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North Adams Planners Renew Brewery Permit, Ask Legal Opinion on Glamping Changes
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:26AM / Tuesday, May 14, 2024
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The brewery planned for the former Eagles Hall is back on track with the expectation of opening in November.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — One long gestating project is expected to be completed this year but another one has been delayed yet again for a legal opinion.
Rising Glass Brewery at 515 Curran Highway was back before the Planning Board on Monday night to renew an expired permit. 
Jonathan Spinney of 515 LLC had first applied back in 2018 for a special permit to transform the former Eagles Hall into a brewery, working on a farmer's brewery license, and kitchen. In 2021, he was approved for a patio on the property.
"It took an incredibly long time to get a clear title from the Eagles," he said. "And we all know what's happened over the past several years."
Now, he said, with a new permit in hand, he anticipated opening in November.
"We're planning to put in a roughly 335 person capacity group of with restaurants serving our beer, wine and liquor as well as having an event space," he told the board. "It's the same footprint as the the same original footprint. The same area, the same parking. Nothing's changed from if you remember the Eagles."
It will be slightly smaller than the Eagles most people remember though as the wooden additions on the original metal building will be removed. Spinney said they were such bad shape it wasn't worth repairing them. 
"We're just about finished with everything we need for our demolition permit and an architect is on board and working, the engineering has already been completed," he said.
Building Inspector William Meranti confirmed Spinney has been working with his office and had checked with other departments to ensure everything was in line. 
A change in structures at the proposed "glamping" recreation area on Notch Road lead planners to request an opinion from the city solicitor on whether developer Benjamin Crespi needed a new permit. 
Crespi is the second developer to take on the project first broached in 2019. The project was approved for year-round camping for 48 sites in October and Crespi is asking for a change in the structures to make better suited for the climate and wind. 
"I'd like to ask the Planning Board to approve the use of a quote unquote 'tourist cabin' compared to what was previously submitted by Eco Structure and by (initial developer) Foster [Goodrich]," he said via Zoom. "They're virtually identical structures The only differences one has a canvas roof. The other has a structured roof."
The structures will have bathrooms and an added heating element — electric mini-splits — to accommodate winter guests. Crespi stressed that they would not be suitable for long-term residences as they had no kitchens, storage or foundations. 
The discussion also covered questions about the sewer situation. Crespi said a sewer line was permitted and installed and would be preferable to installing a septic system, for which it's permitted. 
Attorney Elisabeth Goodman of Cain & Hibbard, representing neighbors on Notch Road, objected that the cabins are in special category and fall outside the permit approved by the board and litigated in court, and violate the city's own ordinances. 
"What he had permitted is a campsite with canvas roofs that are tents. You can argue about what's a tent, but there is a difference between a cabin and a then and he himself is calling it a tourist cabinet," she said.
Goodman claimed it was a bait and switch because the agreement was that there would be no changes to the structures. 
"If it's not tents, it's not a campground. He needs a new permit," she said. "I think you should uphold your bylaws and require a new special permit with all of the appropriate environmental review before that change is made."
Crespi said his special permit refers to an outdoor recreation resort not a campground and that settlement did not allow changes prior to a certain date that expired more than two years ago. 
Planner Rye Howard looked up the zoning ordinance and noted that it specifically lists tourist cabins in the same category as motels and hotels. 
Chair Brian Miksic said the zone allows for campgrounds and that in New England campgrounds have also had cabins. 
"This has been litigated and may be litigated again, but this is the guidance I received from the solicitor," he said.
He called for a motion but planners said they were uncomfortable doing so over the question of cabins and because a vote was not on the agenda. Goodman also objected. 
"This is a signficant change and in my opinion they need a site plan review," said Planner Paul Senecal.
Howard thought it should be discussed with the solicitor again and Planner Lisa Blackmer also called for a legal opinion. 
"I really thought this was a discussion and not a vote and I don't feel comfortable voting," she said.
Planner Kyle Hanlon said the need for heating made it "a completely different project in my eyes."
"I made my stance clear on this," said Meranti. "I think it is a substantial change ... I'm in near total agreement with attorney Goodman that this is what the ordinance says." 
In other business, the board approved signage for "Cheeky," a lingerie store locating in the former J.J. Newberry's on Main Street and an application from Tourists Welcome LLC for a cabin trailer model in business zone. 
Eric Kerns said Tourists was developing a cabinized version of its resort and has a model on the property for people to look at and to observe how it weathers. It has temporary electricity service but will not be utilized. 
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