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Pittsfield City Council Move Possible Zoning Changes For Cell Towers

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In response to a South Street cell tower, the City Council referred a zoning ordinance change to the Community Development Board that would create requirements and standards for the permitting of wireless communication facilities.
The City Council voted last week to act as petitioner on the submission that would make these changes.
"People need to be property notified when something like this is happening in their neighborhood," Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey said. "I think it is important for us to move forward with this." 
The petition is in response to the essentially complete cell tower at 877 South St. that abutters felt was put up illegally without proper notice.
Verizon received the permitting from the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2017 to erect the 115-foot cellular tower. Work began this spring.
Neighbors claim that they were never properly notified and only became aware of the construction once construction vehicles started rolling through their neighborhood.
This group brought the case to Berkshire Superior Court in August and hoped for an injunction forcing Verizon to halt the construction.
"It is unfortunate that something has to happen before we take action," Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell said. "The group has provided many studies that show that there is a health concern, safety concerns, aesthetics, and the possibility of it decreasing their property values."
Specifically, the petition asked for a 1,600-foot setback from residential structures, and notification to all abutters within 1,600 feet of a proposed tower through certified mail.
The petition was originally sponsored by Connell and Kavey and was to be referred to the mayor and the Zoning Board of Appeals. 
However, City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta said the petition could only be moved forward if the council acted as petitioner. Also, it first had to go to the Community Development Board.
Ward 3 City Councilor Nicholas Caccamo did have some concerns that new setbacks could eliminate cell tower development in the city. He asked that the councilors be cognizant of this.
The council referred a second petition to the mayor and the Zoning Board of Appeals requesting that they restart the permitting process for the tower.
Pagnotta noted that neither the mayor nor the Zoning Board of Appeals could do this, but the council still voted to move the petition along.
Councilor at Large Earl Persip was hesitant to do this because he did not want to get the neighborhood's hopes up.
"As much as we all probably agree this whole tower thing was a disaster, I think this could open the residents up to think something possibly good could happen from this," Persip said.
In other business, City Council approved an order transferring excess bond proceeds from the completed solar panel installation project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant to upgrade the Gordon Rose Business Park Pump Station.
"It is money that has already been borrowed that we are already paying debt service on it is available for use," Financial Director Matthew Kerwood said. "We would like to be able to move this project forward quickly get into a contract, and in order to do that, we need to have those funds available." 
The bond proceeds identified in this order will be combined with $478,232 in excess bond proceeds from a general fiscal year 2010 Wastewater Collection System authorization to fund the construction work for the pump station project. The lowest bid for the construction was $637,688.
The City Council appointed Florian Ptak, Lillian Lee, and Sally Soluri to the Pittsfield Cultural Council.
• The City Council accepted an $8,500 grant from the state Department of Public Health.


Tags: ZBA,   cell tower,   

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Berkshire Athenaeum Using Feedback to Push Harder for Diversity Efforts

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Athenaeum is using a local and celebrated author's negative experience at the facility as a learning experience to drive its efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion even further.

"We know that prejudices exist and that we need to work to keep them in check, still, on the whole, our perception of how well we account for those implicit biases and how we how well we keep them in check can be inaccurate," Director Alex Reczkowski said.

"One of the most impactful lessons has been input from the community, and namely, from a local and highly celebrated author, Ocean Vuong, who is a Vietnamese poet and novelist."

In the process of writing his 2019 book "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous," Vuong visited the Berkshire Athenaeum to research Herman Melville. During this visit, a library staff member reportedly acted on implicit bias and made an explicit comment that made his visit harmful to him.

So much was he affected that, a year later, he spoke about the experience in an interview with the Toronto Public Library.

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