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The City Council applauds the city's new fire chief, Thomas Sammons.
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Mayor Linda Tyer congratulates her new fire chief.

Pittsfield City Council Welcomes Sammons as Fire Chief

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Thomas Sammons is sworn in for the  second time by City Clerk Michele Benjamin.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday formally ratified the appointment of Thomas Sammons as the new fire chief and director of emergency management.
 
"It is exciting a great group of guys got promoted tonight, everybody worked hard and I could not be happier," he said after being sworn in in front of a full City Council Chamber. "I have a great support staff and a lot of support here tonight it makes me feel really good." 
 
Mayor Linda Tyer named Sammons chief last week and he was sworn in to take immediate command of the Fire Department. Tuesday's broadcast event was largely to celebrate his promotion and introduce him to the council and the city.
 
Sammons, who has spent over 20 years as a firefighter, replaced former Chief Robert Czerwinski who retired this summer.  
 
He was one of three candidates selected through the assessment center process that Pittsfield adopted several years ago as a modification to Civil Service. 
 
With the shift in leadership, the City Council also ratified additional appointments Tuesday night with the promotions of Neil Myers and Ronald Clement as deputy chiefs. 
 
Robert Stevens, Kenneth Cowan and Daniel Atiken have been promoted to fire captains and Robert Leary, Kevin Brady, and Jacob Brown to lieutenant.
 
There were more appointments Tuesday night of Ann-Marie Harris to the Historical Commission and Kathleen Amuso to the Licencing Board.
 
In other business, the City Council also accepted $75,000 in earmarked funding from the state for a broadband feasibility study
 
Chief Information Officer Mike Steben said is more than just a feasibility study and named it the Shire City Fiber Project.
 
"The City of Pittsfield believes that broadband internet access is an essential utility," he said. "Fast reliable and affordable internet is important to all aspects of life in our city ... we want our city to have world-class internet access."
 
He said although Pittsfield has not been underserved by corporate internet providers it could be better served. Instead of relying on these providers to invest in infrastructure, the city can look at providing the service itself.
 
The study should take around four to five months and Pittsfield must look at current infrastructure and undergo a full cost-benefit analysis to see if becoming an Internet Service Provider is possible. 
 
Steben said Pittsfield could potentially offer faster internet at better prices to businesses and residents. 
 
The council accepted $353,562 from the Department of Transportation in Complete Streets funding. 
 
These funds will go toward 10 different projects that include sidewalk repairs and replacement, improved handicapped accessibility, crosswalk safety improvements, pedestrian signal addition, and new bike lanes.
 
• The council accepted $25,000 from the Stanton Foundation to fund the design of a dog park at Burbank Park. Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath said a design and cost estimate should be wrapped up by the end of winter.
 
Once this is complete, McGrath said the city will be ready for the $225,000 Stanton Foundation construction grant. The city would be responsible for 10 percent of the construction cost.
 
The council did question if this construction grant was a sure thing. McGrath said because the Stanton Foundation is funding the design it is very unlikely it would not follow through with construction funds.
 
"I would be very surprised if that was not the case," he said. "We are confident." 
 
Construction could be completed in fall 2020.

Tags: fire chief,   swearing in,   

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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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