With the planned shift of the Town Offices to the Village School there has been concern and interest about what will be done with the present Town Hall building. The issue has come to the Planning Board in the form of a request by the Selectmen that the Planning Board look at possible zoning adjustments that might be made that would facilities re-use of this building.
Presently the east side of Main Street is a residential zoning district (R-D) and the use of this building as municipal offices is grandfathered. Any use other than a single-family residence is not allowed by the present zoning. The idea of changing the zoning to allow some form or degree of commercial use on the east side of Main Street has prompted the Planning Board to have discussed various aspects of updating the zoning regulations for the downtown area.
Additionally, the opening of the Village Oven Restaurant and the granting of a variance to them relating to parking has prompted discussions about the general issue of parking in the downtown area.
From these current issues and concerns, the Planning Board has distilled an overall guiding principle that may form part of any proposed zoning change:
" The intent is to allow the rebuilding and reconstruction of existing buildings and for the construction of new buildings, in a manner which preserves and enhances the underlying character and pattern of the form of the Village and enables its continued vitality and life as a village center for Town Residents"
Out of the issues and needs and this philosophy, there have evolved into four primary areas where we are likely to make proposals for specific adjustments in regulations. These are:
Commercial District Boundaries:
We are likely to propose to enlarge the commercial district to include the east side of Main Street from the Town Hall to the Congregational Church. Theses two important buildings form a natural place of demarcation between residential uses and non-residential uses. We intend to further clarify exactly what the boundary might be and to provide further opportunity for more input from residents before arriving at a final proposal that is offered at Town Meeting.
Clarification of when mixed use is allowed:
Current regulations restrict and discourage more than one principle use on one lot. Residential use on the second floor of a commercial building is also not presently allowed in a new building even though this is a type of use that already exists in a number of buildings in Town. The Board is working on proposals to allow more mixed uses, especially residential use over commercial use. This type of change may also be a mechanism that will encourage the construction of affordable housing in West Stockbridge
Zoning Setback Requirements:
Current setback requirements in the downtown area would not allow the rebuilding of the downtown in its present form. While the proposal the Planning Board makes may relax the setback requirements in some ways, it generally is not considered radical changes. We are considering adding a process where by Special Permit, setbacks may be altered provided that new buildings or additions respect the form of adjoining buildings. The criteria for making this evaluation may include:
* The alignment of building relative to the street
* The heights of adjoining buildings
* The finish material used on adjoining buildings
* The presence of architectural features of similar character to what exists in existing buildings
Parking for the re-use of the Town Hall may be considered in relation to its probable listing as an historic building. Strategies for parking that are commonly used in this type of case call for mare latitude for shared parking. How parking requirements should be adjusted to provide the best balance of the Town is one of the more problematic issues the Planning Board faces in these zoning discussions and we continue to explore ideas on this issue.