To remove impediments for businesses, Adams to review its zoning

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ADAMS — Town officials are looking to get creative to allow more commercial investment that will expand the tax base and reduce the tax rate.

The town's zoning — the regulations that establish where residences, commerce and industry can set up in town — previously was reviewed in the 1970s, said Donna Cesan, director of community development for Adams. After five decades, much of the zoning is outdated and, in some places, not observed at all.

The town is proposing to go through its commercial, residential and industrial zones along the Route 8 corridor and, later, zoning to allow for more commercial development, to correct zoning for some properties that have different uses, and to unify some areas that are split between two zones.

"The overarching goal here is to make Adams more conducive to doing business and even the playing field," said Jay Green, Adams town administrator. He referred to the current zoning plan as "archaic."

For example, the industrial zone along Howland Avenue is so big that it exceeds the town's limits for water and sewer service in the area, meaning it is unusable for industrial needs, at the same time preventing any new residential or commercial investment.

Then, there are the residentially zoned parcels that have become commercial uses over the years, and there are residential uses that wound up in commercial zones. Even some properties are split between two zones. All of these contradictory zoning issues make it more complicated and difficult to attract commercial investment or redevelopment in any of these properties.

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"We want to streamline the process," Cesan said. "We're at this point to where [the zoning] really is an impediment to investing in Adams."

Figures provided by the town show that only 1.4 percent of land in Adams is zoned for commercial uses. Meanwhile, 9.2 percent is zoned industrial, the second highest in Berkshire County, behind only Pittsfield. But, only a small percentage of the industrial zones are usable for industrial purposes because the infrastructure doesn't extend nearly as far as the industrial zone, especially to the east and west of Howland Avenue.

With that in mind, town leaders are recommending that the town focus on redevelopment of underused or blighted properties, and continue to assess and clean up brownfield parcels in preparation for redevelopment. There also would be a focus on fire, health and building safety monitoring, and enforcement programs on vacant and blighted commercial and industrial properties.

Town officials also would go through properties that are split between two zones, and those that are nonconforming uses, to unify the zoning on split parcels and rezone nonconforming uses to the correct zoning.

Officials also would, on a case-by-case basis, go through noncommercially zoned properties and consider rezoning them if they already are in a primarily commercially zoned area, and/or if they are in the downtown area or along highways or commercial streets that would be attractive to commercial development.

Green said there will be a public information session scheduled to go through the proposal with town residents. After that, the proposal will go to the Planning Board for its recommendation, and then to the Select Board for inclusion on the town meeting warrant.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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