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Planning Board Minutes, 02/10/2009
Town of Lenox
Planning Board
February 10, 2009
Land Use Meeting Room

Members present: Chair Joe Kellogg, JK; Kate McNulty-Vaughan, KM-V; Steve Sample, SS; Ken Fowler, KF
Absent with notification: Gary Schiff, GS;

Staff present:  Mary Albertson, Town Planner, MA; Peggy Ammendola, Land Use Clerk; PA

The meeting was called to order at 6:00 pm.

Minutes: SS made a motion to approve the minutes of January 27, 2009 and KF seconded the motion.  The Board voted to approve 4-0.

Flexible Development Bylaw: MA reviewed the latest revisions to the proposed amendment which incorporated comments that were made by Rob Hoogs, of Foresight Land Services.  MA will prepare the public hearing notice.

Special Town Meeting Schedule:  The Board agreed to the date of March 24, 2009 for the Special Town Meeting.  MA will advise the Board of Selectmen who will make the final decision on the date.

Housing Production Plan:  MA presented the plan which included revisions which reflects the changes requested by the Commonwealth following their review.  The BOS approved the plan last week.  KM-V made a motion to approve and adopt the revised Affordable Housing Production Plan dated January 2009. SS seconded the motion and the Board voted to approve 4-0.  MA will submit the Plan to the Commonwealth.

Community Preservation Committee:  JK told the Board that the CPC has started the process to review projects submitted by applicants for the upcoming year.  He briefly reviewed six projects that have been presented to the Committee.  The public hearing is scheduled for February 23, 2009 at 7:00 pm.

Public Hearing: At 7:00 pm, a public hearing was opened on proposed amendments to the Zoning Bylaw including changes to the existing Estate Preservation Area Bylaw and adoption of a new proposed Inclusionary Housing Bylaw.  

The Board moved into the auditorium to accommodate the approximately 25individuals in attendance.

JK told the audience that there are four proposed amendments to the Zoning Bylaw.  He will take one amendment at a time, allowing enough time to discuss each amendment before moving on to the next.  JK advised that there have been informational meetings up to this point, but encouraged all in attendance to ask questions or express their concerns.

Item 1:
Add new Section 6.10.13, Great Estate Inn.  Notwithstanding any contrary provisions of Section 6.10, an Estate Preservation Area may include by right a Great Estate Inn, which is defined as an inn use located in an existing Category #1 building, at its current height with the existing setbacks and nonconforming driveways, limited to twenty rooms for transient guests, and also to be used for indoor and outdoor events (“Great Estate Inn”).   The historic exterior features and the historic character of a Category #1 building in which a Great Estate Inn is located shall be preserved.  “Events” are defined as social and cultural gatherings.  Outdoor events shall be limited to one hundred seventy-five (175) persons, unless increased by special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Outdoor amplified music may be allowed subject to a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.  A restaurant open to non-guests of the Great Estate Inn may be allowed subject to a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.  All interior and exterior building plans for the conversion of the Category #1 building to a Great Estate Inn shall be submitted to the building inspector and the Planning Board.  Category #1, Category #2, and Category #3 buildings as defined in Section 6.10, Estate Preservation Area, existing on the date of this amendment shall also be exempt from the dimensional and setback provisions of Section 6.6 and Section 6.7.
Clarification was sought by both George Jordan and George Krupp as to which of the Great Estates would this amendment apply. JK stated that the proposed amendment applies to all of the Great Estates listed in the bylaw and are as follows:
Belvoir Terrace
Shakespeare and Company-Springlawn
Wayside (Lenox Club)

George Krupp, an abutter to one of the eight Great Estates, asked about the hours of operation of an Inn under this proposed amendment to the bylaw.  It was explained that there was no restriction to hours included in the amendment just as there are no restrictions to anyone having an event at their home.  Should there be an issue regarding disturbance of the peace, there are general Town Bylaws that deal with that.

