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The Common Folk artists' collective has moved around the corner to Holden Street.

North Adams Planners OK Sporting Goods Store, Common Folk Move

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday gave the go-ahead for a sporting goods store after several continuations and a new home for Common Folk, which raised complaints from its neighbors. 
 
William Preite applied to the board in August with his plans to open a sporting goods store in the former Doran's Carpet Shop to sell fishing and hunting gear, along with ammunition and firearms he described as high-end collectible pieces. Preite had pulled plans to open a store in Williamstown last year after encountering opposition. 
 
There were no abutter complaints in North Adams but rather concerns about security, parking and the condition of the building raised by the Planning Board. Preite had assured the board back in August that the owner had committed to doing over both the interior and exterior of the building but planners wanted something in writing or for the owner (listed as 401 Curran Highway Realty Trust, John Cellana) to appear before them. 
 
"We did receive today at City Hall a communication from the landlord of the building detailing exterior improvements that he will make to the building," said Chairman Michael Leary. "That was the outstanding section that we were waiting for on this permit."
 
Planner Lynette Bond noted that the letter stated it could be six months before a contractor could be hired. 
 
"As it stands, I don't think really lends to the attractiveness of the area," she said. 
 
Six months is not unusual, said Planner Brian Miksic, especially because of a backlog of projects caused by the pandemic. 
 
"It's extremely difficult. As a contractor, it's extremely difficult right now to get work done in a timely fashion," he said. "I know personally, my business is booked through next summer right now."
 
Preite said he couldn't get into the building or reapply for a Federal Firearms License without getting a permit from board. 
 
The board voted to approve the permit with conditions that the landlord's narrative be added to the package and a motion by Planner Lisa Blackmer that security bars added to the windows. Planners agreed that a security system as proposed by Preite would not be enough. 
 
Bond voted against the permit and had suggested it be postponed again but found no support. 
 
Common Folk, an artist collective, was approved for yet another relocation, this time to 12 Holden St. The collective has moved to several spots around the downtown with the last being 73 Main St. 
 
"We had to move out of a need for our revenue greatly decreasing due to COVID-19," said co-founder Jessica Sweeney. "So we talked to our landlord about moved to a space that we could afford on 12 Holden St. This space is going to be much more scaled back than the space that we had on Main Street."
 
She said the main driver will be retail but that the collective would still have a studio for its 47 or so members to have access to and, once conditions allow, gallery openings and exhibitions. 
 
The permit application had included performances, she noted, but that would be nothing like what the collective had put on in the past. 
 
"This will not be anything close or looking like a music venue," Sweeney said, adding that "performances will really just look like a singer songwriter sitting on a couch unamplified during like a gallery opening. Performance I think was an inappropriate word to use on the application."
 
She described it as a desire to be transparent -- and to allow someone to play a guitar -- and that the collective had been moving toward partnerships with places like HiLo and Bright Ideas Brewing for musical performances. 
 
In response to questions, Sweeney said past events had gone to about 9:30 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday with a push to get people out by 10. 
 
Several trustees of the Holden Street Condominium Association, however, registered their objections to any music coming from the space and some concerns over the number of people with access to the studio space at any time.
 
Dennis Rebelo of 14 Holden said he came to North Adams because of the art and music but also was attracted to the condominium association because of it was a legal entity with bylaws. 
 
"I made a home, right at 14, and underneath my home is now a performance venue possibility," he said, expressing concern that someone could be playing a guitar "underneath my bed." 
 
He said he appreciated what Common Folk was trying to do but wondered if it couldn't bracket the music. David Carver, the landlord for the retail space, had assured the trustees that Sweeney was aware of the noise requirements, he said. Trustees Elaine Nickerson and Roger Gibboni brought up some of the same points. NIckerson noted that Carver does not own the building but the commercial space. There are 19 units, 10 residential and nine commercial in the association.
 
"We each have decided that, to live in this downtown to be a part of the downtown to be part of a building the vibrancy of North Adams," Nickerson said. But, she added, "there are bylaws, there are rules and regulations about peace and enjoying it. And I guess the bar was set high."
 
The bylaws specifically talks about music and radios, she said, and it is a violation for sounds to be heard from other units. 
 
Leary had at the outset of the hearing stated clearly that the Planning Board makes no conditions based on private association rules. Those would have to be negotiated between the condo owners and the commercial space, he said.
 
"The city Planning Board is not bound, nor should it be considering the bylaws of the condominium association," he said. "We are bound by the ordinances of the city of North Adams. That is what we are required to make our decisions based on."
 
Miksic said the board's job was to determine if a business fits into a location.
 
"People should not live downtown North Adams, or downtown anywhere, if they don't want noise," he said. "You want to live downtown. That's great. We want you to live downtown, but you are living in an area zoned specifically for commerce. If you do not want commerce near you, you should not be living in these areas."
 
The application was approved unanimously with hours of operation as presented with the latest being 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday in the summer, and 8 p.m. in the winter. 
 
In other business, the board approved: 
 
An application by Andrew Casteel to operate an online clothing business at 189 Beaver St. Casteel said he and his partner, Sarah, have been upcycling clothing on the side and now intend to do it full time. There are several sewing machines and related equipment for production but there would be minimal local customer pickups since 90 percent of the product is shipped.
 
• An application by Julia Daly to operate a restaurant at 55 Union St. Daly and Nick Tardive had reopened the Parlor on Ashland Street last year but she said they were pushed out when the landlord turned the building into an AirBnB. They plan the same model at what is HiLo, with coffee, tea, soup, salad and sandwiches,, Wednesday to Sunday from 7 to 2. Later they will offer food during performances once HiLo reopens. 
 
Miksic, an owner of HiLo, stepped down from the board during the discussion and abstained during the vote. He was asked when the exterior of the building would be completed and said work was done on the north side and that the new siding on the Union Street side would be painted before winter. Lack of revenue had held up work, he said, but Daly's operation will start some funds flowing back into the building. 
 
• An application by Trinity Engineering for office space in the Wall-Streeter building was approved. Owner John E. Dupras said the 23-year-old firm was moving from Stamford, Vt., because it needed more space. It provides services mostly in Windham and Whitingham counties in Vermont and Berkshire and Franklin counties. 
 
"We have grown significantly in the last few years and we were looking to find a location that would serve as a general locus of these counties and having been a lifetime resident of North Adams, I mean it was a natural to look at North Adams," he said. 

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Flag Disposal Receptacle Installed at North Adams Fire Department

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

The secure receptacle is located on the south side of the fire station.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city unveiled a newly installed flag disposal box that will provide residents with a safe place to respectfully dispose of American flags. 
 
"We don't want our flag to be disrespected and to have the opportunity for people to be able to retire it safely with honor in a centralized space is great," City Councilor Benjamin Lamb said Monday morning at a small gathering at the fire station where the box was installed. 
 
Lamb said he decided to act after seeing a social media post documenting a pile of flags essentially thrown away at the transfer station. He did some research and found that Sturbridge had a public receptacle to dispose of retired American flags.
 
He thought this could be a solution in North Adams.
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