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The Williamstown Zoning Board of Appeals last week permitted a specialty shop in the Cole Avenue storefront that currently is home to the LaPlante Appliance Service Center.

Tea, Coffee Shop Cleared for Cole Avenue in Williamstown

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday cleared the way for a specialty tea and coffee shop on Cole Avenue.
Rebecca Guanzon and Justin Adkins were before the board seeking permission to operate a retail shop at 248 Cole Ave., the current home of LaPlante Appliance Service Center.
Approval was needed for a change in use to the previously nonconforming property, which sits just outside the Limited Business district.
"The shop is Wild Soul River," Adkins told the board. "It's an herb shop. We'll be selling bulk herbs like chamomile and then also have tea for sale and some slow-brewed coffee. It's not going to be an espresso shop.
"We'll also have a small level of retail with books about herbs for folks to peruse and purchase."
Adkins, who currently resides with Guanzon in Pennsylvania, is a former resident of the neighborhood where the shop is located.
"I lived on Linden Street for quite a few years," he said. "I love the neighborhood and this building. I talked to David [LaPlante's] dad about buying it before he turned it over David when [Leo's Luncheonette] closed.
"We're really excited about this building and maintaining the feel of the neighborhood and structure of the neighborhood and really promoting community in the neighborhood."
Although the pair anticipates conducting its business indoors, given the uncertainty of opening during a pandemic, the ZBA included a mention of allowing curbside pickup in the special permit.
Primary hours for the shop will be 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Adkins said. But the proprietors also sought and received permission to host small meditation and yoga groups outside regular business hours.
Inside, the shop will be adding a handicap-accessible restroom. Outside, Adkins and Guanzon will construct an L-shape ramp on the south side of the building to make it accessible. That change did not need the board's approval, though; adding accessibility elements is allowed by right in the commonwealth.
The pair, who are in the process of purchasing the building, plan to rent office space to LaPlante in the basement and occupy one of two dwelling units upstairs while continuing to rent to the tenant of the other apartment.
Asked about the hours of the potential yoga and meditation meetings, Adkins joked, "We'll be living upstairs, and we're not as young as we look."
This is not the first time that the longtime commercial property at the corner of Hall Street and Cole Avenue has been before the ZBA because of its technical location in the General Residence district.
Town Planner Andrew Groff told the Zoning Board on Thursday that he anticipates that anachronism may be addressed at a future town meeting with a proposal to expand the Limited Business district — currently just across Hall Street — to include the neighboring parcel.
The ZBA had just one other item on its agenda, a request from the owners of the home at 37 Woodlawn Drive to replace an existing deck with a three-season room.
The project came before the board because Arthur and Diane Fuleihan are adding 160 square feet of roof coverage to a home that already exceeds the maximum 20 percent of roof allowed on a residential lot in the zoning bylaw.
"We're slightly over that, not including the roof area," architect Bruce Hake told the ZBA. "One reason we're over that is because the lot itself is below the 100-by-100 minimum. Including the fact that they have a very large front roof overhang, it impacts on the coverage area. Their front overhang is about 4 feet, which is kind of crazy."
Hake said the footprint of the new three-season room will be the same as the deck. The applicants told the board that the deck has helped the family see friends and family while maintaining social distancing during the pandemic, but it is not practical to use during inclement weather.
The Fuleihan's application was supported by one of their neighbors, and no other abutters raised an objection to the Zoning Board, which found unanimously that the change did was not "substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood than the pre-existing condition."

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Williamstown Volunteer of the Year Speaks for the Voiceless

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Andi Bryant was presented the annual Community Service Award. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Inclusion was a big topic at Thursday's annual town meeting — and not just because of arguments about the inclusivity of the Progress Pride flag.
The winner of this year's Scarborough-Salomon-Flynt Community Service Award had some thoughts about how exclusive the town has been and is.
"I want to talk about the financially downtrodden, the poor folk, the deprived, the indigent, the impoverished, the lower class," Andi Bryant said at the outset of the meeting. "I owe it to my mother to say something — a woman who taught me it was possible to make a meal out of almost nothing.
"I owe it to my dad to say something, a man who loved this town more than anyone I ever knew. A man who knew everyone, but almost no one knew what it was like for him. As he himself said, 'He didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.' "
Bryant was recognized by the Scarborough-Salomon-Flynt Committee as the organizer and manager of Remedy Hall, a new non-profit dedicated to providing daily necessities — everything from wheelchairs to plates to toothpaste — for those in need.
She started the non-profit in space at First Congregational Church where people can come and receive items, no questions asked, and learn about other services that are available in the community.
She told the town meeting members that people in difficult financial situations do, in fact, exist in Williamstown, despite the perceptions of many in and out of the town.
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