ADAMS, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance for Adams Center for Art LLC to separate from common ownership the former First Baptist Church and parsonage.
Brian Koczela, of BEK Associates, representing property owner Donald Sommer, went before the Zoning Board of Appeals last Tuesday to ask for a slate of variances that would allow Sommer to separate the two structures on the 13-15 Commercial St. plot.
Sommer, who owns a stretch of properties on Commercial Street, plans to renovate the First Baptist Church and possibly use it as a music school. However, according to Koczela, the parsonage structure may not be in Sommer's immediate plans.
"I am not privy to the financial aspect of what they want to do with the parsonage building, but it is not needed in this current game plan," Koczela said. "I am sure you can understand that the church is a very hard building to renovate. The idea is that they might be able to bring in some revenue or own the building in a different way. But they want it out of the church parcel and under separate ownership."
The properties, in a B-2 district, meet none of the frontages and buffer requirements. The buildings predate zoning.
Board member Nathaniel Karns had a few concerns and noted there was really no parking for the parsonage.
Koczela said, because Sommer owns surrounding properties, it would not be a big deal to find some designated spots.
"Don owns properties to the south and to the west of the property, and he can make additional parking," he said.
Koczela said there also may be an opportunity for parking on the actual property with a curb cut.
Karns agreed this all may be true but wanted more assurances.
"Personally I think this is a great project, and I don't want to throw obstacles in your way," he said. "I personally don't like the vague assurance that Mr. Sommer will provide parking somewhere, some time in the future."
Karns also asked for a maintenance easement shared between the two properties.
"For the church, you would probably come in with a lift instead of putting up a bunch of scaffolding and an easement would protect both property owners into the future," Karns said.
There is just over 10 feet between the two buildings. Karns asked for a shared 10-foot wide easement.
Koczela didn't see an issue and referred to an Adams bylaw that allowed property owners access through neighboring properties for maintenance reasons. He said it has not been an issue in town for past projects.
Karns questioned this and was not familiar with any bylaw. He asked that the decision be delayed so the board could meet with town officials and make clarifications.
Board member Glendon Diehl agreed with Koczela and did not think the easement was a problem.
"It is not a big issue. Even if they put up a fence through, there is 5 feet between the buildings," he said. "You can do anything you want with 5 feet. Maybe not drive a truck, but you could fight a fire."
More importantly to Koczela was the delay a continuance would create. He said the project is already behind schedule because of waiting for the town governmental bodies to meet.
Koczela said the easement was not a deal-breaker and noted Sommer could generate a parking plan. He did ask that the board approve the application and add these items as conditions to get the project moving along.
"What you are asking for is not a major issue they are simple fixes," he said. "We want to get this moving because time is running out."
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