Lenox classic car show dodges raindrops to benefit veterans (copy)

Joyce and Terry Bird, of Pittsfield, look, in 2015, into the window of a Ford coupe at a Pittsfield Piston Poppers Car Club show in Lenox. The club has been approved for a show in Dalton Sept. 25.

DALTON — Normally, an agenda item like this would be dispatched in a minute. On Monday, the Dalton Select Board and the town’s manager lingered to explain why a car show isn’t another trip down “Purgatory Road.”

Two weeks ago, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals denied a special permit to organizers of the long-running Halloween-themed benefit of that name, which raises money for the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention.

The ZBA voted unanimously Aug. 31 to reject a request to allow the event to move this year to the grounds of Berkshire Money Management, at 161 Main St., after hearing concerns about traffic, noise and headlights from neighbors, including Peter M. Koska and James Cervone. Cervone, in a letter, said he believed the event would harm the character of the neighborhood and reduce property values.

Koska said he was concerned the fundraiser would attract “strangers from different towns that may not have the proper mindset and [would be] coming in to cause trouble.” He want on to claim that “gangs and things in Pittsfield [are] getting closer and closer to Dalton.”

The zoning denial was assailed by coalition supporters, some of whom called for people to boycott Cervone’s two Pittsfield food businesses. Cervone said last week that his businesses had been affected, but when reached by The Eagle, he declined to speak about it. He plans to host a fundraiser for the coalition this fall.

On Monday, a letter critical of the ZBA decision was read aloud during the Dalton Select Board’s public comment period. Chairman Joe Diver said the message should be referred to the ZBA for a response.

Within the hour, the Select Board came to agenda item No. 7, which called for it to approve a one-day entertainment license to Sugar Hill for a vintage car show Sept. 25. The assisted living community, at 45 Main St., is one parcel to the west of Berkshire Money Management.

Town Manager Tom Hutcheson kicked off consideration by explaining why the car show was unlike the “other” event that came before a different board. Only Select Board approval was needed in this case, he explained; the three-day “Purgatory Road” event had sought permission from zoning officials.

Board member Daniel Esko had expressed support for the coalition’s fundraiser, in remarks to the ZBA, but saw it go down to defeat.

“The optics may not be so favorable,” Esko said of the car show request, “but I don’t see an issue with this.”

The car show, long involving the Pittsfield Piston Poppers Car Club, has taken place at Sugar Hill since 2015, according to The Eagle’s archives.

The event features vintage cars. This year, the car group Young at Hearts is helping Sugar Hill run the event, with the Pittsfield Piston Poppers Car Club helping to greet visitors and provide assistance with parking., according to Doreen Voller, Sugar Hill’s activity director.

Car owners pay a small entry fee. Spectators are admitted at no cost and the event features live music.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.