Great Barrington committee lukewarm to 100 Bridge St. plans


GREAT BARRINGTON >> Emphasizing that they are in favor of both affordable housing and the remediation of the 100 Bridge St. property, the town's Design Advisory Committee has issued a lukewarm assessment of the project so far.

Rather than send a letter, the committee on Wednesday voted to send the ZBA its minutes from Wednesday's meeting. The ZBA will take up the application at its meeting on Tuesday.

The committee was unhappy with the positioning and overall look of the affordable units and believed the developer should try to remediate the entire site. The plan right now is to remove the contaminated soil from the 2.2-acre parcel and cap the remaining area.

Chairman Gaetan LaChance said although the committee has no official role in the development, "I thought we should reach out to the ZBA as design professionals."

The 8-acre site has hosted a variety of industries since the 1880s. Most recently, it was the home of New England Log Homes, a business that constructed prefabricated log homes for sale.

In 1991, the company abandoned the site after about 40 years. A Department of Environmental Protection study revealed the presence of a number of dangerous chemicals in the soils, including dioxins.

The South Berkshire Community Development Corp., which purchased the site in 2007, hopes to build a mixed-use development there. However, the developer is currently only asking for town approval for a 2.2-acre parcel that will feature 45 units of affordable housing.

The developer is seeking approval through a state Chapter 40B program, which was created to encourage construction of affordable housing. Under the statute, applicants who have the requisite number of affordable units need only apply to the town's Zoning Board of Appeals for expedited approval.

But while 40B facilitates that creation of affordable units, CDC Executive director Timothy Geller has explained that for-profit commercial entities balk at the level of governmental scrutiny required.

Thus, the developer has segmented the parcel into the 2.2-acre affordable housing component and the 5.8-acre component, which will also include businesses and market-rate housing. To date, there are no concrete plans for the commercial side of the development.

On Wednesday, most members of the Design Advisory Committee expressed concern with the design and location of the affordable units. The 2.2-acre parcel sits across the street from the town's wastewater treatment plant. Several members suggested the units could be relocated to other portions of the site.

But member Jonathan Hankin, who is also a member of the town's Planning Board, reminded his fellow board members that the site is presently the only part of the site under consideration. Moving units around the 8 acre site, he said, was logistically prohibitive in the context of the present application.

"You should know that the ZBA is limited in what they can do here," said Selectman Edward Abrahams, who was in attendance on Wednesday. He pointed out that "it would be hard to integrate affordable units [into other parts of the site], because we don't know yet what's going in there."

But, said Hankin, "We will have more control over the rest of the site via the special permit process."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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