Firefighters Andrew Cucci and Jamieson Williams are pinned at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday postponed votes on two controversial issues.
Councilors pushed a vote allowing the Planning Board to modify or eliminate front setbacks in the Central Business District by special permit to its first meeting in October.
Councilors Keith Bona and Wayne Wilkinson questioned the Planning Board's vote to recommend on Monday night. The board had voted immediately at the end of the public hearing because a board meeting had not been published. This had been done based on an opinion from the Attorney General's Office.
"I still get really uncomfortable with how that vote came to us from the Planning Board because there was a vote at a meeting that wasn't published," said Bona. "And it wasn't even at their normal time."
Wilkinson called the vote "illegal." "I think the simple solution is to postpone until after the next Planning Board meeting," he said.
Council President Lisa Blackmer said the council could sent it back to the Planning Board or postpone until the Planning Board met to vote again. Council then voted to postpone.
Prior to that, Councilor Ashley Shade repeated her objections from Monday that they should change the zoning for the entire district and not rely on special permits or have a carve out for Main Street.
The ordinance as it stands has a maximum front setback of 10 feet; the amendment put forward by Mayor Jennifer Macksey would allow the planners to modify that to allow for front parking, similar to existing businesses in the district. An inquiry by Starbucks about the property raised the issue of the 10-foot maximum setback from the street.
"This language was written specifically so we could preserve the integrity of our downtown area," Shade said, suggesting that if the language is being changed for the corner lot at Eagle and Union, it should be standard for all properties in that area.
She said she would not support the ordinance amendment but she does support the development of that corner.
"I want to see a business operating and running in that land. I want to see something contributing to the community develop there," Shade said. "But I don't think that we should be making an indefinite ongoing special permit rule for this area when this particular section of land was specifically zoned only a few years ago, and the intent was always to preserve this zone a very specific way."
Bona said he supported the amendment because he thought it would be better if a building did sit back from the street on that property, especially in terms of driver visibility.
Jane Forrestal of Williamstown, speaking during hearing of visitors, objected to the development of that corner, saying she had deep concerns about the fate of the land that was shared by current and former North Adams residents.
A union-busting corporation with no ties to North Adams would not help the local business community and would bring in trash and traffic to an already congested intersection, she said.
Her great-grandfather was James Wall, founder of Wall-Streeter Shoe Co. and her family donated generously in land and donations to the now demolished church.
"This land can now be used as a new Saint Francis Park, a place of beauty, peace and serenity through the construction of a beautiful public garden," Forrestal said, in memory to the many parishioners living and dead and to its founding pastor, the Rev. Charles Lynch. "This is an opportunity to do the right thing and make a better choice for the city of North Adams and its people, to help heal."
The council also put off a vote on a new short-term rental fee as recommended by the General Government Committee that would charge owner-occupied properties $200 a year for inspection and registration and non-owner occuped $350.
Several residents spoke against the fee, with one calling the fee arbitrary. "It doesn't strike me as a fee that has been adjusted based on a cost to perform an inspection and registration, but rather, something a little bit more punitive," he said.
Lois Daunais said AirBnB charges the state's occupancy tax and that short-term rental owners are already paying property taxes as well.
"I think [the fee] should be lower or reasonable," she said. "I have no issue with an inspection at all because we may learn that there are some rentals that are not suitable occupation."
Councilors Marie T. Harpin and Jennifer Barbeau asked what the cost was for the city to do inspections; Wilkinson said he had been told it was difficult for the inspections department to determine a cost because they didn't all take the same amount of time. The mayor said she would look into the cost.
Wilkinson, who presented the recommendation as chair of the General Government Committee, said he was happy to move the vote along but everyone should have a chance to ask a question or comment. There was also some confusion as to whether the fee should have a new order number or the original submitted by the mayor should be amended. The matter was postponed to the next meeting to allow Wilkinson to work with city clerk on submitting the order.
The council also saw two new police officers, Matthew Reynolds and Jacob Stockley, and two new firefighters, Andrew Cucci and Jamieson Williams, sworn in at the beginning of the two-hour meeting.
Cucci is from Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y., and graduated from Anna Maria College in 2021 with a bachelor's degree in fire science. He obtained his Firefighter 1 and 2 certification from New York State and was a volunteer in his hometown. Williams is from Wiliamstown and graduated from the University of Northwestern Ohio with an associate's degree in diesel technology. He earned his Firefighter 1 and 2 certification from the state Fire Academy and spent 11 years as a volunteer with the Hancock Fire Department.
Reynolds and Stockley both graduated from the Police Academy on Sept. 1. Reynolds grew up in North Adams and graduated from McCann Technical School's electrical program. He worked for Meditech for 11 years and lives in the city with his wife and three children.
Stockley graduated from Pittsfield High School and worked as a security guard at Berkshire Medical Center. He also is a member of the Army National Guard and lives in Pittsfield with his fiancee.
In other business:
• The council confirmed the reappointments of Manuel Serrano and Paul Senecal to the Mobile Home Rent Control Board for terms to expires on Sept. 25, 2028.
• The mayor read proclamations in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, of Hello Week and the Sandy Hook Promise and of National Recovery Month.
• The council passed to a second reading and publication amendments to the airport ordinance regarding the composition commission.
The issue had been brought up because of the memorial mural painted inside the Armory without commission review.
Macksey said she had spoken to the commission "at length about that we will do a better job and working together."
• The council also approved transfer fees recommended by the Public Services Committee. The fee schedule will now be referred to within the ordinance rather than the fees being spelled out within each ordinance. A new fee schedule for other departments was postponed to the next meeting.
• A proposal by Shade to amend Section 1-5, recordation of ordinances, to order any changes or new ordinances be posted on the website and available to the public within two business days of passage was referred to General Government.
• Another proposal by Shade referred to General Government is to eliminate Sections 10-3 to -5 from Chapter 10, Junk and Secondhand Dealers, as being "undue burdens" on businesses and to update the ordinances to distinguish between secondhand stores that purchase from the public and those that do not.
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Saboteurs Earn Narrow Win in Northern Berkshire Fall Hoop League
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Jake Hall had a double-double to lead the Saboteurs to a one-point win in the Northern Berkshire Sports Academy fall league B Division on Sunday.
Hall scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a 66-65 win over Adelson and Company at the Armory.
Dave Crtielli scored 13 points, and Sam Larabee finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
For Adelson, Jon Gregory scored a game-high 29 points and collected 12 rebounds. Nick Lewis scored 12 points.
Workaholics 60, Elegant Stiches 40
Amont David scored 16 points, and Darian Vidal finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Dave Vidal scored 12 for Workaholics.
Shamar Ringgold led Elegang Stiches with a game-high 23 points.
Ioka Valley/Original Seed Cigar 65, Northern Berkshire Sports Academy 59