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The City Council tabled a request to lift a parking ban on a section of South Church Street that some councilors saw as an accommodation to Wayfair.

Pittsfield Council Holds Off on South Church Parking Changes

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council tabled a request to remove "No Parking" on South Church Street after expressing concerns over parking restrictions and questions about the parking situation for the soon to open Wayfair call center.
 
Councilors spent about half of Tuesday's meeting debating a request from the city to allow unrestricted parking on South Church Street but determined they were not ready to make such a decision.
 
"Let's table this to get the information out," Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers said. "Let's cut the ribbon Thursday and then watch for the next six months and see what is needed there ... I don't understand the urgency to do this tonight." 
 
Wayfair plans to hire up to 300 people to staff its call center in the Clocktower Building. A ceremonial ribbon cutting is set for Thursday morning at 10 with local and state officials. 
 
Last month, the Traffic Commission approved the request that City Engineer Ricardo Morales said would accommodate future improvements to the road, allow more parking in an underutilized area that will become busier, and make the street safer. 
 
Tuesday night, he told the council that the decision was not directly in response to Wayfair coming to Pittsfield but was influenced by it. He said with online home decor retailer moving in, there is an expectation of more vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Allowing on-street parking would open up nearly 30 more spots. 
 
Morales said parking would be unlimited for the time being until the city develops new regulations most likely guided by a downtown parking analysis the city looks to undergo.
 
This was the first sticking point for the City Council and Rivers was not comfortable with open-ended, unlimited parking.
 
"It feels like we are making accommodations for a business that is moving in there ... I understand it is an urban neighborhood but not having a plan ... ," she said. "If we approve this we have this huge gap we are creating this free for all and we have no idea what is going to happen next." 
 
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell agreed but was more concerned about unlimited parking without enforcement or control.
 
"It seems like we are sending an unequal message to the residents. I am just surprised we are having no time limit," he said. "If you want to put a three-hour limit, I can go along with that ... but all of a sudden we are going to give free parking there. It is not a 'Monopoly' game." 
 
Morales said there are other areas in town with unlimited parking and people currently park on South Church Street anyways. He added that residents in the area have their own parking as well as other businesses.
 
Morales said personally he would like to install a kiosk system on the street.
 
The conversation then moved to Wayfair and Morales said the company plan to accommodate 80 parking spots for employees. Since Wayfair ultimately expects 300 employees, the extra street parking will help ease this demand. 
 
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo said Wayfair does not plan to bring on these 300 employees immediately and that they would likely work in shifts. He said the city should not expect 300 cars all at once.
 
Councilor at Large Peter White added that having this temporary open parking may help the city gauge what the demand will actually be once Wayfair moves in. He said this would better inform what regulations or measure the city wants to implement.
 
Some councilors still were concerned about the possible 300 employees and only 80 Wayfair parking spots. Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli said even with the 30 new open spots, there may be issues and asked the city solicitor if Wayfair had to meet any parking regulations.
 
"It sounds like a lot of the pieces of the puzzle have not been followed," he said.
 
The city solicitor did not have an answer.
 
Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said she did not know for sure if Wayfair went before the Zoning Board of Appeals or Community Development and felt there was too much speculation amongst the council to make a parking decision Tuesday night.
 
"This is a good problem to have. We have lots of people coming in and we need parking ... but we have a tendency in Pittsfield, where when we have a new business coming in, start changing these rules when we have businesses that have been here long and hard," she said. "It is not fair. We need to put the breaks on this." 
 
She said the fact that a decision was being made without clear information or a clear plan raised "red flags"
 
Council President Peter Marchetti said Wayfair plans to hold a ribbon-cutting so all appears to be in order.
 
"I guess I would say since Wayfair has already been built and they are cutting the ribbon Thursday whatever special permits or requirements they need they already have or else they would not be opening," he said. "In order for them to open, they need a certificate of occupancy and that is a fact."
 
Morales said Wayfair has not requested a change of use in The Berkshire Eagle building so there was not a need for a special permit. He said they have prior permits under the prior use as an office space.
 
Todd Rivers agreed that the councilors were not all on the same page and was upset that she was not directly contacted about an agenda item that affects her ward.
 
"I don't care if it is this administration or going forwards ... do not bring something forward that effects a neighborhood and not contact the ward councilor," she said. "To me, it is a lack of respect not only to the ward councilor but to the residents who live there because my phone is buzzing right now."
 
She added that she has brought up safety concerns on the street in the past and believed they are only now coming to the forefront now that Wayfair is moving in.
 
Morales did apologize to Todd Rivers for not informing her of the request and said they did not reach out to street residents because they already have their own parking.
 
White chimed in and said he would be OK tabling the request for a short amount of time to allow residents to be notified. He said it will also give the council time to discuss the parking issues with businesses and residents on the street and clarify some questions.
 
Caccamo was the only councilor to vote in opposition of tabling the agenda item. Ward 5 Councilor John Krol was absent. 

Tags: parking,   wayfair,   

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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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