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Zoning proposal to create downtown destination point

Date: 11/15/2013

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM – A new zoning proposal seeks to create a multi-purpose area that should attract residents with its offerings and convenience.

A proposed ordinance seeks to create a Mixed Use Business C District in the Walnut Street Extension area. The zone would run from the intersection of Suffield and Springfield Streets to Dave’s Soda and Pet City in the Agawam Towne Square and over to the former Games and Lanes building. Currently, the district has both Business A and Industrial zoning. The new zone would create enable a combination of mostly commercial and residential establishments.

“The proposed zoning relaxes the dimension restrictions, allowing people to maximize the use of properties,” Deborah Dachos, director of Planning & Community Development, said. She stated that property owners would still have to meet all building codes as well as side yard and parking lot guidelines.

The proposed ordinance states, “The purpose of this ordinance is to foster a greater opportunity for creative development by providing guidelines which encourage a mix of uses compatible with existing and neighboring properties; to provide housing and business uses in locations where a variety of town services are available; to promote utilization of existing buildings and property, and to encourage the provision of open areas.”

Dachos explained that the goal of the proposal is to create a Downtown Business District that is a destination point for residents. She stressed the importance of making the district “pedestrian friendly” to promote the use of it by providing an ease of access.

Dachos stated that the zoning would create structures where businesses occupied the ground floors and residences would be available on the second floors. Presently, they are not many two-story buildings in the district, but Dachos said the town would “encourage” additions of an additional floor to the existing buildings.

Dollar General, the newest addition to the Agawam Towne Square, was announced earlier this month. According to Mayor Richard Cohen’s office, the company has signed a 10-year lease and will have a 10,000 square-foot store. The store will join the Salvation Army Family Store, NAPA Auto Parts, Slot Car Speedway and U.S. Taekwondo. A YMCA Family Health and Wellness Center is also slated to open in the center.

Dachos plans to host workshops with the City Council on the proposal over the coming weeks. She said if the zoning proposal were approved, she would then enter Phase 2 of the project where she would apply for a District Local Technical Assistance Grant from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to help create expanded parking for the area.

Dachos said that the town is currently waiting for a final report of the condition of the Games and Lanes building before it can proceed with its cleanup. She added that the development of the Walnut Street Extension was identified as a priority area in the town’s 2010 Outgrowth of Economic Development Plan.