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City Council Community Development Committee MeetingAugust 21, 2019
Meetings & Notices
CITY COUNCIL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Wednesday August 21st, 2019
6:00pm - Council Chambers - City Hall
The City Council Community Development Committee will be meeting on Wednesday August 21st at 6:00pm
- Call To Order
- Discussion of Updated Zoning with Community Development Office and BRPC
CC: Mayor Thomas Bernard
Nat Karns (BRPC)
North Adams City Council Community Development Committee Meeting
Wednesday August 21, 2019
City Council Chambers-City Hall
Committee Members Present: Committee Chairman Lamb, Councilors Buddington, Cohen
Other Councilors Present: Councilors Harpin, LaForest and Wilkinson
Others Present: William Meranti, Zachary Feury, Michael Nuvallie, Nat Karns,
The Chairman called the meeting to order; Chairman Lamb turned the meeting over to the presenters.
Mr. Michael Nuvallie, Director of Community Development gave a presentation as to the proposed zoning changes that have been in process since May of 2018. He stated there have been meetings beginning in August, 2018 with Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, who has been a large part of the process.
There was a presentation in May of 2019, where approximately 300 individual property owners were notified in regards to split zones. This process was a clean-up of the map and to make it more professional. The meeting started out contentious; however, after answering the concerns of residents, the end result was positive. The zoning ordinance came before Council, and a recommendation was made to refer to the Community Development Committee; which brings us to this meeting.
Mr. Nat Karns, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, stated that on the map itself there have been some minor adjustments accommodating comments that were made at the public meeting this past May. The changes were mainly residents with split lots with RU-1 zones. The amendments made sense, therefore, were made to accommodate these individuals. There were also direct discussions with the property owners’ concerns for Norad, Greylock and Beaver Mills.
Mr. William Meranti, zoning officer, spoke about the areas of Hawthorne, Versailles, and Chantilly Avenues, which encompassed several lots which made it a commercial zone; therefore the lines were moved appropriately. Councilor Buddington requested more information on the Versailles Avenue plot, and Mr. Meranti indicated where the lots were changed. There was discussion in regards to non-conforming lots. Councilor Buddington stated his feeling that zoning should be what the City wants to look like in fifty years. He stated that it would be helpful to separate how the zoning is now, from what the new plan is, as pre-existing uses are not changing; only what the next use is. Councilor Buddington inquired as to what the next zoning
changes would be. Mr. Meranti stated that the City is already built out; the next round may be digging further into the zoning process rather than the map itself.
Mr. Karns stated the residential zone is extremely important. The neighborhoods need to have the uses that a residential area has, and the non-conforming uses should be looked at in the future and what the potential uses are.
Councilor Cohen stated that there was a study done early on, where there were two very different scenarios. The study participants actually chose the other plan; she inquired as to why they chose a different scenario, and why we chose this plan? Mr. Nuvallie replied that the Master Plan was a three year process in 2012, and the zoning topic started in 2017 or so. The predominant changes that he has seen, is mainly housing; he stated it is a great adaptive reuse of structures in the industrial area.
Mr. Karns stated that the uses in Industrial include multi-family housing, and did not prior. Mr. Meranti stated that housing was not allowed, and it now includes the reuse of housing and commerce. Mr. Karns stated that previously, there were three types of Industrial; heavy, light, and park properties; this just doesn’t’ exist here any longer.
Councilor Lamb stated that when the 2030 was done, it was prior to the Federal Government’s Opportunity Zones. Councilor Cohen stated that quite possibly you could develop property. Mr. Karns stated it would be extremely difficult to regulate building on sloped property. Councilor Buddington inquired what prohibits building on slopes. Mr. Karns stated that the City could consider zoning stipulations on certain elevations, stating lack of access and water. Councilor Buddington stated he wanted to be ready for this as a City. Mr. Karns spoke about the Berkshire Scenic Mountains Act, and how that could be adopted, as well as developing a steep slope zoning regulation. Mr. Meranti spoke about solar array, not being allowed in this zone.
There was discussion regarding what other surrounding communities have adopted the Berkshire Scenic Mountains Act, Mr. Karns estimated approximately fifty percent of communities have done so.
Councilor Lamb inquired as to when the information would be available to the public, online. Mr. Nuvallie stated he is currently working with the IT department.
Councilor Harpin inquired as to whether these zoning changes would affect property taxes. Mr. Meranti stated there would not be any increase with the changes. Mr. Karns stated that if there
are changes in the property’s use in the future, then there possibly could be tax increases in accordance with the use.
