LENOX — One auto dealership seeking to relocate from Pittsfield to the busy Lenox commercial strip on Route 7 & 20 got its green light this week.
A second dealership faces more scrutiny.
Berkshire Mazda, established by Jim Salvie on Pittsfield’s auto mile at Silver Lake on East Street in 2007, gained unanimous special permits and site plan approvals from the Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday night.
The dealership is buying the Knights Inn motel at 474 Pittsfield Road and a 17,000-square-foot section of land at the adjacent Howard Johnson by Wyndham inn from hotel entrepreneur Navin Shah.
The motel would be demolished, but the 44-room Howard Johnson would remain in business.
The 14,500-square-foot dealership, including a showroom, outdoor sales and a service area, will stand just north of the Holmes Road intersection.
The project by 474 Pittsfield Road LLC represents an investment of at least $5 million, including purchase of the site and construction costs. Construction is expected to begin this spring, with an opening in 2024.
Site visit set on McGee project
At the same meeting, a planned public hearing was postponed for the McGee Automotive Family’s project to move its Berkshire BMW/VW/Audi dealership from Merrill Road in Pittsfield to the intersection of Pittsfield Road and New Lenox Road. It would be built at the current Different Drummers Kitchen and three adjoining properties.
The ZBA will visit the site Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. for a tour, but not for discussion by the public. The board will reopen the public hearing Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.
A robust turnout of at least 50 residents, many from two condo complexes near the proposed dealership, signaled potential opposition to the dealership proposed by McGee, a regional chain based in Hanover, N.H.
Tight fit on Mazda lot
Detailing the special permits sought by the Mazda dealership, civil engineer Jim Scalise, president of SK Design Group, listed key points:
• The business would be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The new parking area would include 113 spaces, including 76 to display new vehicles, and the rest for customers, employees and the service department.
• Construction of the facility would be limited to 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays, with occasional interior work Saturdays.
• Once it’s operating, the dealership would generate less traffic than the current motel, according to a traffic study presented by Scalise — 412 trips a day on a section of the state highway that is used by 23,000 vehicles daily, on average.
The greatest challenge is a tight fit on the available 1.4-acre land area, Scalise said. The elevation of the site will be lowered by 8 to 10 feet by excavating up to 50,000 cubic yards of material (1,350,000 square feet), allowing the new building to be lowered into the ground to provide what he called a “bathtub effect.” A benefit will be improved visibility and access from Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 & 20), he pointed out.
Subdued lighting will be used, resulting from an agreement with residential neighbors on Holmeswood Terrace and Holmes Road. Plantings will augment the landscaping plan. The project meets standards for customer parking, erosion control and stormwater drainage.
Redevelopment of the site is supported by Police Chief Stephen O’Brien, Fire Chief Chris O’Brien and DPW Superintendent William Gop.
Members of the ZBA voted 5-0 in favor of special permits and a site plan. Before the vote, member Albert Harper said the proposal meets all requirements for a special permit.
It also meets a community need by improving the current use of the site from 2-star motel to a “reputable business,” he said, by enhancing fire safety and potentially reducing crime in Lenox at a location that has required frequent police responses.
“This is a benign change that has enormous benefits to the community,” said Harper, increasing the town’s tax base, increasing employment and “beautifying the neighborhood.”
Zoning Board Chairman Robert Fuster, praising the detailed presentation by Scalise, cited the crime rate in the area and suggested public safety would be increased by the development.
“This is a commercial zone full of commercial projects,” said associate board member Kimberly Duval. “I see no problem with it and I think it’s good that they’re doing this.”
Public comment included a letter to the ZBA from Kari Nixon of New Lenox Road opposing any new auto dealerships on Pittsfield Road as “unthinkable” because of safety concerns and a threat to the small-town vibe of Lenox.