Town of Otis
Planning Board Meeting Minutes
August 9, 2021
Online using the Zoom link provided below.
*This meeting is being conducted remotely through Zoom. You must check back within 24 hours of the start time for a link to join.
Pursuant to the Governor’s March 12, 2020 order suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, Sec 18, this meeting is being held via remote participation to the greatest extent possible. Every effort is being made to ensure that any member of the public may access the meeting in real time, via technological means. Agendas will be amended to show the link and participation code to access the meeting no sooner than 48 hours before. Recordings and/or draft proceedings of the meeting will be available on our website as soon as possible.
- Roll Call
- Hal Kobrin, Chair
- Jen Daily, Member
- Jim Kauffman, Member
- Barbara Gallagher, Member
- Rona Knight, Member
- Stacey Schultze, Planning Board Clerk
- Sue Ebitz, Library Board
- Mary Kay Pinkham
- Diane Provance from the Otis Preservation Trust
- Sonia Morrison
- Approval of Minutes. Hal makes a motion to approve June 14, 2021 meeting minutes, Jen seconds, all in favor. Jim makes a motion to approve July 12, 2021 Planning Board meeting minutes, Barbara seconds, all in favor.
- MVP & HMP Grants update: The website is up and running. There needs to be more community response to the workshops. Ralph Gleason has indicated verbally to Hal that he will be in attendance. Jen noted that the invite from BRPC is confusing and that a new invite with clear directions including “Click Yes even if you do not use Google Calendar” be sent. Hal notes that the projects should be applicable to future federal funding opportunities as indicated candidly by Smitty Pignatelli to Hal recently.
- Complete Streets Grant update- Foresight, etc.: Hal reports that the initial stage of planning has been completed and he is reviewing Foresight’s findings and make editing suggestions. Rona asked how much the town was awarded in the first round of funding. Hal said there is no cap, but that projects are approved on a project by project basis. Rona asked if the planning board should indicate priority of the projects listed. Hal responded yes, but it may not matter because the project(s) would be chosen by grant oversight from the list provided (created with Foresight). Some of the projects identified as fundable are the intersections in East Otis and traffic signs and speed notifications. The non-fundable projects are identified and are just not doable now in this round of funding but may be eligible in future rounds.
- Building Reuse- Library, etc.: Sue Ebitz presented information about a grant being pursued by the library which if chosen would fund 75% of a new library. Of the 25% costs to the town, it would include a fair assessment of land used to build the new library as well as some site planning. A group is going to visit a recently renovated library in Irving on August 16th. There is a public meeting on August 25th at 6:30 pm where Laruen and Andrea who are running the grant program will present information and answer questions. Public interest and attendance is encouraged. Jen pointed out that the Berkshire Athenaeum lends more than books, they lend gardening tools and musical instruments so this could be a real asset to the community. She also wondered if the Select board has had any comment about the grant process. Sue thought that Brandi’s involvement showed the select board’s cautious optimism. Sue also made it clear that if the grant was not awarded, there would be no further pursuit for a new library. Otis has a very good chance at being awarded the grant as there are only 2-4 other towns being considered. The grant is specifically focused on revitalizing small town libraries. Rona asked what the anticipated budget may be. Sue mention something in the neighborhood of $4 million total with a commitment from the town being $1 million offset by land and site work. Rona supports the efforts. Hal supports the efforts and notes that a new fire engine which may not last as long as a new library cost the town nearly as much this year. He also thinks the location of the 100 acre park with an entrance off route 8 would be idea because it would fit in with other efforts such as extending sidewalks to the school and extending the town sewer system which are projects listed on other grants that the planning board is working on. Hal makes a motion to send a letter of support for the grant to the library from the planning board. Jen seconds, all in favor. Diane also suggests to Sue that the library staff write a suggested support letter for the select board to sign. Hal points out that the library grant cannot fund a separate museum within the new building but that the old library may be suitable for such purpose. He also indicated that the Historical Society is looking for a location that would align with the museum.
- Wireless Communication Facilities Bylaw update: Hal shared his edits with the group. An unofficial draft will be shared with the select board for major changes and an official presentation will happen at the September 14th select board meeting. Rona said she thought the edits looked good.
- Short-term Rental Bylaw update: Hal will update the numbers to correspond with our bylaw numbering. Jen asks who will regulate areas such as 2.1.c. It was a general consensus that the zoning enforcement officer would likely be the person enforcing the bylaw. Barbara obtained a list of all residential properties in Otis and attempted to identify all short-term rentals which she calculated being around 40-50 homes scattered across Otis. Only a few looked to be professionally managed. Hal noted that the list should be easily obtained through the state when the town receives taxes from the rentals. This will make it easier to cross reference an owner with multiple properties. Rona suggests tightening up the language to protect owners surrounding these properties as well as the quality of the town. She wondered if there was a way to restrict the time a home could be rented during specific times of year. Rona thinks there should be more clarity to the section about one company or one company with several smaller companies under it running short-term rentals as well as the definitions of fees/ fines/ penalties. Are the amounts appropriate? Jen asks if there should be language that other towns included regarding the % of the year the home is used for short-term rentals. Barbara shares the area of the bylaw where short-term is defined. Rona wonders about enforcing the regulation of events on short-term rental properties. Barbara shares that there was additional language in other towns laws that require a person be of a minimum age and present the duration of the rental. She asks if that should also be included. Jen thinks it would be a good idea and that the property managers should have a process for verifying this. Jen also points out that short-term rentals are a good business/ job opportunity for locals because managers typically receive 10% of the listing plus cleaning or maintenance costs so the bylaws should not eliminate this opportunity. Sonia shared that there has been owners in Great Barrington requested special permission for events that the select board had to approve on a case by case basis so the planning board may want to look over Great Barrington’s bylaw about the topic. Jen and Rona don’t want to rush the process and would rather the bylaw be written properly with the full intent of the planning board than to rush through the process to have it ready for an October special meeting. Hal indicates that some of the issues talked about could be handled with special permits like for events and quiet times that could be attached to the bylaw. He also thinks that a general noise restriction should be included like the one in the Stockbridge bylaws. Jen reminds every one of the “Community Rules” page and such a notice could be required to be posted at each short-term rental. Hal says that if there is a revised draft that meets expectations by the next meeting that it could be presented to the select board at the September 14th
- Dark Sky Bylaw update: Hal is still working on this and hopes to have something to the members by the end of the week.
- Inviting select representatives to share in planning at September meeting to coordinate in Master Planning: A formal invitation will be sent to the a town committees and boards to have their input for current grants and master planning. Ideally representatives could share identified needs or growth opportunities with the planning board.
- Any Other Business, Old or New.: Rona has stepped down from being the planning board liaison to the select board and Barbara has volunteered to take her place.
- Rona makes a motion to adjourn at 8:39 pm, Jen seconds, all in favor.
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