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Planner Donald Keagan, center, asks a question at Monday's meeting.

North Adams Planners Postpone Decision on Dental Practice

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Planners weren't pleased with Dr. Gene Messenger's plans for an interior lighted sign.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday continued a hearing on a local dentist's plans to relocate to the former Jae's Inn because of unresolved zoning issues and questions over lighted signage.

Dr. Gene Messenger purchased the inn on Curran Highway in March for $700,000. Messenger's attorney, James J. Sisto, said the doctor's plans were not significantly different than the prior use: an inn, restaurant and spa. Messenger will have a residence, practice and small beauty salon in the building.

The residence will be located in the former inn section on the second floor and will include space on the first floor. The former dining area on the first floor and lobby on the first floor will be used for the practice — nine stations including three for hygienists. Messenger will have a lab in the basement, which also contains the single-chair salon that was used for the spa.

The business will operate 8 to 5 Monday through Wednesday, 8 to 8 on Thursday and 8 to noon on Friday and Saturday.

However, the property lies in two different zoning areas, I-1 and RU-1. Either of the uses, residential or professional office, are permittable depending on the zone — but not both together.

Sisto said variances would be sought at next week's Zoning Board of Appeals but Messenger had hoped to get approval conditional on that outcome to move more quickly.

"It's not a matter of wanting, it's a matter of what this board has done ... we've had other businesses come before us with zoning issues — we have not been able to vote," said Chairman Michael Leary. "I don't have a problem with use. I don't feel like this board should be voting on something that has a zoning issue attached to it."

Planner Joseph Gniadek questions the sign's suitability.
Planners also raised concerns over signage when Sisto presented plans for an interior lighted aluminum sign, the type that hasn't passed board muster in years.

Planner Joseph Gniadek wondered if the lighted sign along the lonely stretch of road could cause a distraction; Leary asked why any sign would need to be lit after hours.

Messenger, who was in attendance, queried the board on other signs that were lighted, including the nearby Pedrin's. "All I want to do is exactly what Pedrin's is doing." Leary and Gniadek said many of those signs were grandfathered decades ago or not under the board's jurisdiction — which started a back and forth over signage that Leary shut down.

"Signage is a touchy issue," said Sisto.

In other business:

► An application by Cynthia E. Cottrell to operate a restaurant at 315 Ashland St. was withdrawn.

► A request by Xtra Mart at 232 Ashland St. to install an exterior DVD rental kiosk was postponed. Building Inspector William Meranti said he was checking into whether handicapped access would apply to the kiosk; in the proposed location it would not be accessible. No one from Xtra Mart attended the meeting.

Big Shirl's is putting in outdoor seating see the tiny umbrellas?
► A request from Renee and Mark Lapier to add four or five outdoor tables and umbrellas to Big Shirl's Kitchen was approved along with a change of signage that would indicate the restaurant was open for lunch and dinner and add its phone number. Renee Lapier said the goal was to clarify it is a restaurant; many people had told her they thought it was a kitchen cabinet store.

► A request for new signage for Village Pizza was approved for both Eagle and Center streets, the front windows and sidewalk sandwich board.

► The board also gave its approval for Pedrin's to outdoor entertainment, pending any permits required by the Licensing Board. Jeff Brassard, representing Pedrin's, said the focus would be on family-oriented events, such as magic shows and concerts by local schoolchildren. No new structures would be required.

► A request to construct a 40-foot long fence to delineate the property line between Pitcher's Mound and Xtra Mart by tavern co-owner Fred Spooner was continued to the next meeting. Spooner said parking, especially trucks unloading at the convenience store, was affecting his customers and creating a safety hazard.

► The board will make a site visit to the property. Planner Paul Senecal, speaking as an abuttor, raised concerns over access to property he owns behind Xtra Mart. Senecal will recuse himself from debating or voting on the issue.
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Williams Women's Basketball Tops Wesleyan to Stay Unbeaten

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. -- Mikaela Topper scored 19 points Tuesday to lead three Williams College women's basketball players in double figures as the Ephs beat Wesleyan, 68-49, in their Little Three contest.
Maggie Meehan scored 18, and Emily Peckham added 16 for Williams.
Peckham pulled down 13 rebounds for a double-double, and Katie Brule also had 13 boards.
Williams (6-0) is home on Friday to face Wheaton College.
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