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An illustration of a proposed accessory structure on Veazie Street for the Porches Inn. The proposal still has to go through the Planning Board.
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The new building would be set back enough to allow a full sidewalk along that 26 feet.

North Adams ZBA Approves Special Permit for Porches Project

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The ZBA approved waivers for the Porches and a variance for a resident seeking to install a carport.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Porches Inn was given a special permit and waivers that will allow it to begin the process for a new building on Veazie Street. 
 
Attorney Jeffrey Grandchamp of Grinnell Partners LLC, representing the inn, said two of the structures — 10 and 18-20 Veazie — would be demolished to make way for a standalone building largely for use as a breakfast or gathering location. 
 
"The building itself is not going to be for public use," he told the Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday. "It's only going to be for Porches guests and their invitees, and it will not have a kitchen."
 
There are about 47 rooms in the connected duplexes along River Street that makeup the inn, and a smaller structure in the back. Grandchamp said there is no space that can accommodate guests for breakfast. 
 
The proposed structure is a single story oriented inward toward the hotel with a large open area with tables, an accessible bathroom, and a back area set up for serving foods. There is, however, no kitchen so food would have to be generally prepared offsite. 
 
It will also have a basement accessible by stairs and elevator with more bathrooms, mechanicals and storage areas. It will not be rented out or open to the general public.
 
Grandchamp said the immediate neighbors had reviewed the plans and did not have any issues with them.  
 
"They're in favor of the project," he said. "They said traffic would not be a concern because there's always a lot of traffic on Veazie Street and they'e interested in seeing that portion improved."
 
One concern was pushing the building too far back off the street, considering the structures being taken down are at or on the sidewalk. Instead, the new structure will be setback about 4 to 5 feet from the sidewalk to make it more in line with the existing buildings, including inn property to its south, and keep it from looking too much "like a commercial venture," Grandchamp said. 
 
Francis "Biggs" Waterman, of Waterman Construction, the general manager for the project, said the sidewalk would be improved in that area. 
 
"The idea is internally to sort of bring some exciting architecture within the scope of what's going on in North Adams but at the same time try to incorporate some traditional architectural features from the streetscape, so the neighbors feel like it's a building that belongs there," Grandchamp said. 
 
The inn, operating as Berkshire Hills Development Co. LLC, had recently been granted a change in zoning for the four Veazie Street parcels that are adjacent its River Street property. The Planning Board and City Council approved the change from residential to commercial, allowing use of the properties. 
 
The ZBA, with board members Ross Jacobs and Peter Milanesi absent, questioned the parking situation, should a guest possibly hold a reception of some type. 
 
Waterman said there are spaces for parking at the public lot at the corner of River and Houghton and on the street. Grandchamp noted that hotel parking lots are rarely full during the day since most guests are out doing things; only in the evening and the morning would it be full. 
 
Waterman, who also worked on the Porches when it was built, said they had been tracking the parking and been in regular contact with police about ticketing or violations. There had been no issues, he said. 
 
The ZBA approved the special permit as well as two waivers related to off-street parking at the hotel. The first was to approve the 58 parking spots at the hotel to bring it into compliance, the second was to waive a requirement for additional spots for the new building.
 
When the hotel was built, the first pass was that it needed 139 parking spots; that was whittled down to 71 based on 52 rooms, employee spaces and a proposed public fitness center. Instead, the final tally was 47 rooms, no public fitness center, with a calculation of one space per room, one employee space for every 10 rooms, and six spots for the three apartments for the building at the corner of River and Veazie. 
 
The total is 58, which the hotel has now. 
 
The idea, said Grandchamp, is to set a precedent with the calculation should any future changes occur. He also said the site plan review would next go before the Planning Board. 
 
In other business, the board approved a side yard variance for Ronald Mahar of 68 George Ave. to install a carport in a residential zone within the 10-foot setback. The yard runs alongside a paper road where the Mahars have been regularly parking a vehicle. 

Tags: ZBA,   motels, hotels,   special permit,   

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Drury Graduate to Direct Horror Film in North Adams

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Drury High School graduate is hoping to bring his dream — or, more appropriately, his nightmare — to film life. 

The horror film "The Uncredited," written by Nick Burchard, will be filmed in North Adams this spring, pending fundraising and the COVID-19 pandemic. Burchard's Tiny Viking Productions is making the film in conjunction with Sancha Spiller and Kasey Rae of Skylah Productions of New York City.

"I grew up in the area, and I've always appreciated the historical places, in particular the Hoosac Tunnel, Mohawk Theater, and the old mills," Burchard said. "I think North Adams has a very unique setting, with the mountains surrounding the city and of course, all the steeples.

"The Uncredited" follows a young woman who appears in an independent film. While watching it, her friends notice something disturbing in the background of her scene. This leads to rumors and distrust in even the closest group of friends.
 
"My goal is to make great characters, and even though it's a spooky thriller the characters in it are just friends sitting down to watch a movie together," Burchard said. "They crack jokes, roast each other, and are all collectively trying to have a good time … but that juxtaposed with the realization that one of them might be hiding something is what creates the thriller edge to this. I think it's really fun."
 
Spiller added that the film does not rely on horror tropes such as jump scares. She said the screenplay is character-driven.
 
"It showcases our greatest fear of not knowing the people around us as well as we think," she said. "It makes us second guess who we trust and remember that just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have horrifying consequences."
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