Great Barrington board considers multi-use zone

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GREAT BARRINGTON — The Planning Board's attention was firmly on State Road last week as debate over where it's appropriate to have residential buildings and businesses mix in town.

Town Planner Christopher Rembold said the focus on State Road — and a couple of lots down some adjoining side streets — is part of the board's ongoing effort to update Great Barrington's zoning map to fit the current look and future needs of the community.

Around 50 parcels would be part of the new multi-use zone proposed for part of State Road, from the start of the street to about the bridge. Now, the area is zoned for general business.

Currently, the town's zoning map — which dictates what type of structures can be built, for what purpose, and where — is challenging for developers, board members explained throughout the meeting. The map splits a number of lots in half — making one part of the parcel zoned residential and the other business, for example. It has also created many "nonconforming" properties — mostly standing structures that did not fit into the new zoning districts when they were first created, but were allowed to stay anyway. For the most part, developing a nonconforming property, or a lot that's split in two, bars a person from obtaining building permits from the building inspector and forces him to go through the more rigorous process of applying for a special permit from the town, said board member Jack Musgrove.

On State Road Planning Board members are working on creating a zone that will include a mix of residential units and businesses that maintains the character of the neighborhood.

Planning Board members anticipate voting on the final proposed zoning for this area of State Road at their next meeting Thursday, Feb. 8. Following an approval from the board, the zoning measure would go before residents at a public hearing tentatively scheduled for March 8. Then the change would go before voters at town meeting for final approval.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com and @kristinpalpini on Twitter.


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