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The Board of Health heard about mosquito viruses and held a hearing on fallen tree limbs.

Pittsfield Sees Low Incidence of Mosquito Virus, Rise in E-Cigarettes

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Board of Health reported that mosquito-borne viruses were held at bay this season. 
 
Director of Health Gina Armstrong presented some numbers to the board last week and said there was only one positive finding of West Nile virus in Berkshire County this year.
 
"That is remarkable," Chairman Alan Kulberg said.
 
Armstrong said, in general, cases have been low throughout the entire state.
 
Statewide there were only 61 hits in mosquito samples this season, zero animal cases, and zero human.
 
In Pittsfield alone last year, there were 25 positive West Nile virus. 
 
"That gives you an idea of how low the prevalence is statewide," she said. 
 
Statewide there were 379 positive hits of eastern equine encephalitis the in mosquito samples. There were eight animal (horses) cases and four human statewide.
 
The last time EEE was found in Pittsfield was in 2013 when four samples tested positive. 
 
Armstrong noted that the higher cases seem to move in three-year cycles. She said the last time the city saw higher numbers were in 2010 and 2012. 
 
"Based on our past experience, we can really predict that there will be cases of EEE present next year and possibly the year after that," Kulberg said.
 
Pointing to a map, Armstrong noted activity seems to move from the eastern part of the state to the west.
 
She said the mosquito season is not over yet.
 
"We still have a couple more weeks where there is still a lot of mosquito activity so we still have to monitor closely to see if it makes its way over to Berkshire County," she said. "Typically mid- to late September those cold nights and frost there is a significantly reduced risk."
 
Board member Brad Gordon praised Pittsfield's mosquito control efforts.
 
"It has been forward-thinking and proactive based on risk," he said. "This just proves the value of that."
 
Although the mosquito numbers were low, this was not the case in youth e-cigarette use and Armstrong said according to a recent Central Berkshire Prevention Needs survey use is on the rise.
 
"Those numbers are crushingly disappointing," Gordon said. "We are going the wrong way and we felt like we were out ahead of this situation ... we are still seeing these numbers go up."
 
Armstrong cited the survey: 16 percent of eighth-graders said they had used an e-cigarette product in the past 30 days. This number was 29 percent in the 10th grade and 32 percent in the 12th grade.
 
She compared these numbers to the highest rate of cigarette use in the city of 17 percent in 2013.
 
Armstrong said the board in 2016 strengthened local tobacco regulations and banned all flavored tobacco products in the city limits except in establishments with adult-only permits.
 
She said she expects that kids purchase these products in other communities or online both of which would be incredibly difficult for the board to exercise some control over. 
 
Kulberg suggested reaching out to the state delegation and other local resources for help.
 
"Anything that we might do to do more than what we have already done in this community to make the public more aware and to ensure public safety," he said.
 
In other business, the board tried to mediate a dispute between landowners over tree limbs that had fallen from Harreyl Street to property on Pinegrove Drive. There was a discussion of where the property line was in regard to the trees and who would be responsible them. 
 
Nuisance Control Officer Stephanie Provencher provided the board with photos of the limbs and brush and thought the trees might be compromised, creating a safety hazard. She suggested the Department of Public Works assess them.
 
A family representative for the Harreyl property did not want anyone on the land without his being there but agreed to hear an assessment taken from the Pinegrove property and to be available later this month if further evaluation was needed from the Harreyl side. 

Tags: board of health,   mosquito,   trees,   

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Letter: Problematic Proposed Lenox Short-Term Rental Bylaw

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Under the proposed short-term rental Lenox bylaw, "up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be rented year-round by right provided that the owner or tenant is occupying the dwelling unit at the time of the rental."

Presumably, bedrooms may not be rented at all if the owner or tenant is not occupying the dwelling unit.

In other words, literally, the very same use is allowed by one type of owner (an owner occupying the dwelling unit), but not another type of owner (one who does not occupy the dwelling unit where bedrooms are being rented). Because there is identical use and intensity and the only thing that differs is the type of owner or renter; it is hard to view this as mere regulation of use and not ownership.

The other provision suffers from the same problem. Suppose there is a duplex or land with two houses on it (perhaps an old robber-baron estate) but with separate owners for each dwelling unit. Under the rule regarding "dwelling units being rented in their entirety," "an entire dwelling unit maybe rented up to 75 days per calendar year by right," and "an entire dwelling unit may be rented for an additional 35 days (up to 110 days) per calendar year by Special Permit."

But then suppose there is unity of ownership and one person owns the entire duplex or both houses. In that case, "the above totals apply to the entire parcel" and "the day limits defined above shall be apportioned among those dwelling units."

A town can regulate the number of days a short-term rental may be utilized under the newly passed statute: but this additional restriction based on who owns the premises is a regulation of ownership and not use.

The same is instinct through other parts as well. Of course, Lenox residents or their guest can park in the street. But if you are renting a short-term rental, "All overnight parking must be within the property's driveway or garage." If you own or rent property, so long as you get the right permits, you may entertain on your property. But if you are a short-term renter, "events that include tents or amplified music or which would customarily require a license or permit are not allowed."

Since 1905, when Home Rules was put into the [Massachusetts] Constitution, towns could pass their own bylaws, so long as there was no regulation of a civil relationship unless it was an incident to a legitimate municipal power. This meant, among other things, zoning laws had to regulate use and not ownership. It is now a fundamental principle of Massachusetts zoning that it deals basically with the use, without regard to the ownership of the property involved, or who may be the operator of the use. This bylaw appears to violate this fundamental tenet.

By way of example of the you-may-regulate-use-but-not-ownership rule, it has been held that a city did not have authority under the Massachusetts Constitution to pass an ordinance that affected the civil relationship between tenants and their landlord, who wished to convert their rental units to condominiums. In another case, a municipal ordinance which restricted a landlord's ability to terminate a lease and remove his property from the rental market in order to sell it was invalid.

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