Planning Board report to May 2018 Town of Lenox Annual Report

The Planning Board has submitted the following report on its 2017-18 activities to the Town for its Annual Report to citizens to be published prior to the Town Meeting in May. The Planning Board approved this report at its Feb. 13, 2018 meeting.

Printable PDF here

REPORT OF THE PLANNING BOARD

Tom Delasco (vice chair)                      May 2018
Pam Kueber (chair)                               May 2021
Kathleen McNulty-Vaughan                May 2022
Deborah Rimmler                                  May 2019
Kameron Spaulding                               May 2020

To the Honorable Board of Selectmen and the Citizens of Lenox:

Thank you for this opportunity to provide an update on the activities of the Planning Board over the past year.

ROLE

The Planning Board’s principal ongoing role is to develop land-use regulations and plans that address Town needs, taking care to balance individual liberties and the welfare of the community as a whole. The Board researches and writes our Zoning Bylaws. It may review Special Permit projects and provide input related to the Zoning Bylaw, site plan characteristics, and accordance with the Master Plan and other community plans to the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The Planning Board is the Special Permit Granting Authority for Open Space Flexible Development projects. The Planning Board takes the lead in developing and monitoring progress of the Town’s Master Plan, which guides the long-term physical development of the Town and supports decision-making at the board, committee and staff level.

EXPANDED WEBSITE

In 2017 the Planning Board launched an expanded website – lenoxplanningboard.com – that provides meeting agendas, meeting materials, and other pertinent information to board members and interested residents.

BYLAWS ADOPTED IN MAY 2017

New or revised Zoning Bylaws require a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting. At our May 2017 Town meeting, voters agreed to adopt the following three Bylaws, subsequently approved by the Massachusetts Attorney General and enacted:

  • Removal of parking and loading requirements in the Commercial “C” Zoning District to help ease permitting for the reuse of existing buildings in the Lenox Village and Lenox Dale commercial districts;
  • Regulation of Registered Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to guide the location and operation of businesses seeking to cultivate, process and dispense Medicinal Marijuana;
  • A temporary moratorium on the sale and distribution of Recreational Marijuana through December 31, 2018 to provide the Town time to develop local regulations in accordance with state statutes that are expected to be finalized in March 2018.

BYLAW REVIEWS UNDER WAY

Starting in November 2018, the Town will have two official Town Meetings each year: one in May and one in November. The Planning Board aims to bring warrant articles to the November meeting. We are working on the following possible new or revised Zoning Bylaws:

  • Recreational Marijuana Establishments: The Board will be developing Zoning Bylaws to regulate Recreational Marijuana Establishments this spring and summer, after the state issues its final statutes in March 2018. Lenox has a temporary moratorium in place through December 31, 2018. We must have Bylaws approved by Town voters by that date, or such Establishments become subject to current zoning regulations, which allow retail, for example, By-Right in the village center.
  • Short-Term Rentals: In June 2017 a Planning Board subcommittee began work on assessing both the opportunities and concerns presented by Short-Term Rentals; these are defined as rentals of bedrooms or entire houses, apartments or accessory dwelling units for 30 days or less. Currently, such rentals are not specifically addressed in our Zoning Bylaws. To ensure a cross-section of views is represented in the process, the subcommittee includes members from the Planning Board (Pam Kueber, Deborah Rimmler), the Select Board (Ken Fowler), the Finance Committee (Dave Neubert), and the Affordable Housing Committee (Kate McNulty-Vaughan). To gather input from the community, we thoroughly researched the issue then prepared and held three Community Roundtable discussions, conducted an online survey, presented to the Select Board, connected with our state representative, met with citizens at our weekly subcommittee meetings, and more. Over the spring and summer, we expect to finalize policy options. We also are expecting State legislation, which may provide a helpful framework for local action, including collecting room taxes. Sincere thanks to subcommittee members and to all the citizens, business owners, public officials and others who have taken the time to share their opinions and ideas with us during this process.
  • Signage: Sincere thanks to Jim Biancolo, who reworked our sign bylaw with the goal to make it is easier for businesses to understand (1) sign requirements in their zone, and (2) who they need to contact, in what order, to get their sign approved and up. The Planning Board is continuing to work on refinements and will test the rework with a few businesses before committing to a proposed change.

