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The proposal for a privately operated coffee kiosk at the Common was tabled by the Parks Commission until it could research the details.

Coffee Kiosk Eyed For First Street Common in Pittsfield

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Todd Fiorentino explains his coffee kiosk plans to the Parks Commission.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A local business owner wants to open a coffee kiosk at the First Street Common. But, the Parks Commission isn't sure if it wants to commercialize the park system.

Todd Fiorentino is proposing opening Poseidon Coffee, a small kiosk to sell coffee and hot cocoa drinks during the morning hours at the park.

"It is a nice amenity for people and adds a social element," Fiorentino told the Parks Commission on Wednesday.

Fiorentino said there is a lack of coffee options during the morning, citing that Market Place Cafe doesn't open until 10 a.m. and he would be supporting the Massachusetts company Shelbourne Falls Roasters. He thinks coffee options would be a good addition to the park.

"It has been done in many urban areas. When I go to New York City there are coffee kiosks throughout Central Park," he said.

He said he'd pay all of the costs to construct the booth but would want permitting from City Hall and access to electricity -- which is available in the park. 

"It is low impact and is turnkey. It is small construction. It can be done artistically," Fiorentino said. "I would take care of all of the construction aspects so I am not looking for a contribution from the town."

The Parks Commission, however, is somewhat torn by the concept.

"I don't think we should be putting any private commercialization in any park," Commissioner Clifford Nilan said. "I am personally opposed to anybody many a profit off our parks system."

Commissioner Anthony DeMartino agrees saying that could open the door for a number of entities looking to use the public space for business.

DeMartino added that the booth would only be open for four hours a day, leaving an unattended structure in the park for 20 hours. 

Meanwhile, Commissioner Joe Durwin said he would support a commercial entity as long as it is a positive addition to the park experience. But he is also questioning the fairness of allowing this coffee entity to operate in the park while nearby That's a Wrap is paying for space in a commercial building.

"They don't run Wahconah Park without food and beer because it improves the experience," Durwin said.

Commissioner Simon Muil compares the operation to a hot dog stand more than a cafe. But hot dog carts are usually self-contained and don't use city utilities. He is particularly concerned with how an agreement would be reached for the electrical usage.

Fiorentino said since there is electricity available in the park, powering off that would be both aesthetically and environmentally better then a gas-powered generator that many food trucks use.

The location itself has raised some questions as well. In a rendering Fiorentino provided, the stand would be located on the sidewalk area on the First Street side. Parks and Open Spaces Manager Jim McGrath said he isn't sure whether that is in the park's boundaries or considered part of First Street, which would be under the Department of Public Services.

McGrath said he can certainly work with Fiorentino in trying to navigate the permitting. He said there would be a fee associated with using the park and how the electrical bills would be sorted. He said because it is a temporary structure, a building permit may not be needed but the Health Department would have some requirements.

Being on the sidewalk lowered Muil's concern about the commercialization of the park somewhat. He'd rather see it there than in the middle of the Common. Muil hasn't decided whether or not he supports the operation but said "I'm not going to shoot it down right away."

The commission ultimately tabled the discussion to gather more details. McGrath said he will first determine whether or not that promenade is part of the park, or part of First Street. From there he'll work out the other details of the agreement.

Tags: coffeeshop,   parks commission,   Pittsfield Common,   

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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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