Also: Planners begin review of four-story project
The Beacon City Council on May 4 approved a contract to allow the Beacon Farmers’ Market to operate along Veterans Place, between Main and Henry streets, but, as in previous years, the agreement with the market is only good for a year.
Phil Ciganer, the owner of the Towne Crier Cafe, which is adjacent to the market location, has repeatedly protested that its vendors block entrances that musicians need to bring equipment into the venue. The Sunday market moved from the waterfront to Veterans Place in 2017.
The council last month allowed the market to open outdoors for the spring, using social distancing; the May 4 vote extends the agreement through late November, except for Spirit of Beacon Day and the Beacon Car Show. The market changed its hours to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (they had been 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) in an attempt to avoid conflicts with Ciganer.
For his part, Ciganer agreed to give the market notice a week or more in advance, if possible, when bands are scheduled to perform at the venue on Sundays. “I’m willing to give it a chance to see if it works,” he said this week.
But several council members said that it appears the market has made most of the concessions.
“I would hate to get into a situation where the Farmers’ Market is consistently told ‘We need the loading space, we need the loading space, we need the loading space,’ ” said Council Member Amber Grant during the meeting, which was held by videoconference.
Council Member Air Rhodes suggested that the Towne Crier could instead use the city-owned parking lot behind the venue for some load-ins.
While the agreement includes a provision that market officials may submit a request to renew the contract with the city by Dec. 31 each year, Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair said it should be given the security of a long-term deal.
“Doing the annual contracts creates a lot of uncertainty for the Farmers’ Market, and they provide a vital service for our city,” he said. “They’re a cornerstone. We wouldn’t do this to the volunteer ambulance corps every year.”
The Beacon Planning Board began its review this week of the latest proposal to construct a four-story building on Main Street, although it’s the City Council that will decide whether the project moves forward as it’s currently envisioned.
The developer proposes to merge the lots at 416 and 420 Main St., including a vacant parcel that was formerly occupied by a food truck, to build a structure with retail at the street level (the Kitchen & Coffee cafe would remain), office or commercial space on the second and third floors, and two apartments on a recessed fourth floor.
The design of the building includes a 48-foot-high corner tower, a nod to the historic Beacon Hotel, which features a similar tower next door at 424 Main.
A single-family home and an artist’s live/work space would be constructed behind the building, according to its plans.
Project officials told the Planning Board on Tuesday (May 12) that they can only provide four of the required 26 parking spaces and will seek a waiver.
While that decision will be made by the Planning Board, the City Council on May 4 adopted amendments to Beacon’s zoning code that require all Main Street four-story proposals in or around the city’s historic district to seek a special-use permit from the council.
In addition, any four-story proposal on Main must include one or more public benefits, such as increased parking, affordable housing units, green building features or public spaces, before it can receive the permit to build a fourth floor.
The 416/420 Main proposal will require a second special-use permit from the council for its corner tower design.
The appearance during the Planning Board’s meeting, held by videoconference, was the first for the project, although feedback had preceded it.
“I have never seen as many comment letters on a project when it’s not even the public-comment period yet,” said Board Member Jill Reynolds, who noted that about 80 percent of the feedback so far has been in opposition to the project.
The members of the Planning Board offered mixed opinions. While there was praise for a Main Street proposal that includes significant office and commercial space, some board members took issue with elements of the design and nearly all expressed reservations about the request to waive 85 percent of the required parking.