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Conway aims to revitalize village center

Info meeting set for Wednesday at 7 at Town Hall

CONWAY — The Planning Board is proposing changes to the town’s zoning bylaws that would carve out a new village center district.

The proposal also makes changes affecting cottage industries and home-based businesses.

The revisions are designed to promote economic development, town planners said.

The Planning Board has scheduled an informational meeting at the Town Hall on Wednesday at 7 p.m. “The meeting is designed to show where we are at this early stage of the proposed regulations and to get ideas and further input as we mold this newer vision of our town,” Planning Board Chairwoman Diane Poland said.

For much of the year, the Planning Board worked on the proposed bylaws. It received advice from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.

The revised bylaws, along with amendments from the hearing, will be voted on at town meeting in May.

The changes would add a third zoning district to the town. Up until this point, much of the town was zoned residential/agricultural with a small portion zoned light industrial.

“The village center is a rather radical proposal for Conway,” said Planning Board member David Barten. “The town used to have a very vital center. This has been lost over the last 20 to 30 years. The hope is to revive the center as the center of life for the town.”

While many zoning bylaws prevent growth, Barten said the new proposals encourage growth, support retail development and the renovation of large houses into apartments.

The village center district would encompass the town center from Greenfield Savings Bank on Route 116 to Main Street and toward Orchard Equipment on Ashfield Road, which begins the light industrial district.

To define what is acceptable in the three zoning districts, the Planning Board created a use table.

“This is a major upgrade. It brings us into modern times,” Barten said.

Under the use table, single-family and two-family homes are allowed in the proposed village center district.

The new district would also allow for farming or forestry, wildlife preservation, church use, family day care, bed and breakfasts with up to six rooms, 3,000-square-foot business offices and a farm stand.

By special permit, the proposed district would allow accessory apartments, multi-family dwellings and apartments on the upper floors of commercial structures, livestock farming, commercial recreation, hotels, gift shops, restaurants, theaters, laundromats or a gas station.

The proposal also cleans up a road frontage issue to make current lots conforming.

Currently, in the residential agricultural district, a lot needs 200 feet of frontage. But in the center of town, there is not enough space for 200 feet of frontage and most homes and businesses have not been in compliance. To fix this, the proposal allows for 100 feet of frontage.

The Planning Board also proposes changes to two uses — the cottage industry and home-based businesses.

Currently, Barten said, Conway has allowed cottage industries to be built anywhere in town as long as they abide by one restraining factor that they have no more than 15 employees and 50 customers a day.

There are three major cottage industries: Orchard Equipment, Poplar Hill Machine Works and the South River Miso Co. on Shelburne Falls Road.

Under the new zoning, cottage industries — anything from a candy store to a weaving studio — would have to follow rules set by square footage.

Cottage industries with up to 6,000 square feet of enclosed floor area are allowed by right with a site plan review. Cottage industries between 6,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet may be allowed with a special permit by the Planning Board.

The new rules keep the 15 employees and 50 customers stipulation.

Barten said the changes aren’t meant to inhibit economic development, but to give the town some control.

Home-based businesses are allowed if it is considered a secondary use from the residence.

What differentiates the two types of businesses is home-based is not expected to have customers.

Copies of the full proposal are available at the Town Office on Main Street or at the town website under the Planning Board’s page at www.townofconway.com or by calling Poland at 413-369-6007.

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