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Local lawyer objects to ATM in Urban Renewal zone

Recorder/File Photo
Florence Savings Bank ATM at Main Street and Bank Row.

Recorder/File Photo Florence Savings Bank ATM at Main Street and Bank Row. Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — A local lawyer is fighting a Florence Savings Bank automatic teller machine that was recently installed outside of Greenfield Coffee on the corner of Bank Row and Main Street, saying he believes it does not meet town regulations and is a “crass” addition to the corner of a busy intersection.

John Stobierski of Greenfield’s Stobierski and Stobierski, who has practiced law statewide for more than two decades, said an ATM of that size with a large awning does not belong in that location, and he’s hoping the town will do something about it.

“It’s wrong,” said Stobierski. “I practice at 377 Main St., so I’m an abutter of the abutters, and I never even got a notice that it was going in. I usually get a notice from someone when something like that is going to happen on this block. The project never went through any type of permitting process with the town.”

Stobierski said he started doing some research after the ATM appeared and found that no permits had been issued by the town.

“I went to Mark Snow (Greenfield’s building inspector) and found that no permits had been issued,” he said. “Then, I checked with the licensing board and found that it hadn’t issued any permits either.”

“The ATM was just plunked down on the sidewalk and that was that — it hangs over into a public way,” he said. “I don’t believe it is in accordance with Greenfield zoning ordinances or building codes.”

Snow, in a letter to Stobierski, said there are no setback requirements in the town’s Central Commercial District unless something like the ATM abuts a residential zone. That is not the case at the Bank Row-Main Street location.

Snow said the roof canopy is regulated by the building code and is considered a sign, so he sent a letter to Jordi Herold, owner of the property where the ATM is located, telling him he will have to go before the Planning Board with the change he made to the site.

He said Herold has submitted applications for the permits he needs and those are currently under review.

According to town regulations, canopies that hang over the public way must be permitted.

“What I’m doing is my pro bono gift to the town,” said Stobierski. “I’m doing all the legal work to figure this out.”

Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner said her board did the site plan review. She said the board and the Greenfield Redevelopment Authority, which has an interest in that property because it is also located in the town’s Urban Renewal District, will hold a joint meeting Aug. 22 to hear Stobierski’s concerns.

“At this time we have no plans to do anything about it, but we will hear his concerns and then decide,” said Wedegartner.

Stobierski said he is concerned that if that ATM is allowed to stay there as is, all building owners could put similar items in front of their stores.

“How would that look up and down Main Street?” he asked.

Stobierski said he is looking at the title to the building and the boundaries of the property.

“I don’t believe it’s following zoning ordinances, and even if it is, are we going to allow building owners to claim four feet of sidewalk?” he asked.

Stobierski said he is not “picking on” Florence Savings Bank — he said he has several good friends who work there. It is the large, distracting machine that bothers him and others he has talked to.

“We don’t want to degrade our sidewalks, we want to upgrade them,” he said.

Stobierski said Florence Savings Bank has offered to make the ATM more attractive, but that’s not the issue.

“Once you let a building owner claim a chunk of a public sidewalk, there’s going to be chaos,” said Stobierski.

Herold, who recently renovated three rundown buildings on Bank Row and won two historic preservation awards from the state for doing so, said he has always had the town’s “best interest” at heart.

Herold’s lawyer, Thomas Lesser of Lesser, Newman and Nasser LLP in Northampton, said the property on which the ATM is located is owned by Herold, so he has the right to keep it there.

“There were tables there before the ATM and no one complained,” said Lesser. “I think he doesn’t like the way the ATM looks.”

The town’s Planning Board and GRA will meet to discuss the issue with Stobierski on Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the meeting room in 114 Main St.

Wedgartner said it will not be a public hearing, but the meeting will be open to the public.

I agree that the ATM is unsightly, but shouldn’t it have been mentioned that this gentleman’s wife and partner is on the Board of Directors of Greenfield Savings Bank? How is that not relevant? Why not do some journalism?

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