Ordinance Committee Approves Special-Permit Zoning Change for Self-Storage in Pittsfield, MA

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Update 12/5/13 – Real estate developer Alfred Weissman Real Estate LLC cleared another important hurdle this week toward changing the Pittsfield, Mass., zoning law to allow self-storage in commercial and industrial zones with a special permit. On Monday, the proposal was moved forward with support from the City Council's Ordinance and Rules Committee.

"We're here tonight hoping that you will look at this as a change that is not only better for our property, but one that recognizes the growing market of client-controlled, more retail-oriented storage, and one that will help foster a more competitive free market," said Joseph Genzano, general counsel for Weissman, in addressing the council.

Council member Jonathan Lothrop expanded the special-permit proposal to include light-industrial zones. During the proceedings, City Planner C.J. Hoss also clarified that the zoning change would simply allow special permits for self-storage in the designated zones. A site plan for Weissman’s storage project would still need to go through a separate approval process.

If the special-permit allowance is approved by the full council, Weissman representatives said the company will work with the city’s community-development officials and the development board to reach an acceptable design.


Update 11/23/13 – After being denied a zoning variance in August for a proposed self-storage development at its Pittsfield Plaza retail center, real estate developer Alfred Weissman Real Estate LLC cleared an important hurdle this week toward changing the Pittsfield, Mass., zoning law to allow self-storage in commercial and industrial zones with a special permit. The city’s Community Development Board voted to recommend the zoning change and will forward its advisement to the City Council.

After denying Weissman’s appeal for a zoning variance this summer, the Zoning Board of Appeals suggested the developer seek a zoning change rather than a use variance. Weissman representative Joseph Genzano said the company has tried to redevelop the shopping center but has been unable to find the right mix of businesses. A marketing study identified self-storage as a favorable project for the deteriorating property.

Genzano said the zoning proposal specifically limits the size and structure of the storage units, drawing a distinction between self-storage from larger storage warehouses. The developer also argued that self-storage operates in the retail sector, not industrial warehousing. "Our view is not to look at it as a storage use but more as retail," Genzano said.

Although the board voted to recommend the change, members debated whether a single definition for all types of storage should be created and identify which forms of storage would be allowable in which zones. Currently, self-storage is allowed in three zones but not in business-commercial districts, according to the source.

In its recommendation, the board adopted language specifying self-storage as allowable in zones where other storage businesses operate, as well as in business-commercial zones, under a special permit.


Update 8/16/13 – Real estate developer Alfred Weissman Real Estate LLC had its request for a zoning variance rejected this week by the Pittsfield, Mass., Zoning Board of Appeals, blocking a proposed self-storage facility the company wants to build within its deteriorating Gateway Plaza. The board voted 4-1 against the variance and also rejected the company’s plan to include a live-in apartment for the facility manager.

Weissman sought the zoning variance after city inspectors said self-storage is not permitted in a “business commercial” zoning district. The zoning board suggested the developer seek a zoning change rather than a use variance.

The board’s ruling came despite support from several residents living near the 51-year-old former Pittsfield Plaza. The proposed 320-unit self-storage facility would be built in an area that is least visible from the road, and Weissman officials argued the project would spur retail companies to sign tenant leases inside the vacant 105,000-square-foot retail center.

"This is an eyesore to the city," said resident Frances King. "Anything would be better than what’s there."


8/9/13 – Real estate developer Alfred Weissman Real Estate LLC is hopeful its request for a zoning variance will be approved next week, paving the way for a proposed self-storage project within a defunct shopping center it owns in Pittsfield, Mass. The zoning request will be heard on Aug. 14 by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The storage facility would be built within a segment of the retail building, but a permit for the project was previously rejected by inspectors because self-storage is not permitted in a “business commercial” zoning district.

Weissman, which is based in Rye, N.Y., but operates locally as Pittsfield Plaza Members LLC, has already begun working on lighting, sidewalks and clearing out the interior spaces of the retail facility, according to Beverly "B-Mile" Milenski, a broker with leasing agent RE/MAX Integrity Realtors. The self-storage facility would use 37,880 square feet of the 105,625 square feet of retail space inside what is now called Gateway Plaza. About 20,000 square feet would be designated for storage units.

The facility would cater to business tenants of the shopping center as well as local residents. It would also include an office and apartment for the property manager. In addition, the project calls for a marquee sign at the plaza’s entrance and the demolition of the far western edge of the building to accommodate the movement of large trucks, Milenski said.

The self-storage facility would be situated in an area that is least visible from the road, but the developers are hopeful the project can revive the center and spark other development in the area, Milenski said. "This is a really positive thing they are doing. This will get the construction going and people can see what it will look like. It will set the template for the new center. This will bring life back to a long-vacant property."

Weissman purchased the 51-year-old former Pittsfield Plaza six years ago for $2.8 million. The shopping-center property encompasses 13.8 acres.

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