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Clarksburg Officials Looking to Resolve Permit Process

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town is working to get a procedure in place that will guide those seeking permits and keep departments informed of where they are in the process. 
"This is not something that's going to be solved tonight," Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher said Wednesday's meeting. "This is something that we're going to have discussion and talk about ways we can improve it."
Members of the Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Board of Health and assessor attended the joint meeting.
The conversation comes after a breakdown in communications regarding the installation of solar "carports" at the former golf course. Both the Planning Board and building inspector had apparently been under the impression that they were both aware of the situation, which was not true. 
"I think that was the biggest part with the with the golf course, was the lack of communication," Boucher said. "I think we need to get a plan together and how we want to move forward in this whole process, so it's streamline."
The town officials are hoping that permitting information will be able to be posted there. Building Inspector BJ Church, participating remotely, said some of the other towns she works for are using permitting programs. One system automatically notifies the appropriate department by email and allows for notes and electronic signing to be added. 
"I come in, I review the permit for the building code. And you know, there hasn't been a process in place," she said. "And that's from the very start, I haven't had that communication."
Plus, Church said, there's a 30-day deadline with many permits during which reviews and approvals have to be done. 
Clarksburg's system has largely been someone contacting department heads and chairmen by phone and, more recent years, by email when a permit is pulled or an inquiry. But some boards don't even have permit forms, as was discovered during the solar controversy. 
Town Administrator Rebecca Stone noted that Clarksburg like other small towns relies on part-time staff and volunteer boards. 
"The reality is that sometimes it can be It could be seven-10 days, 14 days before Town Hall has contact with different departments," she said. "Everybody has full-time jobs, people are doing a lot of volunteer work in this town. ... It's hard because we don't have a permit administrator."
Stone and Town Assessor Ross Vivori also expressed concern that renovations and other structure changes were happening with and without permits and that the information wasn't always getting back to the assessors office. That could mean missing new growth that would affect the tax rate. 
After some discussion, the Select Board asked Stone to look into pricing for permitting software and for members of other boards to consider how to make the process easier and offer recommendations. 
The board also voted to open Town Hall, library and Community Center on Nov. 9, pending affirmation of occupancy limits. The town has to determine the square-footage of the library and Community Center and Select Board meeting room at Town Hall. 
Select Board member Danielle Luchi had hoped for specific guidance for each building from the Board of Health but Cynthia Shock and Michael Rivers said their recommendations was to follow the state and U.S. Centers for Control guidelines. 
"We don't think we need to really reinvent the wheel here because the state has really very well delineated safe standards so we're really just dittoing what the state has already established," Shock said. "What we could do is just print out a copy of what is on page and then post that."
In other business, the board approved a payment in lieu of taxes with Clarksburg Solar LLC at 650 West Cross Road of $3,327.70 annually for 20 years. 
The town is still accepting letters of interest for an opening on the Finance Committee. Boucher, who was appointed temporary moderator, said he has had one inquiry but will wait another week to see if there is anyone else interested. 
• The town is also accepting applications for town accountant in hopes to have someone in place before the Donna Estes retires on Dec. 1. Stone, Boucher and Town Treasurer Ericka Oleson will do the preliminary interviews and make recommendations to the board. 
• The board changed its meeting schedule in November because of holidays. It will meet on Tuesday, Nov. 10, rather than Veterans Day and, if needed, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 24, to avoid meeting Thanksgiving Eve. 

Tags: COVID-19,   permitting,   

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