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The City Council on Tuesday approved economic incentives to an aerospace company.

Pittsfield City Council Accepts EMA Incentives

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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BIC Executive Director Ben Sosne speaks to the City Council.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council unanimously approved two incentives welcoming  Electro Magnetic Applications Inc. to the city.
 
After sending a special tax agreement and an Economic Development Fund allocation for EMA Inc. to subcommittee for consideration, the full City Council cast its vote Tuesday in favor of the incentives that will help the aerospace company take off in Pittsfield.
 
"We are investing our money into growing and we want part of that investment to be here," EMA President Tim McDonald said. "We think there is a real market need for this type of work and we would like to make the BIC and Pittsfield a major part of this new space economy." 
 
Last month, the city announced that EMA was actively negotiating with the Berkshire Innovation Center to house a new branch of its operation in Pittsfield and that the company planned to initially invest $600,000 in capital and bring six new jobs to Pittsfield with average salaries of $60,000.
 
The city offered up $140,000 from the Economic Development Fund to  go toward the purchase of a space environment testing chamber. This chamber can be equipped with radiation sources to mimic space environment and instrumentation to measure the effects of this simulated environment on different materials and components. 
 
The second incentive is a tax agreement that will curb taxes EMA pays to the city from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2026. The agreement is valued at approximately $65,774.
 
McDonald said its customers include NASA and Space X among others who will travel to Pittsfield from around the world.
 
"They will be coming into our office and they will be seeing what this city has to offer and some of the amazing things like that I have gotten to see," he said.
 
At-Large Councilor Melissa Mazzeo said she was happy to have EMA in Pittsfield but did note the city had lost money from the Economic Development Fund in the past with unfruitful agreements. 
 
Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer said the city did lose money in the early years of the program. After placing milestones in agreements, she said, businesses beginning in 2004 must meet callbacks that force companies to pay back money if they do not hold up their end of agreements. That, she said, has allowed the city to be able to protect the fund.
 
She said they have expended funds for 22 projects and the account still has $4 million in it.
 
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi went on to ask a few questions and aired a few concerns specifically about EMA monopolizing space in the BIC. He was afraid there would be less space for workforce training and for Berkshire County businesses.
 
BIC Executive Director Ben Sosne said was not the case and that the equipment to be used by other businesses was actually just delivered. 
 
"It is gathering interest from the outside of the area but stimulating existing businesses to start to work together," he said. "The BIC was designed with this intention to support existing businesses."
 
Other than a few questions, councilors were in total support of the BIC. Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said he hoped EMA customers will enjoy all of the amenities the city has to offer and Councilor at Large Earl Persip said he hopes there is more to come.
 
"We love to see businesses like this coming into the city," he said. "These are the kind of things we want to be known for. We are not in the GE heyday anymore and small businesses like you will make us more successful." 
 
EMA also received some support from the floor with resident Casey Peirane saying during public comment he has had a difficult time finding work in the city limits with his advanced degree. He said EMA has given him a chance and was happy to be able to work where he lives.
 
John Sinopoli, CEO of Synagex, a Pittsfield-based business, also vouched for the company and said EMA awarded Synagex a three-year information technology contract. He said they are committed to Pittsfield.

Tags: BIC,   GE fund,   

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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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