|Pittsfield Council Leaves Springside Pump Track Proposal to Parks Commission|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
12:30AM / Monday, September 20, 2021
|The City Council last week declined to interfere with the Parks Commission purview the proposed bike skills park.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday grappled with the idea of taking on the Springside Park pump track proposal but ultimately, the majority decided that it is under the jurisdiction of the Parks Commission.
A petition from Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio requesting to hold a public forum on the potential project was not passed.
A motion to have a Committee of the Whole meeting so that opposers and supporters can address the council failed 6-4 followed by a motion to approve a public hearing at the next City Council meeting, which failed 7-3.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell, and Maffuccio were the only ones to support the petition in its final vote.
Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey was absent at this meeting and not included in the votes.
Maffuccio said he brought this petition forward to investigate the legal matters of the proposal because of unanswered questions.
The project plans to have a private entity, the Berkshire Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, contract with the city for maintenance of the bike skills park under a memorandum of understanding.
Thus far, the Parks Commission has approved a concept and location for the facility.
"We as a City Council have an obligation if there's a contract involved or not a contract that we need to approve that," Maffuccio said.
Morandi brought up the volume of feedback that has been generated from the public and the need to hear from them.
"We have an obligation to listen to the public, obviously they're not getting listened to if they're coming to ask us as councilors to approve a public forum," he said. "A conversation needs to happen and the public needs to be involved."
A group of people including Elizabeth Kulas, Daniel Miraglia, and Mark Miller have contacted the council and Parks Commission and spoken at various open microphone segments with environmental concerns related to the pump track proposal.
"I would like to remind the City Council just two years ago, the pickleball court was in front of the council and was rejected, the project was going to impact one-third of an acre abutting the Doyle Softball Complex," Miraglia said to the council referencing a 2019 pickleball court proposal that was rejected by the council.
"The Springside Conservancy gathered 554 signatures in opposition to the proposed pickleball project and is voted down by the City Council. Now here we're here we are again with another proposal at Springside Park for a bike complex that would negatively impact 2.3 acres, somewhere within a seven-acre grade.
Those in opposition say the track will have a detrimental effect on Springside Park because it is a wetland area and will harm the rare species within it. They also believe that a pump track and bike skills area is not an intended use for the park and will lead to mountain biking taking over the landscape.
The Parks Commission has held two walkthroughs of the proposed project site and held a public hearing in July, which the group also spoke at.
Councilor at Large Peter White said the council doesn't have the jurisdiction to take on something that is currently being worked on by the Parks Commission.
Items cannot be brought to the council because people are unhappy with another panel's ruling, he said.
"What concerns me is, this is a matter before a board that has jurisdiction over the issue, we don't have jurisdiction over the issue," he said. "We have different committees in the city they make different decisions, and they're backed up by law."
White added that he believes in everyone's voices being heard and that listening to constituents' concerns is never a waste of time, but the council just doesn't have the jurisdiction to handle them.
Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon supports ongoing discussion about the proposal but cautioned that some try to subvert the process to get their way after being dissatisfied with a ruling.
City Solicitor Anthony Pagnotta confirmed that the project does not have a request for proposal taken out and that it is still being analyzed by the Parks Commission.
"As far as I'm aware, nothing's been finalized yet in terms of approvals in a specific sport, other than a general location," he said. "My understanding of the conversations with (Parks, Open Space, and Natural Resource Manager James McGrath) is the contract issues are still pending. Nothing has been set in stone yet."