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Chris Gingras represents the neighbors at Monday's meeting.

Pittsfield Board Looking Into Possible Proprietor's Lodge Parking Violations

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board is telling city staff not to sign off on anything regarding the Proprietor's Lodge expansion as it looks into allegations that the company is not complying with its parking plan.
The board  has received two complaints about the restaurant and event venue at the former Itam Lodge alleging that the company is not following the parking plan the board approved.
Now, the board is asking the building commissioner and the Licensing Board not to approve anything further, which means the additional space the company is building cannot be used until the matter is solved.
"I think initially our advice is to instruct staff to not sign off on any additional building permits or any inspections," said City Planner CJ Hoss.
The lodge was given a special permit to add a deck, ceremony room and a breakout space to the building. The company said it was not asking to increase its capacity but rather was providing more space for patrons to use.
However, that permit came with a condition that the establishment follow a plan to shuttle guests to alleviate parking and traffic issues. The venue is holding more events and operating later into the evening than the Itam had and neighbors in the tightly congested neighborhood have ferociously opposed the liquor and entertainment licenses and the expansion.
Proprietor's presented a plan to have patrons park on property that owner Eric Taylor purchased in Lanesborough and shuttle them to the lodge. However, that parking lot is not completed and the company has filed for a permit with Lanesborough's Conservation Commission.
The parking plan also called for six spaces to be designated for carpool only, for a designated space for taxis, and that a parking attendant would be on hand to control traffic.
Residents say the company has not followed through and provided the Community Development Board with photos detailing violations. They say cars continue to line the side streets, congesting traffic and causing safety hazards. The neighbors also provided photos of the lodge using a shuttle bus to have eventgoers picked up at the city-owned parking lot on Pontoosuc Lake without city approval and not from the Lanesborough property.
The meeting room on Monday was filled with neighbors but the board restricted comments to just one person. Christopher Gingras represented the neighborhood saying they have concerns with the congestion in the side streets, noise, and too many people at the location at once. Gingras said the company's operations are causing safety issues and is detrimental to the character of the neighborhood.
He called on the board to take several steps: take time to review the complaints and evidence presented, to conduct a site visit and traffic study that includes traffic counts, and to stop any further development.
The board agreed to most of those on Monday with the exception of a traffic study.
"It is our intent to investigate this further, to give the Proprietor's Lodge management an opportunity to respond to this," said Chairwoman Sheila Irvin.
Licensing Board member Richard Stockwell attended the Community Development Board meeting to relay that the Licensing is aware of the issue and to say the board has not yet rendered a decision on the entertainment license nor the expanded space for the alcohol license. He said the board can't act on those until the building inspectors sign off.
"The board is well aware of what you are asking and we are taking it very seriously," he said, but he couldn't promise whether or not a vote will pass.
Even if it does come to a vote, Stockwell said the company would have the ability to appeal to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission in Boston. Stockwell said the city allows for other similar licenses so there is a chance that the city would lose on appeal.
The Community Development Board is asking the building commissioner not to sign off on any inspections for the time being. The board is also planning a site visit. 
Proprietor's Lodge will be given an opportunity to answer to the allegations at the board's next meeting in June.

Tags: community development,   event venue,   parking,   traffic,   

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BCAC Taps Community For Needs Assessment

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Christina Maxwell of the Food Bank of Western Mass talks  about food security.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Poverty was the topic of conversation on Friday to help the Berkshire Community Action Council gauge the needs in the community.
Community leaders and experts lead a panel Friday morning at the Berkshire Athenaeum to help spark a conversation among participants focused on poverty and its different catalysts.   
"We are all interested in working on the destabilizing effects poverty is having on our community and so we hope that we will get some good information here," BCAC Executive Director Deborah Leonczyk said. "So please give us your ideas, your suggestions. Give us your experiences we need to hear it all."
She said as the federally designated anti-poverty agency in the county, every three years BCAC must "take the pulse" of the community and find out what the needs are. This will inform the action plan for the next three years.
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