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Pittsfield City Council Continues Lee Bank Hearing

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
03:02PM / Saturday, August 14, 2021
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lee Bank's plans to reconfigure traffic on Reed Street did not sit well with the City Council, which asked the bank to reconsider its proposed building project.
The council unanimously voted to continue Lee Bank's hearing Tuesday until the Sept. 14 meeting to allow time for the stakeholders to meet and hash out some solutions.
"There are too many smart people in this room who want to make this project go through for this not to work for everybody," Councilor at Large Earl Persip III said. "I think we have to go back and sit back and listen to the comments from tonight ... I think this is a great project, it just needs a couple of things worked out."
Lee Bank plans to build a new location on the corner of Reed and South Street. The plan, which was approved by the Traffic Commission and the Community Development Board, includes a first-floor bank with a drive-through window and second-floor residential units.
"We think this project will be a showcase as you enter the city from the south," attorney Bill Martin said. "It will be a beautiful new building and a great example of how the new zoning bylaws work in practice."
The sticking point was the intention to change the traffic pattern on the narrow Reed Street from one way to two way. 
This was the main concern of some neighboring businesses. John Bresnahan, of Devanny-Condron Funeral Home, had major concerns in regard to maneuvering his limousines and hearses with the new traffic pattern.
"We have lived together as business abutters for 30 plus years understanding needs and trying to be flexible," he said. "That seems to be in some peril because of this right of way."
Dick Laureyns, another Reed Street business owner, said he feared the two-way traffic would only encourage cars to use the street as a shortcut. He said cars already use it to bypass traffic lights.
Otherwise, he had no issue with the project itself, he just wished abutters were included in the planning process.  
"It is a beautiful project ... we are all in favor of this and we really do think it will enhance the neighborhood," he said. "We just feel as though we got left out of all the planning."
Martin said the Community Development Board recommended that the bank only extend the two-lane traffic 290 feet down the street, at least in the beginning. He said it was believed this would fit the bank's needs but also consider the neighbors.  
Director of Public Services Ricardo Morales said he was under the opinion that this would only cause confusion.
He went on to say the two-way traffic would benefit the narrow road and act as a traffic calming measure. He added that the city has no intention of disallowing on-street parking on the north side of the street and that according to his data, the changes would be workable for all businesses on the street.
An engineer with Lee Bank agreed, adding it would be tight but that the impacts would be minimal on the low-volume street 
Many councilors disagreed and thought the roadway would just be too narrow.
"It looks like a great project ... but I have never been in favor of giving the benefit to a new business at the expense of the ones who have been there for years who have paid their dues," Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell said.
Some councilors flat out said they would not approve a project that changes the traffic pattern. 
"That is the only way I will approve you; it is cut and dry," Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio said. "I don't believe that street should be two-way. It is way too narrow."
The Lee Bank representatives felt it was a hard problem to fix and said the concerns are really pre-existing conditions out of their purview. Martin said the issues do not lie on their property or the city's property.
"We like to hear your input to address these concerns," he said. "We have simply been in a box in our capacity to solve the neighborhood's problems."
Persip felt it was the bank's problem, and if it did not solve it, it would probably create problems down the road that would come back to the city.
There was also a question over parking, and there was a fear among councilors that the bank would suck up a lot of the on-street parking. Martin did not foresee this and noted the majority of the business would be flowing through the drive-through.
He added that the traffic change decision was actually scheduled for September so they were not against delaying the decision. He added that the project really doesn't work without the drive-through.
Council President Peter Marchetti did not participate in the conversation because of a conflict of interest as he is an officer at another bank.

Tags: drive-through,   traffic,   

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