North Adams City Council kicks off deep dive into zoning ordinances

NORTH ADAMS — The City Council was not five minutes removed from a laborious and confusing discussion about updating a zoning ordinance to allow a distillery at the Greylock Mill when it approved, with no debate, a $5,000 request to work with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to update the city's zoning ordinances.

"We just had a perfect example of why updating and clarifying our zoning process is beneficial for the city," Mayor Thomas Bernard said.

The city is working with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission in an effort to begin to analyze a menu of items related to zoning, ranging from parking regulations to allowed uses.

The City Council unanimously approved $5,000 from free cash May 8 to match a $10,000 District Local Technical Assistance grant from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission for a comprehensive look at the city's zoning.

Simultaneously, the city and planning commission have applied to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for an additional $50,000 grant that would further the work taken on under the District Local Technical Assistance grant.

The work will include updating and modernizing city zoning maps, reviewing the uses allowed in each district and potentially combining some districts, where appropriate.

Councilor Eric Buddington welcomed the efforts, particularly the attempt to map zones under a geographic information system (GIS) format.

"I've found in the past it's really hard to look at the zoning ordinances and answer the question: what applies in this particular lot?" he said. "Having this as GIS will open up a lot of possibilities to make access a lot easier to our zoning."

The city will also look to clarify some of its parking ordinances.

The full scope of the project will largely depend on whether the city wins the $50,000 state grant.

"That's going to give us different levels of opportunity," Bernard said.

Bernard declined to speculate on the odds that the city would win the $50,000 grant.

"The potential at this moment is to get $60,000 of zoning grant support for a $5,000 city investment, and I would offer that is a reasonable return," Bernard said.

Chris Gruba, a senior planner at the planning commission, will lead the effort.

Adam Shanks can be reached at, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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