Legal concerns prevents Holyoke’s YMCA zone changes

The City Council voted it down 11 to 4

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – “We have a situation that is really unfortunate on both sides,” said Holyoke Planning Board Chair MiMi Panitch.

The Greater Holyoke YMCA was looking to expand, hoping to build a parking lot across from their Pine Street building. They applied for the zone change back in 2011, but Tuesday night the City Council ultimately voted it down, 11 to 4.

The decision upset residents. Colleen Bresnahan of Holyoke told 22News, “The Y is a staple of our community; it is really an institution that has brought so many people together.”

Right now the Y has more than 4-thousand members, but only 73 parking spaces. It’s put them in a “tough spot.” According to Holyoke YMCA CEO Kathy Viens, “We invested $3.5-million worth of capital funds into this new facility and when we did that, we knew we were creating an issue for parking.”

Viens said she made that investment partly because former city leaders assured her the zone change wouldn’t be a problem. However, now there’s new administration that found the zone change “unwarranted,” that if granted, the city could have faced legal action.

“I think based on what reading I’ve done, this would constitute as an illegal spot zone, which would expose the city to liability if we went forward with it,” said Panitch.

The council said this vote has nothing to do with whether they support the Y’s programs. It’s unclear now what the YMCA plans to do next to handle their lack of parking.

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