North Adams ZBA OKs Storage Units in Residential Area
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-1 on Monday to allow the construction of storage units off residential Liberty and Eagle streets.
The argument by property owner Michael Dowling was that the new units will replace the old barn that had been used for storage for nearly a century, long before zoning. The application was not a change of use, he said, but a continuance.
"The barn's gone," he said. "We're trying to make that property nice and feasible again for the neighborhood."
The barn is currently in pieces on the Liberty Street side. Dowling said it had to be removed because it was no longer structurally sound and it was not economically feasible to fix it. There were automobiles being stored in the lower level and the top level was being used for storage by a roofing company.
The new structure will have three garages and eight storage units, four on each side with an aisle down the middle.
Abuttor Mary Jane Betti objected to the project, saying the property by her back yard is filled with bricks, old slate and junk metal. Betti said she liked Dowling but is frustrated that the property is full of junk.
"Mike told me in the past it was going to be cleaned up," she said. "It's not aesthetically pleasing. ... It never gets better it always get worse."
Chairman Donald Pecor suggested that the new structure could be an improvement. Betti responded that Dowling "doesn't have a great track record for picking things up."
The board members were concerned that debris from the old barn was still there and other junk was on the property.
Dowling said there was a problem with another neighbor who used the yard and that he would get everything cleaned out.
The board members asked why Dowling had not gone to the Planning Board. He had been on a past agenda but then had been directed to the ZBA.
"I directed Mr. Dowling here because he said it was storage," Building Inspector William Meranti explained. "It had always been storage and he wants to return it to storage units."
ZBA member Ross Jacobs, however, was not convinced this was property because there was no existing use for that category.
"Did you receive Planning Board approval to run a commercial storage unit space?" he asked. ...
Dowling at first said yes but then noted that the barn had been rented for 90 years.
"His claim is it's a permitted nonconforming use," Meranti said. "If you feel that he hasn't proven that to you, that's your prerogative."
But, he said, "the claim is it was storage units, it's always going to be storage units and he's going to build more storage units."
Dowling, who's owned the property for 30 years, said the new construction will match the exterior of 231 Eagle St., the actual address of the lot that is made up of three parcels. That building, which used to house a corner store, has three residential units in it.
The board approved the new units, finding they would not be detrimental to the neighborhood, on condition that Dowling follow the plans submitted and the board do a six-month review to ensure the construction is in order.
ZBA members Pecor, Gregory Roach, Paul DiLego Jr., and Christopher Thomas all voted yea; Jacobs was the only no vote because he felt the board couldn't approve a use that was not existing for that area.
Tags: ZBA, storage/warehouse,
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