PITTSFIELD -- The City Council has given initial approval to changes in the Downtown Arts Overlay District ordinance that will allow additional types of businesses to locate there.
City Planner C.J. Hoss and Sheila Irvin, chairwoman of the Community Development Board, which drafted the changes, said the goal is to create a more vibrant mix of small businesses in the downtown.
Those would include brewpubs, bars, nightclubs or cocktail lounges, and "manufacturing and distribution of foods and beverages, including baking, cheesemaking, brewing, distilling and winemaking," according to the new wording.
Hoss told councilors the city has had requests over the years for bakeries, breweries or brewpubs. The changes also would require a special permit and site plan approval for projects covering 5,000 square feet or more of a parcel and new buildings of 5,000 square feet or more, or reconstruction or expansion projects greater than 5,000 square feet.
The permitting process is designed to help protect the historical and pedestrian- and arts-oriented character of the district, Irvin said.
There are exemptions for smaller projects including improvements to interior or exterior mechanical systems like electrical, plumbing, fire control systems; roof repair or replacement, window repair or replacement, and repointing and masonry repair work.
The downtown overlay district was created in 2006 "to enhance vitality in downtown by fostering a mix of uses through increasing downtown housing opportunities and fostering arts-related development and activities."
The district now borders on 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.
Councilors voted 11-0 in favor of the changes, which will require a second vote at the next meeting.
The council on Tuesday also referred to its Finance Committee for review a request from Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi for use of $650,475 in insurance settlement funding toward engineering, design and construction costs to raze and then replace the fire-damaged highway department garage on West Housatonic Street.
The building was damaged in a January blaze and the department has used leased quarters since in a building off Wahconah Street. The insurance settlement also included funding toward the lease payments.