Attorney Bill Martin, who represents Mr. Krupp, wanted to know if someone other than the Town proposed the amendment.   JK responded that there have been discussions over the year with some owners of the Great Estates who explained they have found the existing bylaw makes it difficult to develop an economically viable project without having tearing the structures down.  The Planning Board has an interest in protecting the Great Estates and agreed to consider changes to deal with these concerns.  KMV added that the Board has had discussions over time about the effectiveness of the Great Estates Bylaw as it exists.

Mr. Martin suggested that the intent of the Board was to turn the Great Estates into commercial enterprises by right.  JK disagreed and explained that zoning bylaws are not static, but change as times change.  He said that the Board tries to design something that will work and accomplish the objectives of the zoning by law, but if it is found that the bylaws do not work then it is the Board’s job and obligation to make changes in the bylaws that will in fact affect those changes.  JK emphasized that it is the intent of the Board to protect the Great Estates as they are a significant part of the history and architectural ambiance of Lenox.

Mr. Martin questioned who drafted the amendment.  JK responded that Attorney Phillip Heller had presented a draft, but that the Board modified it to its own purposes.  

Mr. Martin said that he is opposed to the amendment because he feels it is creating a by right and commercial use specific to one property and he finds that this is a substantial change in the bylaw.  

Comments were taken from the audience.  Suzanne Pelton stated that the Historical Commission supports the amendment as they feel that the existing bylaw does not lend itself to preserving the Great Estates.

Approximately 15 other members of the audience made comments, all of whom supported the amendment.     They cited that a small inn is a viable use that would generate revenue that not only allows for restoration and preservation, but also creates jobs and revenue for the Town and community. Maintaining these properties is a huge burden to owners and without a revenue stream the historic structures could fall into disrepair or be torn down.    

Item 2:
Add new Section 6.10.14, Modification by Special Permit.  Any provision of the Estate Preservation Area zoning bylaw may be modified by a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Mr. Martin took issue with this amendment stating that he felt it would allow elimination of the requirement that the exterior features be preserved. JK acknowledged that the Board will need to further review this amendment and make modifications.   There were no other comments.

Item 3:
Amend Section 9.3.2, Powers, subsection 3, by striking the words “for which no permit is required” from the second line of said subsection.
There were no comments or suggestions on this proposed amendment.

Item 4:  
Add new Section 7.8 Residential Inclusionary Development. The purpose of the proposed new Section 7.8 is to enact a new bylaw to promote the general public welfare, including but not limited to ensuring an economically integrated and diverse community by maintaining and increasing the supply of affordable and accessible housing.  Affordable Housing is defined as housing that is affordable to persons or families qualifying as low or moderate income under the applicable guidelines of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The Zoning Board of Appeals will be the Special Permit Granting Authority.  The proposed bylaw is applicable to all residential development requiring a Special Permit and resulting in additional new dwelling units at the following minimum rates:  1-15 units – no units required.  16 -20 units – minimum 1 dwelling unit.  21-30 units – minimum 2 dwelling units.  31 units and up – minimum 10% of total unit count.  The applicant may fulfill the requirement by constructing the unit(s) in the proposed development or by making a cash payment equivalent to the Town of Lenox Housing Trust Fund.  The Zoning Board of Appeals may award a density bonus.

In response to a question regarding the economic objectives of this amendment, JK said that the intent is to require affordable housing as part of larger projects, but to also provide incentives to developers of smaller projects to encourage the construction of affordable housing.  JK stated that the Board received a letter from Jim Biancolo who suggested several minor language changes.  The Board expressed appreciation for his input and will review.  There were no further comments.

Two other letters were received, but not read into the record.   One was from Peter Taussig and the other was from Barbara Nelson.   Both wrote in favor of the Great Estates bylaw amendment.

SS made a motion to continue the public hearing to March 10, 2009 at 7:15 pm.  KM-V seconded the motion.  The Board voted to approve 4-0.

KM-V made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:15 pm.  KF seconded the motion and the Board voted to adjourn 4-0.

Respectfully submitted,

Peggy Ammendola

Lenox Town Hall  6 Walker Street, Lenox, MA 01240   PH: (413) 637-5500