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The Berkshire Waldorf High School aims to begin renovation this month following its purchase of the historic Old Town Hall on the Village Green in Stockbridge from the First Congregational Church. The $6.25 million project would retrofit the 1839 building into classrooms, offices and a community room. The Planning Board has now approved the necessary special permits for the project. CLARENCE FANTO — EAGLE CORRESPONDENT

STOCKBRIDGE — The Planning Board has cleared the way for converting the former Old Town Hall on the Village Green for use by the Berkshire Waldorf High School.
It’s the final green light for the school’s $6,250,000 project to relocate from its cramped quarters on Pine Street by September 2025.
At a public hearing this week, the board voted unanimously to approve special permits exempting the school from normal parking requirements.
“It’s great to have a school on that property that has sat empty for so long,” Planning Board Chair Kate Fletcher said. Town offices were relocated to the former Stockbridge Plain School at 50 Main St. in 2007.
The First Congregational Church has owned the West Main Street land for nearly 200 years and has leased the building to the town for more than 100 years. Berkshire Waldorf will acquire the land and building for $250,000. At the closing, the church will take a low-interest, 20-year note for that amount.
Under the purchase and sale agreement with the church, the school will own the building and the land footprint.
Appearing before the Planning Board’s public hearing earlier this week, the school’s attorney, Lori Robbins, pointed out that the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals has already granted a variance exempting the site from the town bylaws’ normal frontage and setback requirements.

rendering of lab classroom
Initial plans for the new Berkshire Waldorf High School at the Old Town Hall in Stockbridge call for at least six classrooms, offices and other spaces for students and staff in the renovated space. Now that the Planning Board has issued the necessary special permits, the school is expected to close on its purchase of the 1839 building this month, with a total project cost of $6,250,000. RENDERING PROVIDED BY STEPHEN SAGARIN

But exceptions to the town’s off-street parking rules are up to the Planning Board, Robbins said.
She noted that as since the school is a nonprofit educational corporation, state law would prevent the town from “unduly regulating” educational or church purposes.
Town Administrator Michael Canales confirmed that Building Inspector Matthew Kollmer had examined Berkshire Waldorf’s nonprofit corporate documents and has confirmed that “the school is entitled to the protection” of the state law commonly known as the Dover Amendment.
The state adopted the provision in 1950 following a zoning dispute in the Norfolk County town of Dover that originated in 1933.
Since the Old Town Hall has a 186-seat auditorium for community meetings, the town bylaw normally would require 62 parking spaces, instead of the 22 available slots directly adjoining the building that would house the school.
As a result, Robbins said, the adjoining First Congregational Church has agreed to share an additional 36 spaces with the school. The church and the school have agreed on a shared driveway easement and parking agreement that includes spaces used seasonally by the Stockbridge Golf Club.
The school needs parking only when it is in session four days a week from September to June, while the church’s activities are on weekends, and the golf course operates only in the summer. There’s a total of 114 parking slots on the property serving the church, the golf club and the Old Town Hall building that will house Berkshire Waldorf High School.

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“This is a perfect arrangement for a school’s use,” Robbins said, since it does not interfere with the needs of the golf club or the church. The agreement provides “a very desirable educational use,” she said, while removing the “white elephant” Old Town Hall’s maintenance requirements from the town.
She asked the town planners to grant a special permit to reduce in the number of parking spaces required for Berkshire Waldorf in view of the shared agreement with the church, as well as a special permit wiping out normal setback requirements.
Robbins said the proposed use of the former town hall as a school is by right, and that proposed reduction in parking spaces conforms with the public’s convenience “because it’s in the town’s interest to continue to support educational use.”
Dennis Egan, the attorney for the First Congregational Church, said the church has been working cooperatively with the school and has approved the shared parking agreement.