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Pittsfield City Council OKs Lee Bank's 2nd Location on South Street
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
02:43AM / Friday, October 15, 2021
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Lee Bank is proposing a new bank branch on South Street that includes residences on the second floor. The City Council approved a special permit and traffic modifications for the project on Tuesday.


Lee Bank CEO Chuck Leach tells the council he is happy that the bank was able to compromise with the neighbors and community.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday gave Lee Bank the OK to move forward with its construction of a mixed-use building at the corner of South Street and Reed Street.

The panel passed a special permit application for the construction of a drive-through window service at 180-184 South St. with one condition requiring a raised right-turn median instead of a painted one at the intersection of the streets.

To accommodate the drive-through, the first 290 feet of Reed Street from South Street will be converted to two-way traffic.

The two-story, 5,400 square foot building will consist of a first-floor bank with two drive-thru windows and second-floor residential units.

In August, the Community Development Board passed two special permits and a site plan for the new build, one to waive loading zone requirements and a 25-foot setback exception was approved with the condition that the applicants submit a more detailed landscaping plan and have the bank's sign mounted on the building rather than on the lawn.

In the recently established Downtown Creative District, there is a maximum setback of 15 feet for all structures.

Later that month, the council continued Lee Bank's hearing to allow time for the stakeholders to meet and hash out some solutions after concerns were brought up with the project's plan to convert Reed Street from one-way traffic to two-way.

President & CEO of Lee Bank Charles "Chuck" Leach reported that the bank was able to work with abutters by "making a payment towards a solution that I think will appease all parties."

He did not provide any further information on the agreement.

"We've worked really hard to come to a solution," he said. "We're happy to say, we took everyone's suggestions to heart, collaborated with our neighbors, our abutters."

Reed Street business owner Dick Laureyns had previously said he feared the two-way traffic would only encourage cars to use the street as a shortcut.

John Bresnahan of Devanny-Condron Funeral Home previously expressed major concerns in regard to maneuvering his limousines and hearses with the new traffic pattern.

"This is a perfect example of when people get together and work together, good things happen," Councilor at Large Earl Persip III said.
 
Laureyns and Bresnahan both attended Tuesday's meeting to endorse the project and said they had worked with Leach to reach a compromise.

Many councilors expressed that they were glad to see this construction happening.

In other news, the council voted to establish the new Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion.

In early June, the City Council approved a $179 million budget for fiscal 2022 that included a six-month, $99,760 budget for the new office.

The panel approved two positions within the department: a director of diversity, equity, and inclusion and an administrative coordinator.

The director is in a Grade M-7 pay category and the administrative coordinator Grade 10.

The council also approved the reclassification of the director of building maintenance's position because the work has increased and become more complicated and a business manager position in the Public Services Department who will be paid a salary of $40,000.

The business manager position was debated during budget season and Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales said it has been further developed in terms of responsibilities and duties while still maintaining the original intent.

The Ordinances and Rules subcommittee approved these items last week.

Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi voted against the positions. The councilors also voted against the creation of a DEI office during budget season and also voted against the fiscal 2022 budget as a whole.

Connell said he does not agree with the DEI office's administrative coordinator and with the business manager.

Morandi said the new positions will come out of the taxpayers' pockets and Ward 7 Councilor Maffuccio reminded him that these positions are all included in the approved FY22 budget and were previously debated.

Ward 9 Councilor Helen Moon wished that the DEI director could be paid more and said the councilor's objection to the creation of the office of offensive.

"I think is so disrespectful for certain councilors to express that this position and this department is not necessary," she said. "We have a growing population of people of color, actually that's the only growing population in the city of Pittsfield and more specifically are immigrants."

She added that people's lives are dependent on the way that the city operates and that it is incredibly important to implement equitable policies and procedures to serve those populations.

Councilor at Large Yuki Cohen seconded her sentiments.

"We are growing, immigration is growing, our poverty rates amongst our brothers and sisters of color is increasing," she added. "So we absolutely need this office, I think it is one of the most important positions in order to create an equitable, inclusive Pittsfield."  

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