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Developer clears town hurdles, will soon offer nine apartments in Adams at former youth center

A building on East Street in Adams

The Adams Planning Board held a public hearing on a site plan approval to convert 20 East St., the former Adams Community Center, into apartments.

ADAMS — Vacant since 2019, the former Adams Community Center building may soon welcome people again, this time in the role of tenants.

Robert Hinton and Hinton’s Berkshire Homes LLC has proposed turning the onetime community gathering place into nine market-rate apartments. The Adams Planning Board on Monday approved the site plan for the property at 20 East St. after a sometimes-contentious public hearing. Hinton’s Berkshire Homes last December bought the property from the town of Adams for $25,000.

Several neighbors raised concerns about heavy traffic on the building’s driveway with a maximum of 18 cars allowed on the property. Some said whoever buys the property must maintain it, particularly the chain-link fence that, at the property’s north border, has historically kept kids from running through neighbors’ yards. And some said they were worried about privacy, with planned balconies for the second floor.

Many of the concerns were resolved in the Planning Board’s conditions for approval, including:

•Repairing the existing chain-link fence;

•Installing downward-facing outdoor light fixtures to minimize light spillover;

•Planting fast-growing, tall vegetation to create a wall and ensure privacy for neighbors concerned about balconies.

Although Hinton eventually agreed to the conditions, the mood turned tense midway through the meeting when he seemed exasperated by the complaints. “We wanted to do the project a year ago,” he said, “now I could kind of care less.”

Displaying a 1908 deed, John Cowie, a resident of 18 East St., questioned whether the building’s right of way for vehicle access, which goes through his property, is the correct width. Town Administrator Jay Green responded during the meeting that the town attorney confirmed that a later deed superseded the 1908 one.

Adams town meeting delegates have approved the sale of former Youth Center to a developer for housing

The town’s Community Development Director, Eammon Coughlin, said that the arguments raised at the hearing are far less significant than the value to the community of getting the project done.

“The impacts on that driveway from 18 vehicles are minimal compared to the historic reuse of the property,” Coughlin said.

Green had a similar take in an interview after the meeting.

“The building is old, it’s vacant, it’s an albatross on the town,” he said. “We have applicants who are fully capable of renovating that building, preserving it, and they [Hinton’s Berkshire Homes] want to turn it into nine market-rate apartment units. We don’t need to tell you from the town side how in desperate need Adams is of market-rate housing.”

Coughlin said at the beginning of the meeting that the town bought the building in the late 1970s or early ‘80s for use as a community center. Multiple attempts at a request-for-proposals process since 2016 yielded just one: Hinton’s Berkshire Homes.

“The town liked the redevelopment, the conversion of the community center into apartments. We didn’t expect that from applicants,” Coughlin said. “We thought anyone interested would probably tear that building down.”

Coughlin and Hinton repeatedly argued that the nine apartments will create less noise and congestion than the community center, which had been a busy place generating a lot of traffic in the neighborhood.

Cannabis cultivation

A building with garage doors

The Adams Planning Board held a public hearing on site plan approval for a special permit and site plan approval to operate a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility at 6 Renfrew St.

The Planning Board also had a hearing on site plan and special permit applications by Motah420 to put in a cannabis manufacturing and cultivation facility at 6 Renfrew St.

Questions about how the company would control odor abounded, as neighbors and board members commented on the possibility of a “skunk smell.” The company brought representatives from Byers Scientific to explain their filtration system.

Two Pioneer Valley residents want to open a cannabis retail, cultivation and manufacturing business in Adams

The board discussed putting in place a complaint process: If five separate people complain about the smell, the town would investigate. The applicants said there needs to be a way for the town to verify the complaints are legitimate and not from people who simply oppose cannabis.

The board decided to continue the hearing to next month to digest the information.

Attorney Dennis Egan, representing an abutter, SNP Holdings, raised objections on Monday. It’s not the first time SNP Holdings has opposed a cannabis cultivation center as a neighbor. Odor has become an issue elsewhere in the Berkshires.

Sten Spinella can be reached at sspinella@berkshireeagle.com or 860-853-0085.

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