The board set conditions for damaged areas on the facade of 13-15 Eagle St. be repaired as conditions for a new wellness boutique.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board gave approval for John Duquette to open a lumber and hardware store in Hardman Industrial Park but with the condition that he appear before the board for any exterior changes.
Duquette has owned Stanley's Lumber and Building Supplies in Adams since 2016 and also operates Berkshire County Construction.
"This is an extension of the lumber retail," said real estate agent Michael Hernandez, representing Duquette. "He sees a need where Greenberg, just down the road, some years ago [closed]. ... He's had a lot of requests and sees a real need in North Adams just to have this lumber store."
H. Greenberg & Son Inc. Home Center at the corner of Curran Highway and Hodges Cross Road closed abruptly in January 2013 and the main store in Bennington, Vt., not long afterward. In addition to Stanley's in Adams, there is also RK Miles in Williamstown.
The 4.5-acre property and its 18,000 square foot building would be used for lumber storage, retail and limited office space. It is currently on the market for $1 million.
Charlie LaBatt, senior engineer at Guntlow & Associates, said the first phase would be use the building and areas outside the Conservation Commission's purview for retail and lumber storage. This would include altering the exterior spaces for lumber, material and equipment storage; expanding the existing parking; exterior fencing, signage and drainage improvements. There were no immediate plans for exterior changes to the main building.
"We know, in order to do any of the activities we proposed on the east side, it would take extensive Con Comm permitting and he just doesn't wish to pursue that at this time," LaBatt said. "He really would like to get a business started in there."
Planner Kyle Hanlon asked if the contractor's other businesses, including an equipment rental, would be consolidated on Curran Highway.
"My understanding at this time, he does not plan on moving that equipment rental from his Summer Street in Adams location and Berkshire County Construction, he has the site on Ashland Street," Hernandez said. "He also owns the former WD Grace mill in Adams, where he has plenty of room. It's much much larger than Ashland Street. I don't know the answer for sure but I know that I'm pretty 99 percent that he's not planning that."
Planner Lynette Bond asked if the livestock from the Summer Street would be moved to North Adams. "I understand it's been quite a nuisance," she said. Hernandez said no, that the purpose was an extension of the Stanley's lumber operation.
The planners questioned LaBatt about details for any outside structures to cover lumber, the type of security fencing being proposed, and how it would look from the road and to neighbors. LaBatt and Hernandez could not say exactly what those would look like.
"I guess the concern I'm having here is ... that the answers to almost every question are 'I'm not sure,'" said Chairman Michael Leary. "And this board can't act on 'it may be, it may not be' and perhaps Mr. Duquette needs to go back and detail these things out in a much more detailed fashion."
Planner Brian Miksic, however, asked if the Duquette had closed on the building yet, and after being told no, offered a solution.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, part of the reason that you guys are in front of us now is to make sure that this is a viable path forward before that purchase is made," he said, which both men acknowledged. "I agree with all my fellow board members and we're worried about what it's going to look like outside so I think an easy way forward here, to say that we can find a path forward to operate a store inside of this building, and any other changes, including rentals or racks or fences or anything, needs to come back to the board for approval."
Hernandez said he hoped the board would be satisfied with that because the sale contract was "time sensitive" and the property still had to go before the City Council, which has first right of refusal.
"We're really a little tight on time," he said. "We think this alternative that Brian Miksic offered may help out with that."
The board approved the special permit with a change of use to operate a retail lumberyard in an industrial zone with the condition that any exterior changes be brought back before the Planning Board.
The board also approved:
A change of use by South Side Sales & Service for property at 546 Curran Highway to operate an automotive repair shop. South Side is expanding next door into the location formerly occupied by Dean's Quality Auto. The business is considering some minor facade changes but does not expect to significantly alter signage.
Approved Hearts Pace, a wellness venture, at 15 Eagle St. Alex West, a partner in the business with Beau Barela, said they plan to offer massage therapy, herbalist consultations and guided meditation, along with selling local crafts and arts, candles, scents, wellness books and teas. Hours will be Wednesday to Sunday, 11 to 6. The space is in the northern half of the former Persnickety Toys, and Miksic asked if anything was being done to the "tired" exterior of the building.
"There's literally rotting wood on the front of that building and falling off," he said. "It just seems like it's time to have something done on that."
The special permit was approved on the condition that the deterioration on the facade be repaired or replaced within six months. Building owner Modestino Conte currently has permits posted for creating two retail spaces at 13-15 Eagle and to repair the front entrance.
The board is ready to flex the new authority provided in the zoning ordinances approved last week by City Council. The ordinance change gave the Planning Board the ability to revoke special permits if a business did not live up to its conditions. Leary noted that Nite Owl automotive repair on River Street seemed well in excess of the number of cars allowed on its lot. Building Inspector William Meranti said he would start the process with a warning and progress until it was in compliance.
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