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Signs at the end of Alma Street. The city put in a jersey barrier to keep construction trucks from using the street. A road was put in from South Street to service the tower.

Pittsfield ZBA Takes No Action On Cell Tower Petition

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The 115-foot tower is sited near a city water tank.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals took no action on a City Council petition to re-permit the 877 South St. cellular tower.
 
The ZBA voted Wednesday to adhere to City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta's opinion that legally the board cannot re-open the special permit.
 
"After a decision has been finalized, to review the hearing or rescind the hearing is not allowable under the statute," Pagnotta said. "The purpose of that is to ensure that permits, and any rights that come under those permits, are final and the applicants can rely on them."
 
The petition was in response to the essentially complete cell tower that abutters say 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 at the end of Alma Street, a narrow dead-end road, catching the residents by surprise.
 
Neighbors claim that they were never properly notified and only became aware of the construction once construction vehicles started rolling through their neighborhood. The location is given as South Street but the tower sits on the far southeastern corner of the 45-acre property abutting a residential area.
 
This group brought the case to Berkshire Superior Court in August and hoped for an injunction forcing Verizon to halt the construction. The antennas reportedly went live in early August.
 
Pagnotta said if the court finds a defect in the granting of the permit it would be remanded back to the ZBA  
 
"We are not there now," he said. "Regardless of the merit or what the board may wish to do it is simply not authorized by the statute."
 
The City Council referred this petition to the board and the mayor knowing that this would likely be the response, but Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell was on the line during the Zoom meeting and asked that the board be aware of possible future cases.
 
"We both realize that this certainly can not be overturned but our hopes are ... really that going forward that a situation like this does not happen again," he said.
 
Connell did mention two petitions the City Council has sponsored that he hopes will reinforce this by creating a 1,600-foot setback from residential structures, and notification to all abutters within 1,600 feet of a proposed tower through certified mail.
 
These possible zoning changes were sent to Ordinance and Rules.
 
Board member John Fitzgerald said they had received more than 30 emails on the matter from abutters and concerned residents. Although some were on the call, Fitzgerald did not allow comment because it was not open hearing. 
 
In other business, the board approved a group of requests to keep chickens. These requests took up the bulk of the meeting as Fitzgerald had to read a long list of regulations and responsibilities that come with approval.
 
ZBA member Erin Sullivan asked that the city try to inform livestock sellers that there are regulations in regard to chickens. She noted that many purchase chickens without knowing they needed permission from the city. 
 
"Just to be proactive with this," she said. "We are dealing with it all the time."

Tags: ZBA,   cell tower,   

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Pittsfield Developing Plan for Bicycle Network

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

The first public meeting on the master plan was held Wednesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is developing plans to make Pittsfield safer and more accessible to bicycling. 
 
The first public meeting for the Pittsfield Bicycle Facilities Master Plan was held on Wednesday but the plan has been in the works for the last year or two, said City Planner CJ Hoss.
 
Though Pittsfield has a few areas with bike lanes or shared road lanes, the city would like to take a more progressive approach with simple roadwork projects or more extensive plans in the future to try and take on more ambitious, safer bike facilities.
 
"There's a need to take a citywide approach," Hoss said.
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