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Rezoning Eyed for Berkshire Mall Property
By Joe Durwin, iBerkshires Staff
01:22AM / Wednesday, March 24, 2021
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The Selectmen agree to keep Town Hall closed for the time being.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town's Planning Board is looking to rezone the area of the former Berkshire Mall facility to accommodate all possible uses outlined in a building reuse study.

"We've kept the structure of the current zoning bylaw in place, and we've simply modified it in its use table, in its dimensions, and in some of its development standards," Town Planner Andrew Groff told the Selectmen on Monday.

A large scale, federally-funded study by Berkshire Regional Planning Commission completed in 2019 outlined five uses deemed most promising for the vacant complex: a destination sports facility; a family entertainment resort destination; a training and technology facility; senior care and transitional living, or a green agricultural facility.

"What we've done is taken their recommendations, and applied it to the structure of a major retail district, and allowed those uses to be permitted by the Planning Board," Groff explained.

"We're trying to get ahead of the economy and allow the property to be reused in a new fashion, whatever that form may be, and these five concepts we think represent the most probable methodologies of its reuse."

The Selectmen's role Monday was "largely ceremonial" in forwarding the proposal back to the Planning Board, which has 65 days to call a public hearing. which is already scheduled for April 20. The Planning Board can then send it on to the annual town meeting, with their recommendation on whether or not to adopt it. The changes must be supported by residents at town meeting by a two-thirds majority vote in order to be ratified.

In other town business:

Town Hall will remain closed for the immediate foreseeable future. In an update, Town Clerk Diane Stevens referenced iBerkshires reports of the planned reopening in Dalton, but said most towns she had contacted in central Berkshire County aren't open, and "none of them have any immediate plans to open." 

Stevens said thus far, staff have been able to accommodate anyone who cannot conduct business online by going outside to them.

"I know of no one that's really complained about it," Stevens told the Selectmen.

"I certainly love the idea of reopening as soon as possible, but I'm not willing to compromise safety of the staff," said Selectman Michael Murphy

• Building Inspector Rick Reid and Health Agent Ed Fahey will continue trying to work with the owner of a collapsing abandoned structure on North Main Street to get it removed. Fahey told the board that there are options available if the town needs to take control of it and demolish it, but they would need to go to town meeting to ask for an appropriation to do so.

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