Sheffield to push for one-year chain store moratorium


SHEFFIELD -- The Planning Board will propose a one-year moratorium preventing any chain store from opening in town.

Planning Board members said a moratorium is needed to allow the board additional time to draft a bylaw that would regulate any business with 10 or more establishments that shares a trade name, logo, signage or other specified characteristics.

"The character of Sheffield doesn't lend itself [to formula businesses]," said Planning Board Chairman David Smith. "It's not a big [town] like Great Barrington and Canaan. We are small and we want to maintain the character of the town."

The Planning Board voted 4-0 last week to support a moratorium, which will be voted on at May's annual town meeting. Members only adopted a moratorium after they were urged to by fewer than a half-dozen members of the public.

The proposal could meet some controversy following the recent public dissension over a proposed Dollar General store. The town and Charlotte, N.C.-based Primax Properties has submitted an appeal in state Land Court over Sheffield's decision to block a Dollar General store on 660-680 N. Main St, which has generated divided opinion in town.

"The problem is this town has just gone through an upsetting controversy," said board member Peter Chernoff. "There are other opinions."

The moratorium would not impact the Dollar General.

The Planning Board has also been discussing a separate bylaw -- which could be voted at a future town meeting -- that would restrict where and what a chain store could look like.

The proposal would require formula businesses to receive a special permit from the Planning Board. They would be allowed in the General Business District, but prohibited in other areas including the Village Center District and Commercial District.

The building must be similar to surrounding businesses. It could not have a "substantial or detrimental impact on public safety, health or welfare, including but not limited to emissions of noise, light, dust, gases, vapors, or odors from the site, impact of vehicular traffic, hours of operation, litter, and obstruction of scenic views."

The Special Permit Granting Authority, which is the Planning Board, could request studies from professionals and experts.

Planning Board members spoke openly about their dislike of chain stores. They mentioned the stores lack community and the stores are less likely to contribute back to the towns.

Planning Board alternate Christopher Tomich was the most outspoken against chain stores. He, and others, spoke supportively about a ban of chain stores, saying there isn't much room for businesses to establish in town.

A draft of the bylaw would prevent a formula business from being visible on Route 7, Route 41, Maple Avenue or County Road -- but Smith said that stipulation has been removed because of public concern.

Smith said he'd like to limit the size to 5,000 square feet.

"I think 5,000 square feet is reasonable because most of the buildings are 5,000 square feet or less," Smith said. "I don't care whether [Dollar General] comes or not because I don't have to go into the store, but we did not cover ourselves well, and we should have covered ourselves well."


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