LENOX MASTER PLAN

At the November 2017 Town Meeting, voters approved the Board’s request for $50,000 to fund an objective, third-party consultant to work with us to update our Town’s Master Plan. The last update to the Master Plan was published in April 1999. Guided by state law, the Master Plan will include detailed plans, looking out approximately 10 years, for: Land Use, Housing, Economic Development, Natural and Cultural Resources, Open Space and Recreation, Services and Facilities, and Transportation and Traffic.

Over the winter, the Planning Board worked to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) as detailed and focused as possible to ensure that (1) we articulate all we want to get from the Plan, and that (2) once launched, the Master Planning process will operate as efficiently as possible. In 2018-19, guiding and participating in work on the Master Plan will be a principal focus for the Planning Board.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

  • Housing Production Plan + Next Steps: The Planning Board voted to adopt the 2017-2021 Housing Production Plan (HPP), and from it, created a list recommended changes to the Zoning Bylaw in support of making the development of housing easier in Lenox. These will be reviewed further during the Master Plan process, specifically asking where the community would support the location of new housing development, and asking what people want new residential development in Lenox to look like.
  • Lenox Village Parking: After the May 2017 Town Meeting vote that liberalized parking space requirements in Lenox Village, the Planning Board put looking for new ways to increase parking spaces back on its agenda. In addition, the number of hotel rooms and other lodging options such as Short-Term Rentals continue to increase, putting more pressure on Village parking availability. To start, we reviewed several parking and layout plans produced for the Village over the past fifteen (15) years, with an eye toward (1) consolidating them into one (1) go-forward plan and (2) trying to find even more parking beyond what was in these plans. This work will be rolled into the upcoming Master Plan.
  • Lenox Dale: In response to a request from the Board of Selectmen following their meetings in Lenox Dale to discuss a Medical Marijuana applicant’s proposal, Town Planner Gwen Miller consolidated feedback on land use issues from all recent walking tours and community discussion with Lenox Dale into one report. This input and feedback gathered will be rolled into the upcoming Master Plan.
  • Special Permit Review: In 2017 and continuing into 2018, the Board began a review of the Application of Stone Path Development, Inc. for the property at 241 Walker to develop nine (9) single-family homes on 9.5 acres. The Planning Board is the permit-granting authority for Open Space Flexible Developments.
  • Approval Not Required Reviews: The Board reviewed and endorsed three (3) Approval Not Required (Form A) plans; such plans pertain to by-right divisions of land not otherwise governed by the Town’s Subdivision Control Bylaw.

OTHER BOARD AND COMMITTEE WORK

In our official capacity, Planning Board members also serve on other boards or committees in the Town and County:

  • Tom Delasco has been a member of the Lenox Community Preservation Committee since 2013.
  • Pam Kueber has been Lenox Delegate to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) since 2016; she has served on the Regional Issues Committee since 2017, and joined the Berkshire County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee in 2018.
  • Kate McNulty-Vaughan has been a member of the Lenox Housing Trust since 2009 and the Affordable Housing Committee since 2009.
  • Deborah Rimmler has been a member and chairman of the Lenox Land Management Committee since 2016.

RECOGNITION

We are very grateful for the leadership and support provided to our Board by Land Use Director Gwen Miller, AICP, and Peggy Ammendola, Land Use Clerk. Many thanks to Selectman Ken Fowler, who continues to be the liaison between the Board of Selectmen and the Planning Board; Ken also has been Lenox’s Alternate to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission since 2016. And, we greatly appreciate all the citizens who come to our meetings and forums to weigh in on issues under consideration or to call issues to our attention.

Respectfully submitted,

The Lenox Planning Board

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