Pittsfield committee split over details of residency requirement


PITTSFIELD — A proposed residency requirement for city boards and commissions was tabled for the second time Monday by a divided Ordinance and Rules Committee, as councilors decided to seek more information on the effects of the requirement.

In April, David Pill proposed a residency requirement for all appointed city board positions, saying he believes the people making decisions on Pittsfield issues should be residents.

The City Council subcommittee met on the proposal in May and on again on Monday, tabling the issue each time to gather more information. The committee, which will meet next in July, is expected to issue a recommendation on a residency requirement to the full council.

The committee was split Monday in voting on several amendments to a blanket residency ordinance, before finally voting 3-2 to table the issue. Among questions councilors said they hope to have answered are exactly which boards or commissions would be affected and whether certain commissions not directly established by the city would be included.

Councilors John Krol and Peter White proposed something less than a complete ban on nonresidents, while Councilors Melissa Mazzeo, Donna Todd Rivers and Nicholas Caccamo were generally in favor of a blanket measure.

Krol argued for limiting the requirement to the nine permit-granting boards, including the Board of Health, Zoning Board of Appeals, Licensing Board (which already has such a requirement); along with the Conservation Commission, Community Development Board and Historical Commission.

Most of the approximately 30 boards or commissions are advisory in nature, Krol said, and they could lose expertise and professional qualifications if only residents could apply.

White proposed allowing people who work in the city or own property or businesses here to serve on boards, saying that gives them a stake in the community. "We should consider them too," he said.

"I still believe they all should be residents of Pittsfield," Rivers said.

City residents want decisions of board "made by their neighbors," she said.

Caccamo and Mazzeo said the rule should pertain to all boards, but they raised questions about those boards that require a specific profession, such as doctor (the Board of Health) or an attorney or that a specific city employee — such as an inspector — serve on that board.

City Solicitor Richard Dohoney said that if an employee's position is listed as a member of a committee, he or she could live elsewhere and still serve.

Mazzeo asked about the possibility of some board members serving in a nonvoting role. That probably would depend on the board, Dohoney said, and would not likely meet the requirements for a permit-granting board or commission.

Questions also were raised about the School Building Needs Commission and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority. Dohoney said those are set up primarily under state requirements and likely would not be affected, but he plans to further research that issue.

Krol's motion to include only members of the permit-granting boards was defeated on a 1-4 vote of the committee. He had argued that the city could start with those posts and add more if that seemed feasible in the future. "This would be a good half step," he said.

White's subsequent motion to allow nonresidents who work in the city to serve was defeated on a 2-3 vote, but his later motion to table the issue until July was approved 3-2.

A final vote on a blanket ordinance was postponed after Krol said more people now on boards than originally thought seem to have listed a business address in the city, meaning more could live elsewhere and would be disqualified.

Mazzeo also expressed a desire to nail down exactly how many current board members would be affected.

One board that apparently would be hard hit if no exemptions are added to a residency requirement would be the five-member Board of Health, which apparently would lose its physician, Dr. Cynthia Guyer and Dominica D'Avella, who are listed as residing in nearby towns.

It was noted by the officials that the board previously had a residency requirement, but that changed when it proved difficult to find a physician to serve.

Krol also said some board members are on city listings with apparent work addresses, such as two Ambulance Review Committee members listing Berkshire Medical Center and one the state Division of Social Services office in Pittsfield, which could mean they live outside Pittsfield.

Louis Costi, a Community Development Board member, is listed as living in Cheshire, he said, and two members of the Green Commission also apparently are listed under office addresses in Pittsfield.

White also moved to delay the start of any new ordinance until Jan. 1, which was pushed further back to July 1, 2017, on a motion from Caccamo. But the final recommendation vote was tabled soon afterward.

Dohoney has drafted a residency ordinance, which he said could be amended if needed to meet a final version if one is passed by the full council.

Pill said after the meeting that he believes there are about 400 people on the city's boards and commissions, and about 8 or 9 percent of those would be affected because they are nonresidents. He said he is confident there are more than enough qualified city residents who could step into those roles.

Krol said following the meeting he believes such an ordinance could seem unwelcoming to talented residents of other communities.

"I'm not as concerned about the individuals impacted as I am about the overall policy and how welcoming we are inviting individuals onto Team Pittsfield and to contribute to our collective success as a city," he said.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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