After months of debate and public input at its regular monthly meetings, the panel has crafted two proposals that allow more flexibility to homeowners who want to put a second or third dwelling unit on a residential lot.
The state released a $125,000 allocation to move the St. Mary's project along.
The City Council accepted the grant from the state on Tuesday and the money will fund upgraded infrastructure to the project and preserve the terracotta roofing and campanile tower. The project is being undertaken by CT Management and is transforming the St. Mary the Morningstar property into 29 market-rate housing units.
In fact, town meeting passed an accessory dwelling unit bylaw in 2012. One problem is that the bylaw was so limited in scope and restrictive that it has seldom been used; just four ADUs have been permitted since the 2012 vote.
After months of discussions at full hearings, on social media and in a series of "community coffees" the board instituted earlier this year, the fundamental disagreement remains over whether to require owner-occupation at homes where a second or third unit is added to a primary residence.
For several meetings, the Planning Board has wrestled with the question of whether second or third dwelling units on a residential property should be allowed only if the property's owner resides at the address.
Housing on upper floors of downtown buildings was forbidden for years.
Even if a developer wanted to build apartments or condominiums it couldn't. But a handful of years ago, the city changed that. It created a zoning overlay district to broaden the scope of what could be developed.
In the spring, faced with intense opposition from a vocal group of residents, the board abandoned a proposal to implement changes that would have eased zoning restrictions and created more flexibility in residential zones.
The Planning Board on Tuesday held its second meeting since May's town election and the town meeting at which the prior board had hoped to bring an ambitious proposal to revamp the town's zoning bylaws before voters.
Gov. Charlie Baker is looking to curb a housing crisis in the Boston metro area through his Housing Choice Initiative.
But the program will be used little, if at all, in the Berkshires where the issue isn't so much the need for new housing but for rehabilitation of housing. But, this area does rely heavily on such programs as MassWorks, PARC, and MassDOT's capital and complete streets and language in the Housing Choice Initiative puts the Berkshires at a disadvantage for those.
Among other things, the bylaw drafted by the Planning Board would divide a large chunk of the town's General Residence district into four newly created zones. Those zones would allow varying degrees of density — the number of housing units allowed on a property.
The bylaw is the outcome of a year-long Planning Board study undertaken with a grant from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership that included community outreach sessions and sought to find ways to address the "missing middle" of housing options between detached single-family homes and large apartment complexes.
The Selectmen and some members of the Planning Board met with Thomas Matuszko of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission last Tuesday to settle a misunderstanding about a state housing grant BRPC was administering on behalf of the town that town leaders did not agree with.
The Board of Health wants landlords to make their properties smoke free.
The Health Department doesn't have authority to demand landlords adopt smoke-free policies but are rolling out resources to guide landlords on how to do so. The board feels that second-hand smoke is a health concern and in homes is where most second-hand smoke occurs.
According to slides presented that were based on data from Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, for example, 33 percent of people in Berkshire County are renters; that number jumps to 48 percent in North Adams and 41 percent in Adams, while Williamstown numbers match the county average.