing the impact on other businesses."

The section under consideration runs along the west side of the river and behind a number of parcels from the Noel Field Athletic Complex to Mr. Tire. Building Inspector William Meranti said he did not know how the change would affect businesses along what was the old foundry road.

"It baffles me why it is this way," he said, suggesting it was because industry was likely situated on the riverbanks. Fox said it might have been because the river was used for waste disposal.

"My opinion would be to rezone the whole thing," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, who was in attendance. He noted the city has been talking about river revival and using its natural resources to greater advantage. "This makes a lot of sense."

The board, with Planner Joseph Gniadek absent, unanimously voted to refer the matter back to the City Council to schedule a joint hearing. Leary said property owners and abuttors within 300 feet would be notified of the hearing.

In other business:

• An application by Steven Burbank for a special permit in a CC-1 zone to operate D&S Auto automobile repair at 350 State Road was approved. Burbank said the business, in the former Dan's Service Station where he had worked, would cater to basically the same customers and he did not anticipate difficulties in parking. The permit and signage was approved with the condition that the garage have no more than 15 vehicles on the lot at any time.

• Delayed response on a request by Mark Piechowski of Berkshire Transmissions Inc., 758 Massachusetts Ave., to double the number of vehicles parked on his lot until the planners could visit the site. They expressed concern over the condition of the property and number of vehicles already on it.

Piechowski said a bout with the flu and recent snowstorms had resulted in a pileup of work and less-than-tidy yard.

"We're trying to get rid of the stuff we don't use or we'll never get to," he said, adding that neighbors had complimented him on keeping up the lot. He did admit that "a few weeks ago when Mr. Meranti stopped by it was out of control."

Meranti concurred. His most recent visit found it "neater than the last time I was there but there's good number of vehicles there and car parts outside."

•  The board reviewed and accepted a letter from Suzy Helme on the relocation of Shima from 105 Main St. to 65 Main St. (Planner Brian Miksic, Helme's husband and partner in Shima, abstained); and approved interior signage for Interfaith Headquarters and Food Pantry at 43 Eagle St. and Cumberland Farms to install new signs at both locations that will have LED lights to show gas prices.

Tags: zoning, auto repair      

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