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Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont said there is a delay in the mayor's presentation on 100 North St.

Pittsfield Waiting To See Extent Of Columbus Ave Garage Repairs

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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When city officials began the process of resealing and adding a top coat to the Columbus Avenue parking garage, they found the structure was much worse than expected. The resealing has been delayed.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council isn't authorizing any funds to fix the Columbus Avenue garage until councilors know if it is salvageable.
The city closed off the upper floor of the garage after finding the support beams compromised. In 2013, the city eyed spending $160,000 to reseal the upper floor to extend the life of the parking garage a little longer. 
But, "when we did the assessment of the garage, there were more problems than just the coating," according to Director of Building Maintenance Peter Sondrini.  
The study showed that the beams were rotating and tearing away from the supports. To avoid any more damage, the city closed off the upper level — eliminating 156 spaces. Meanwhile, the state has a $6 million borrowing authority to fix the garage and officials are hoping for that to be released.
Sondrini on Tuesday asked the council for that initial $160,000 to do a structural engineering assessment to find out exactly what needs to be repaired and how much it will cost. That assessment is estimated to cost about $10,000 and the rest would be put toward the repairs, Sondrini said.
"Right now we are holding out on the coating and repurposing that money," Sondrini said.
However, Sondrini says more information is expected from the condition report that discovered the issues, which will help in moving forward with the engineering.
"The repairs, I believe, would exceed this number. We'll exceed that $160,000. I don't know what the design will be but I know the structural analysis will be $10,000," Sondrini said.
The City Council tabled the request — opting not to send it to the committee level in hopes to expedite the process as more information comes in. 
"Let's find out if it is salvageable first before we authorize 160 grand," Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont said.
Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said he wants to have a much better understanding of how that money is going to be repurposed.
"We allocated $160,000 for a specific purpose and we don't know how much will be converted for this use," Krol said.
In other business, the City Council continued a public hearing regarding a proposed Big Y express. The company is hoping to build a 1,500 square-foot building and 12 gas pumps on a parcel behind the existing supermarket. Despite having a representative from a neighboring parcel speaking in favor of the project, the council still wanted to hear more from the Community Development Board.
That board granted the site plan approval, a type of authorization that allows for less discretion among board members. But, because the project is in the newly created arts overlay district, the proponents will need a special permit, an authorization allowing the board to add conditions.
The City Council will now wait for a ruling from the Community Development Board on that.
Further, another hitch was presented with Big Y officials being seemingly unaware of new tobacco regulations that limits the number of permits issued. If the company is unable to obtain a license, the project could be threatened.
Also on Tuesday, Clairmont — utilizing the open microphone period of the agenda — said he has agreed to delaying his request of the mayor to make a presentation to the council on an executive decision to move inspection services to 100 North St.
Clairmont said the mayor had asked for an extension and then the two began a dispute over public records, then he wanted an extension. Clairmont says he expects a presentation in October.

Tags: big y,   parking garage,   

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Letter: Problematic Proposed Lenox Short-Term Rental Bylaw

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Under the proposed short-term rental Lenox bylaw, "up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be rented year-round by right provided that the owner or tenant is occupying the dwelling unit at the time of the rental."

Presumably, bedrooms may not be rented at all if the owner or tenant is not occupying the dwelling unit.

In other words, literally, the very same use is allowed by one type of owner (an owner occupying the dwelling unit), but not another type of owner (one who does not occupy the dwelling unit where bedrooms are being rented). Because there is identical use and intensity and the only thing that differs is the type of owner or renter; it is hard to view this as mere regulation of use and not ownership.

The other provision suffers from the same problem. Suppose there is a duplex or land with two houses on it (perhaps an old robber-baron estate) but with separate owners for each dwelling unit. Under the rule regarding "dwelling units being rented in their entirety," "an entire dwelling unit maybe rented up to 75 days per calendar year by right," and "an entire dwelling unit may be rented for an additional 35 days (up to 110 days) per calendar year by Special Permit."

But then suppose there is unity of ownership and one person owns the entire duplex or both houses. In that case, "the above totals apply to the entire parcel" and "the day limits defined above shall be apportioned among those dwelling units."

A town can regulate the number of days a short-term rental may be utilized under the newly passed statute: but this additional restriction based on who owns the premises is a regulation of ownership and not use.

The same is instinct through other parts as well. Of course, Lenox residents or their guest can park in the street. But if you are renting a short-term rental, "All overnight parking must be within the property's driveway or garage." If you own or rent property, so long as you get the right permits, you may entertain on your property. But if you are a short-term renter, "events that include tents or amplified music or which would customarily require a license or permit are not allowed."

Since 1905, when Home Rules was put into the [Massachusetts] Constitution, towns could pass their own bylaws, so long as there was no regulation of a civil relationship unless it was an incident to a legitimate municipal power. This meant, among other things, zoning laws had to regulate use and not ownership. It is now a fundamental principle of Massachusetts zoning that it deals basically with the use, without regard to the ownership of the property involved, or who may be the operator of the use. This bylaw appears to violate this fundamental tenet.

By way of example of the you-may-regulate-use-but-not-ownership rule, it has been held that a city did not have authority under the Massachusetts Constitution to pass an ordinance that affected the civil relationship between tenants and their landlord, who wished to convert their rental units to condominiums. In another case, a municipal ordinance which restricted a landlord's ability to terminate a lease and remove his property from the rental market in order to sell it was invalid.

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