WILLIAMSTOWN -- Residents are invited to an open meeting Tuesday, at 7 p.m., to discuss proposed zoning changes for two sections of town.
The Planning Board is proposing a bylaw for town meeting to eliminate the Tourist Business District designation that two sections of town currently carry. Both sections would be rezoned under other existing zoning designations. In addition, the current uses allowed in the tourist district will be allowed in the existing zone Rural Residential Three (RR3).
Planning Board chair Ann McCallum said the tourist district zone no longer suits the area.
"Back in the days where we had tomahawk shops it was a viable idea," she said.
Under the proposed bylaw, a section of Cold Spring Road between Bee Hill Road and the Taconic Trail will be rezoned as RR3. In addition, properties on a stretch of North Street zoned under the tourist district will be rezoned as Limited Business District.
McCallum said a major reason behind the proposal is empty buildings on Cold Spring Road. Currently, the tourist district zone allows businesses such as hotels, restaurants, gift shops, antique shops and craft dealers.
However, the current zone doesn't allow residential use on the lower floor of a building, which McCallum said precludes many buildings for residential use.
In addition, McCallum said there hasn't been enough people looking to open businesses along this corridor.
"We're hoping that by allowing more uses for that district, those buildings can go back into a useful life," she said. "We debated different ways of dealing with this because we want to allow the motels to stay."
McCallum stressed the board wants to maintain the current rural atmosphere along Cold Spring Road.
"Buildings along there have much longer frontage requirements and setbacks to try to keep development there few and far between and to not tax the [sewer] system," she said.
Town Planner Andrew Groff said development in this area is limited by several factors. The topography can be difficult to build on, he said. In addition, the existing sewer line is low capacity. All of this means there won't be much expansion there, he said.
On North Street, the tourist district zone will be expanded slightly and be rezoned as Limited Business District. The new designation would continue to prohibit first-floor residential use, McCallum said, but explained the rezoning will allow more opportunities for business in this section of town.
McCallum said letters have been sent to property owners in the areas inviting them to Tuesday's meeting to voice any concerns or express interest.
"Before we make it a bylaw that will be voted on at town meeting, we want to hear what people have to say," she said.
To reach Edward Damon, email