PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board is temporarily halting its request that city officials suspend all permitting for additions to Proprietor's Lodge but will be keeping a close eye on the operations.
The lodge received a special permit earlier this year from parking requirements after it had presented a parking management plan. The permit was needed because of additional space being created but Proprietor's was not expanding its occupancy. The lodge was given a special permit to add a deck, ceremony room and a breakout space to the building to serve the same capacity of people it had before.
That permit came with a condition that the establishment follow a plan to shuttle guests from another location to alleviate parking and traffic issues. 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.
The neighborhood already had problems with the operations. The former Itam Lodge in that location hadn't been as active. 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.
The neighbors brought numerous complaints to the board with photos showing Proprietor's being out of compliance with that parking plan. The Community Development Board instructed city staff to hold off on any further sign offs to allow the new spaces to operate until it could sort it out.
Last week, attorney Dennis Egan and owner Eric Taylor addressed those complaints and said they've made further adjustments to help alleviate the concerns.
The first complaint was that the lodge was using the city-owned parking lot at Pontoosuc Lake to park cars without the city's permission. Egan said it did happen without Taylor's knowledge but he's made it abundantly clear to his staff that it can't happen again.
"The kitchen and waitstaff got a late start in removing their cars from Proprietor's Lodge. Unbeknownst to Eric, they convinced the shuttle operator to instead of driving to Lanesborough and property he owns, to use that lot," Egan said.
A second complaint was on-street parking on Easter. Egan said the lodge was busier than expected that day and the turnover of patrons was not fast enough to keep up. That led to people parking on the street.
"We acknowledged there were challenges there with over 850 patrons served over five hours for brunch and on-street parking in violation of the parking plan," Egan said.
On-street parking was also complained about on April 25 for a United Way event. Egan said that again was a situation when there were more people than anticipated.
Egan said the company scaled back its holiday brunch and on Mother's Day instead of serving 850 people, it was cut down to 650 people.
The attorney added that the company has held other events since then including the Wahconah Regional High School prom and the Pittsfield High School senior banquet and there hadn't been any issues.
"We acknowledged and hope to explain those two complaints, have made adjustments, and we think those adjustments have led to successful events," Egan said.
Egan added that the lodge get did the permits needed to construct an additional parking lot in Lanesborough, parking spaces that didn't meet standard were adjusted, carpool lane signs were installed and a bike rack was installed - - all putting the parking plan in place.
He added that Taylor has also purchased cones to aid in keeping patrons from parking on the street and will be hiring a police officer for large events.
The neighbors, however, aren't buying it. Speaking on behalf of the neighborhood Linda Pensivy asked for the special permit to be rescinded and for the city the essentially shut down its operations.
"The neighborhood is not looking to compromise or mitigate the stress imposed by Proprietor's and the city on our thickly settled residential neighborhood," she said.
She echoed complaints the neighbors had made on multiple occasions — late-night noise, speeding, traffic, and in general poor behavior from those leaving the lodge.
"Don't be fooled by what Proprietor's has purported to have been corrected. Pay attention to what is still not happening. Nothing has improved," she said,.
Pensivy believes the property should never have been zoned for business nor should the city have granted a special permit to allow Proprietor's to operate.
The board's purview, however, is on that special permit for parking. Board members said they recognize the efforts being made and agreed to pull back on the request to halt any permitting. But, the board did say it wants monthly reports throughout the summer and will re-evaluate the permit and parking plan in September.
"I would expect that with any plan there would be some hiccups,"Community Development Board member Elizabeth Herland said.
The board was particularly keen on the suggestion that a uniformed officer be there for large events. Member Gary Levante said that will provide an objective view of situations and is more likely to be listened to compared to a young kid working the parking lot.
"I think having a police officer there will be very beneficial," said member Floriana Fitzgerald.
The board made it a requirement that an officer be there for events with 150 people or more — Proprietor's was suggesting 200 people or more.
"I think it was a very sloppy roll out and I think the way it was rolled out, neighbors were upset and concerned about the tenor of things," Chairwoman Sheila Irvin said of the parking management plan.
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