ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board has continued a hearing on a controversial zoning overlay to provide more time to garner information.
The 40R Smart Growth Overlay District would target certain areas for redevelopment into market rate and affordable housing with potential for commercial clients as well. However, the proposed adoption of the state measure created opposition among residents who fear it will negatively impact the town's character and open the door to low-income housing.
Chairman David Rhinemiller said the board had hoped to have guest speakers to explain how the development would work in those areas and the processes required. One meeting member was also absent and, prior to the meeting, he said he did not wish to take votes without all members present.
Community Development Director Donna Cesan said the town would put the time provided by the continuance to good use.
"With this additional time that the Planning Board has provided, we really want to have another community meeting," she said. "We received a lot of good feedback from the way that was conducted and the way information was presented."
Town officials held a well-attended public information session on Chapter 40R last Tuesday at the Visitors Center. Attorney Donald Dubendorf, 1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler, Cesan, and Town Administrator Jay Green had walked residents through a presentation of the state law and answered what questions they were able.
Cesan said the second information session would be in mid-October and she hoped to have a date next week. She noted that the Visitors Center had been "a little tight on space," so they would be looking at other venues.
"I know the board has specifically requested developers that are active in the county — we hope to have 1,2,3 developers — they'll go for that meeting," she said. "And then we're certainly willing to go over property by property, explaining why those particular properties were included in the 40R district."
Planner Sandra Moderski asked which developers would be invited — would there be some who have used 40R and others who haven't?
"We hope to have at least a couple of developers that use 40R," Cesan said. "Quite frankly, I was hoping somebody from Scarafoni [Associates] might be available. Not only have they done a project in Adams, but they're now presently doing a 40R project in Pittsfield. So I thought it would be ideal if somebody from that company could speak."
The state's 15-year-old Chapter 40R seeks to incentivize the reuse and preserve older structures by streamlining permitting and providing access to capital. It also promotes affordable housing by giving funding incentives to towns to allow a minimum number of affordable units alongside market rate apartments.
The areas selected for the overlay include the town's mills, school buildings, open areas, and large structures. Some, like the Memorial School, W.R. Grace and the Armory have been empty for years.
"There was a lot of discussion about why aren't we attracting, as a community, private development investment," Cesan said. "And so we're hoping to kind of broaden that beyond 40R for just more of a general discussion."
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Several upper windows on the west side of the building facing Hoosac Street were shattered. Police responded to close off the area and a Department of Public Works crew was cleaning up the debris. No word of any injuries.
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The possible inclusion of North Adams and Dalton would be especially convenient this year as both municipalities' solid waste contracts expire on June 30, the same date as the district's.
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The 40R Smart Growth Overlay District would target certain areas for redevelopment into market rate and affordable housing with potential for commercial clients as well. However, the proposed adoption of the state measure created opposition among residents who fear it will negatively impact the... click for more
But Tuesday's more than two-hour meeting explaining step by step the statute, the definitions, and how a Smart Growth Overlay District would work seemed to tamp down some of the controversy.
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