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James Bernadino of Bohler Engineering gives the ZBA a brief presentation of the project.

Cumberland Farms Expects Spring Construction in North Adams

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The new Cumberland Farms gas station on Ashland Street is expected to begin construction next spring.

The project was awarded relief from the city's sign ordinance on Monday night and is expected to go before the City Council in October for approval of its underground fuel storage tanks. The company also plans to speak with the Traffic Commission about install a proposed crosswalk on Ashland Street near the Blackinton Street intersection.

Attorney Thomas Reidy, of Bacon Wilson Attorneys at Law in Westfield, representing Cumberland, told the Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday that construction would likely happen once the asphalt plants open next year.

"It's probably going to be a spring start date and it takes about 118 days, something like that, start to finish," he said. "There were some environmental things with this property. ... Everything as far as I understand has been taken care of."

James Bernadino of Bohler Engineering, in response to questions, said he did not think the razing of the current buildings on the site would cause any traffic issues. "There's plenty of laydown area to stay within the site," he said.

The one-acre lot had been the City Yard for more than 100 years until the Department of Public Services moved to Hodges Cross Road last year. The city had put the property up for bid and Cumberland Farms, which had been seeking a suitable site for a larger facility downtown, last October offered $575,000. The agreement states the city will credit the regional chain for up to half the price for any environmental cleanup.

Cumberland Farms was approved by the Planning Board last week but required special permits from the ZBA to operate a filling station and to have six signs, two more than allowed by ordinance.

Similar to other Cumberland Farms, the company was asking for two signs on the pumping station canopy, three on the building and one free-standing sign toward the south end of the property. The total square footage for signage will be 147.76.

Board member Christopher Thomas questioned the company's changing of prices on the digital free-standing sign and whether that was in violation of the city ordinance. Building Inspector William Meranti said the ordinance was geared toward preventing flashing signs or running letters. The gas station sign would be static and then switch completely over, he said, but not flashing.

Reidy said the signs are set at 8 seconds, enough time for drivers or pedestrians to read the regular gas prices and then what a SmartPay member of the company would pay.

"The set frequency allows it to be there for a consistent enough period of time so it doesn't become distracting," he said, adding the goal of the company was not to distract passers-by but to rather be a beacon.

Several board members thought the frequency of the other two Cumberland Farms were 16 seconds. Meranti said the board could make the condition that the sign be consistent with the other signs in North Adams and Reidy thought that would OK.

The ZBA approved unanimously the use of six signs, on condition they be consistent with the already approved Cumberland signs in the city, and the use of a filling station and convenience store.

Tags: ZBA,   cumberland farms,   

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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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