Saturday September 29, 2012

Open space may be desirable for Pittsfield’s southern gateway, but only if it is an improvement upon what is in the space to begin with. In the case of the Berkshire Flower Company, which has been on its one acre South Street site since 1987, Pittsfield is better off with the business there than it is without it there.

The company is just three months away from the Conservation Commission’s deadline to vacate the land owned by Patriot Suites. The deadline has been extended twice, but it is difficult to run a business with this continued uncertainty. Owner Bridget Brown appeared at last Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to advocate an end to the uncertainty with a long-term extension for the store.

The shop has been under a conservation restriction since 1997 calling for it to be demolished and replaced with native plantings. Ms. Brown is caught in this dilemma in part because the Conservation Commission wants to know what Patriot Suites intends to do with the property and Patriot Suites, which closed its hotel on the larger property Berkshire Flower is a part of in 2010, doesn’t have any intentions at this juncture. It is clear at least that Patriot Suites has no difficulty with the flower shop continuing on the site.

Pittsfield should not either. The rustic appearance of the flower shop is seen as an eyesore to some, so perhaps Mr. Brown can agree to spruce up the grounds a little in response to these objections in exchange for another one-year extension. The 10-to-15-year extension she seeks would be ideal, but it may be impossible for the City Council, however sympathetic its members are, to make this kind of commitment given that the future of the larger site as a whole is uncertain.

Ideally, Patriot Suites, which is represented locally by Stan Parese of Parese, Sabin, Smith & Gold, will send a representative to the Conservation Commission and City Council at the first opportunity and advocate another extension for Ms. Brown. Berkshire Flower will still be stuck in limbo, but if Patriots Suites decides at some point that the future of its parcel will include room for the company than the city should grant a long-term extension.