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Clarksburg Hears Pitch From Water District, Mulls Zoning Edits
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:07PM / Thursday, March 23, 2023
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Briggsville Water District is hoping to have the town lien delinquent water bills to property taxes. 
"We do that routinely for North Adams," said Carl McKinney, town administrator, who spoke to the Select Board on Wednesday as a member of the district's board of commissioners. "We have a contract that is part of our water agreement with North Adams but we don't have an agreement with the Briggsville Water District."
The commissioners wanted to know if the board was amenable to entering into an agreement with the water district, he said.  
The town has the ability to legally put liens on properties and provide certificates of municipal liens in the cases of sales, something the district cannot do. This makes it difficult for the district to collect delinquencies and means new owners may not be aware their houses have payments in arrears.
The water district had approached the board a year ago but since then, the board has nearly completely turned over and new staff has been added to Town Hall. 
McKinney said the delinquency rate is close to 50 percent, with some overdue bills more than $5,000. The 40-year-old water district has been ordered to make upgrades to the system — including building a 30,000 gallon reservoir, hiring a water superintendent and installing meters and shutoffs — but needs the cash flow to make it happen. 
The water system was created in part to supply the long-defunct Strong-Hewat woolen mill and was incorporated as a district by an act of the Legislature in 1980 after a coliform outbreak. The district is a public drinking water system that serves nearly 65 households and commercial properties, mostly along River Road, as well as Town Hall. 
Select Board member Dan Haskins was amenable to the idea wanted to hear from KP Law, the town's counsel, before going further. 
In other business, McKinney put forward several zoning bylaw amendments he thought the town should pursue. This work was funded through a 2019 grant.
He noted that 53 percent of the town is owned by the state and most of that in the upland conservation zones along West Road and the Hoosac Range. The state calculates its payment in lieu of taxes on the value of the land, McKinney said, which is how many lots it could produce along the frontage. 
"Currently, our zoning calls 250 feet of frontage in that upland conservation, which again is 90 percent owned by the commonwealth," he said. "So I would like to drop that by half. So in theory, that means that our PILOT payments have to go up by two because they get twice as many lots out of it."
The edits would also align zoning districts along property lines (some properties fall in more than one district) and to slightly expand the commercial zone across from Clarksburg State Park and codify an existing grandfather use. 
"If there was to be a store or a cafe or restaurant or store or a home occupation on those parcels, then that has the potential to help grow the tax base," McKinney said. 
Finally, in areas that are serviced by water and sewer, the lot size would be reduced to a third of acre from a half-acre.
The town was also notified by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to detail its expenses for last week's snowstorm that dropped 2 feet or more over the region because it may be able to get some reimbursement if an emergency declaration is made. 
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