PITTSFIELD -- City officials are a step closer to allowing more arts-related and specialty businesses in the city center.
By a 4-1 vote, with David P. Hathaway opposed, the Community Development Board has endorsed revised guidelines for the Downtown Arts Overlay District and forwarded the proposal to the City Council for final approval.
PHOTO GALLERY | Arts Overlay project continues with Pittsfield Common
Created seven years ago, the overlay district currently encourages a mixed use of housing, theaters and restaurants.
The revision adds a number of permitted arts-related uses that include the making of cheese, wine, beer and baked goods, according to City Planner C.J. Hoss.
"This is more for businesses that don't have a retail outlet," Hoss said during the board's public hearing Tuesday.
Paul Masiero, who with his wife, Eileen, co-owns Baba Louie's restaurant on Depot Street, says the revised arts overlay district would allow him to open a wholesale gluten-free bakery in Crawford Square on North Street.
"I hope to employ five to 10 more people and offer people allergy-free food," Masiero said.
The proposal also calls for expanding the district to properties on the east side of First Street, including the First Street Common area and other properties along First Street between the railroad track crossing and East Street.
The district now ends at the west side of First Street and generally includes the blocks surrounding North and South streets between Tyler Street to the north and Taconic Street to the south. It also bulges out to the west along West and South Church streets.
The district, which currently prohibits establishments with a drive-thru operation and other commercial uses, would be amended to include the site of the former Plunkett School at the corner of Fenn and First streets.
The City Council this summer rejected a special permit application for a new Dunkin' Donuts shop and drive-thru at the site. That decision is being appealed by the developer, Cafua Management Co. of North Andover, through Massachusetts Land Court.
Hoss has said language and other changes to the overlay district have been contemplated for some time and aren't a reaction to a specific project.
If approved, the revised district would require a special permit and site plan approval for projects covering 5,000 square feet or more of a parcel; new building construction, reconstruction or expansion projects greater than 5,000 square feet.
Some improvements would be exempted from the rule, such as installation of new electrical, plumbing and other interior/exterior mechanical systems, along with the repair or replacement of roofs and windows.
Community Development Board associate David P. Hathaway opposed the overall proposal, citing the special permit process as an "added cost and time constraint" for nonprofits planning projects that exceed the 5,000-square-foot threshold.
Hoss believes the new requirement for large projects fits the intention of the existing district.
"The purpose of the overlay is to provide some protection for the city as we want the developer to partner with the city," he said.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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