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North Adams Planners Want Permitting for Church 'NOMADS'

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board has told New Hope United Methodist Church on State Street that it must apply for a special permit to allow RVs to park on its property.
Recreational vehicles apparently showed up last summer and parked behind the church at 192 State St., the former Carr Hardware location. The church has asked to amend its agreement to allow the temporary housing of two to four RVs for the Methodists who are doing three-week volunteer sessions. 
"The organization is part of the United Methodist Church's larger organization," the Rev. Dan Randall told the board on Monday. "Because of the weather up here ... it would only be in the southern months of either July or August.
"And because they come from elsewhere, and they have someplace to go, they would never stay more than three weeks, that would always be, so it's not going to be turned into an RV park throughout the year."
The "Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service" had been noted last year when they showed up to do some work at the church building during its renovation. 
"We internally had some discussion about that, and how that should proceed," Building Inspector William Meranti said. "We this year found that they were there again in the spring. It was a discussion with one church member about not doing that until we got to this."
He said the real issue is that though they are a function of the church, they're not exempt from "reasonable regulation."
"That's why we're here," he said. "And I think that quite possibly the Zoning Board may need to be notified to a level also because it is not a zone that would allow a campground."
The building and health departments' concerns were the disposition of waste and gray water and electricity. The church had, Meranti noted, installed hookups on the back of the building to accommodate the RVs' electrical needs. 
Planners questioned the legality of the RVs and their impact on the neighborhood, particularly in terms of noise. 
"I'm uncomfortable having this as part of an amendment to the existing of Planning Board agreements because we're not going to go back out to abuttors to let them know," said Planner Brian Miksic. "I personally think that this should be a new application so that we can have a public hearing on it, as opposed to this.
"And I also think there's too many questions as to whether legally we can allow this."
Chairman Michael Leary also thought the church should go the Zoning Board of Appeals to determine whether it would require a variance. 
Meranti asked what should be done with the RVs already there -- this was the second group so far this year. Randall said this group of NOMADS were supposed to leave by June 20. Leary said, with no objection from the planners, that the current group could stay until then but no further RVs would be allowed until the church had the permitting in hand. 
The planners voted unanimously that New Hope should file a new special permit application so a public hearing could be held a the next Planning Board meeting. 
Two empty spaces in the downtown will be used as popup art galleries over the summer. 
The Redevelopment Authority on Monday gave the OK for Robert Giardini to move into 70 Main St., the former Radio Shack in the L-shaped mall and the Planning Board approved Marilyn Cavallari to open at 28 Holden St., the former Bark 'N Cat. 
Both artists anticipate being open at least through the summer months of June, July and August, with the possibility of staying open through the fall. 
Giardini said he would be exhibiting a dozen different artists, about half photographers like himself and the rest painters and print makers. These pieces would be for sale and he had received permission from the North Adams Historical Society to use about 40 of its images. These would be made into posters. 
"So I might be selling some images of North Adams," he said. He also plans to have a monitor showing the works in the window. 
Giardini was approved for hours of 11 to 7 Tuesday through Sunday but expects to open mainly Thursday through Sunday. He is planning on being open for two months but could go four, depending on the situation. 
Marilyn Cavallari, too, is planning for a summer run through August but has an option to go into December, she said. 
"It's a popup gallery, it's the fourth one now that I've opened up in different places," she told the board. "It's affordable art, and it is local art and local artists."
She also will be open from 11-7 Tuesday through Saturday, and Sunday by appointment. She also offered a images of the signage, rack card and what the simple interior of Gallery 28 will look like.
Planners also approved Arthur "AJ" Thibert and Adrien Bertoli to open a motorcycle accessory shop at 48 Ashland St., with Miksic abstaining from discussion and voting.
Thibert is the owner of Lick's Cycles, a well-known custom motorcycle shop in Clarksburg. Glenn Maloney, co-owner of 48 Ashland with Miksic, said Thibert was looking to expand on his 17-year business by opening a boutique shop in North Adams. 
"[He's] coming to North Adams to expand the scope of the business into accessories and clothing and a place to also offer some of the things that they make in the shop," Maloney said. 
In other business, the board approved two changes of ownership: Aaron Christopher for Empire Cutz located at 100 River St. and Serdar Gursey added to the ownership (and change of corporate name) of Bella Roma Pizza at 117 Main St. Neither business anticipates any other changes at this time.
The board asked Building Inspector William Meranti to begin enforcement against Walmart on Curran Highway for continued violation of its landscaping conditions. Planners have complained previously about the multinational's failure to maintain its landscaping along the highway that has resulted in overgrowth and dead plants. The store's manager has been called in before about the conditions and the board voted to ask him in again.
• Landscaping plans for the 861 State Road farmhouse, part of the Tourists inn property, were approved. Project manager Eric Kerns said an 8-foot fence had been installed "to make Stop & Shop disappear" across the street and "to create this kind of illusion from the south that you're just looking at the mountains." An extra panel angled in will also be installed to deflect westbound traffic headlights from the back area.

Tags: camping,   Planning Board,   

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MCLA Presents Vadnais Environmental Issues Lecture with Vivek Shandas

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will present the annual Vadnais Environmental Issues Lecture with Vivek Shandas at 6 p.m. on Sept. 23 in Murdock Hall Room 218. A remote viewing option is also available. 
Vivek Shandas is a professor of climate adaptation and the founding director of the Sustaining Urban Places Research (SUPR) Lab at Portland State University. Professor Shandas specializes in developing strategies to reduce exposure of historically marginalized communities to climate-induced extreme events. He has published over 100 articles, three books, and his research has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, and other national and local media.  
Professor Shandas serves as chair of the city of Portland's Urban Forestry Commission, technical reviewer for federal and state agencies, and a board member on several non-profit organizations.
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