LETTER: PLANNING BOARD NEEDS DIVERSITY OF OUTLOOK IN ITS MEMBERSHIP

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Editors’ Note:  This letter appeared previously in The Daily Hampshire Gazette

Praise to the Daily Hampshire Gazette for giving coverage (two articles in five days – 1/21 and 1/25) to the Planning Board appointment process.  I was one of three candidates publicly interviewed, my second interview for a Planning Board opening in less than one year. The person chosen, Douglas Marshall, by many measures is well qualified and a good choice.  However, in the interest of an informed citizenry, strong public engagement, and a belief that a collision of competing and contradictory ideas leads to better outcomes, I offer the following points for consideration by the current Planning Board, town administrators, especially the Town Manager, town planners, Town Councilors, as well as concerned and engaged citizens. 

First, the regulatory function of the Planning Board ought to be secondary to its Planning- Master Plan function.  It is clear from both State Guidelines and the Master Plan itself that the creation, maintenance, and implementation of the Master Plan should be broad, inclusive and ongoing.  The selection guidelines for this new Planning Board Member were strongly biased toward the regulatory function. Monitoring updating and implementing the Master Plan has taken a backseat to large building projects.

Second, the meaningful inclusion of competing and contradictory ideas leads to better outcomes.

Third, the unrecognized potential of small scale, incremental, organic growth is inhibited, certainly not favored by our current regulatory forms.  

Fourth, the unrecognized potential that owner occupancy has for the difficult and elusive goals of affordability and diversity demands our attention and assistance. Encouraging owner occupied duplexes and triplexes will add units that are more affordable than recent units.  Equally important owner occupancy provides a way for middle income working class families to afford to live in Amherst.

Fifth, include idealism.  What would Emily Dickenson or Robert Frost think?

When I hear the sound of cars
I feel the presence of cars
When I hear the sound of birds
I feel the presence of birds
Feng Shui means wind and water
Close your eyes – Think about wind
Quiet you mind – Think about water
With closed eyes and quiet mind
Think about Amherst

Robert Greeney

Robert Greeney is a 26 year resident of Amherst, Professor of Physics at HCC, and an avid amateur potter, poet, painter, and photographer.

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