Councilor Cohen inquired if the affordable housing would only include trailer parks. Mr. Nuvallie stated that when the affordable housing district zone was adopted, it was specifically for the trailer parks. This was a way to subsidize unit ratio, as every municipality is required to have 10% affordable; currently the City is at 13%.
Councilor Lamb asked what kind of response there was since the meeting in May. Mr. Nuvallie stated that there has been sporadic interest after the meeting. Mr. Meranti commented that the vast majority of people that came to the meeting, had no idea of what zoning area they were in, and once given the information, were at ease.
Councilor Cohen wanted to know how the map would be kept up as Urban Renewal is possibly going away in the next few years. Mr. Nuvallie stated it would be updated as changes arise.
Councilor LaForest asked if short term rentals factor into zoning. Mr. Karns stated not at this time. Councilor LaForest asked about the areas regarding East Main Street , Pleasant Street and Quincy Street, there was discussion as to a mixture of uses and that Colegrove School was allowed in any zone, as an exempt educational use.
Councilor LaForest inquired if the zoning was changed in the glamping area. Mr. Meranti stated it was an allowed use previous to the new map, and will stay an allowed use by special permit.
Councilor LaForest spoke in regards to properties along the river, and stated FEMA is presumably going to extend the flood plain. He inquired if there is any consideration for rebuilding along the river if it broadens the flood zone. Mr. Nuvallie stated that this work precluded the flood district and will become part of a building permit process and would dictate whether or not you could build in that area. Councilor Buddington was concerned with not rebuilding in these areas, Councilor Lamb stated it would be on a case by case basis.
Councilor Harpin inquired as to if the RU-1 zone was still in existence. Mr. Nuvallie stated it was no longer a zone. The RU-2 is still in existence, but is slated to expire in 2021 unless it is extended.
Councilor Buddington asked where the zoning categories came from. Mr. Meranti stated there were antiquated items that were removed or combined. Councilor Buddington stated he would like to do away with many of the categories. Councilor Wilkinson inquired as to adult entertainment, Mr. Karns stated it was only allowed in one of the industrial zones by special permit. Spot zoning was talked about, and decided it could be challenged.
Councilor Cohen stated her concerns in regards to special permits in an industrial zone, with regards to beer, wine and spirits, specifically, Bright Ideas and the old Eagles building. In this plan, it would not meet the zone requirement. Mr. Karns stated that it can be amended, and would be up to Council. There was discussion about spirits versus wine and beer. Councilor Cohen wanted to know if someone were to pursue this space the way it is written, could they appeal? Mr. Meranti stated that they could look to have a zoning change, which is what Greylock Works just recently did, the process is always available. Mr. Karns stated it would be a discussion to add more areas of the city that would be suitable for microbrews.
Councilor Lamb stated that he agrees with looking ahead to see what the City’s vision is, however, at the same time, that is making assumptions as to what business we want to see. At this point, we do not know what the future holds. Mr. Karns stated that anything that is done by special permit, it is rare not to find a legal defensible reason to deny a special permit. Councilor Lamb stated that anything with adult consumption material will most likely go through the special permit process and have secondary limitations. Councilor Buddington questioned how well defined the craft spirits category is. Mr. Meranti responded that at this point how specific do you make it, when it comes up, it has to be looked at and best effort is made to fit into a category.
Councilor Buddington stated he is cautious about producing more alcohol production, and stated that it causes social problems in concentration. Councilor Lamb stated that it is not promoting it; rather deciding which zones are appropriate. Councilor Buddington stated that when he thinks of “the least pleasant parts of any town, including North Adams, it’s usually the concentration of where people are drinking”. Councilor Cohen respectfully disagreed, and stated she has been to many municipalities where craft beer is an art, and looks at it as a way to bring commerce to the City; responsible consumption of alcohol is not negative. Councilor Lamb stated that those are draws for a demographic that we are looking to attract. Mr. Karns stated that craft-spirit places are distilling, bottling, shipping, and this is how the zoning was incorporated.
Councilor Lamb asked for any other questions or concerns.
Councilor Wilkinson stated that in the beginning process, he had some concerns, after hearing the details; all of his questions had been answered.
Hearing no other concerns, Councilor Lamb called for an adjournment. On Motion of Councilor Cohen, duly seconded by Councilor Buddington, the meeting was adjourned at 7:08 pm.
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