NEW TIME AND DATE, JUNE 24 at 6:30, FOR PUBLIC HEARING ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Home at 132 Northampton Road Amherst, purchased by the Valley Community Development Corporation for a proposed renovation into a building with 28 affordable units.

Amherst Town Council voted 12-0-1 (Darcy Dumont, District 5, abstaining) at a special meeting of the council on Monday June 10, to change the time, date, location, and format of a public forum  on borrowing $500,000 for the Northampton Road Affordable Housing Project at 132 Northampton Road, which had originally been scheduled for June 18.

The forum will now take the form of a public hearing (under Section 8.1 of the town charter) at the Bangs Center at 6:30 on Monday, June 24. The motion to change the form and date was made by Council President Lynn Griesemer (District 2). The proposed format of the meeting is:

Call to Order

Formal Presentations

1. Nate Buddington, Chair, Community Preservation Act Committee (5 min)

2. Valley Community Development Corporation (Valley CDC), which owns the property (20 min)

3. John Hornick, Amherst Affordable Housing Trust (5 min)

4. Neighbors and Abutters in Opposition to the Project (30 min)

5. Public Comment

6. Topics not anticipated by the chair 48 hours in advance of meeting.

Griesemer noted that members of the public may submit additional proposals for formal (Power Point) presentations, if they do so well in advance of the hearing and if time constraints at the hearing permit them.  Public comments are typically limited to three minutes/speaks at town council meetings and public forums.

Griesemer said  that she proposed the new format and date after a group of neighbors and abutters opposing the project objected to the earlier concept, a forum reportedly facilitated by a professional facilitator from Vermont. The rescheduled meeting will be chaired by Griesemer, who noted that although those in opposition to the project did not formally petition for a public hearing, they collected a substantial number of signatures on a petition opposing the project, and that the public hearing format seems appropriate, is acceptable to those in opposition, and is allowed under the charter. District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, who represents the district where the affordable housing would be located, noted that “we’re trying to find a format that works” and that “the aim is to let people be heard and ideas be aired.”


At-large Councilor Alissa Brewer noted that the council has received substantial correspondence on the proposed project and asked about the availability of those emails. Griesemer responded that emails to the council are public documents and will be made available.
The council will vote on the proposal on Juy 21 or 22. Valley CDC reported that this delay will not have an adverse effect on proposed borrowing for the project. . A comprehensive summary of the project, its history, and responses to it can be found here.

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4 thoughts on “NEW TIME AND DATE, JUNE 24 at 6:30, FOR PUBLIC HEARING ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING

  1. This project has been years in the making and represents successful collaboration and thoughtful planning among an array of departments, committees and constituencies. It will cost the town next to nothing (aside from debt service on a good faith bond) and will use community preservation act funds ($500,000) to leverage a $4 million contribution from the state. It will provide affordable units that are desperately needed. This project is an exemplar of good government at work. If you believe in affordable housing and if you like good government, please show up on the 24th and lend your voice in support of this project.

  2. This is a very odd agenda, in which residents in opposition to the proposal have 30 minutes allotted to them, whereas there is no similar block of time provided for the many more in town who support this proposal. (Item 5, public comment will be much more tightly limited and you can be sure opponents will attempt to use that time too.) Although those in opposition present themselves as “neighbors” and “abutters” the vast majority of them do not fit the normal definition of either of these words, many living out of sight and sound of 132 Northampton Road. Nor do they represent everyone in their neighborhoods. People should ask why the Council is privileging one perspective and essentially creating a format that will make opposition to the project appear more significant than it really is?

  3. The first 3 presentations, totaling 30 minutes, will be pure advocacy for the SRO proposal. Therefore an equal time was given to those opposing the proposal in its current form, so a similarly extended and illustrated presentation could be given. Thus there is no privileging of one perspective. Those giving this formal presentation do not claim to represent everyone in the neighborhood, including others who oppose the proposal in its current form, but the neighbors were asked to develop up to 30 minutes of formal presentation, and some of us wound up agreeing to do that.

    Just to note the general climate on this issue, one of the neighbors who would have been a better presenter than I decided she could not do it because of multiple very hostile messages she received, containing truly hateful epithets directed at her, which came from an appointed member of a Town board. I have seen these messages.

    It’s unfortunate that the title of the presentations might imply opposition to any affordable housing at 132 Northampton Road. That’s not the case – I and many others object to specific aspects of the proposal; I personally assume that there will eventually be affordable housing at 132 Northampton Road. In fact we already have a Valley CDC development close to those of us who live near the Amity St. end of Dana or Blue Hills – the cluster of houses on Charles Lane. It’s just part of the neighborhood. So, I understand the powerful feelings in favor of the current proposal for this site, but give us a chance to make our case. There will be ample time after the presentations for 3-minute comments on both sides of the issue.

    – Steve George

  4. I am offering this comment derived from information I have gleaned from participating in at least three Ch. 40B ZBA Special Permit panels. (and attended many sessions over 40 years of similar public hearings.)
    A developer of affordable housing is not required to restrict the leasing of units to people who live or work in Amherst. However, depending on the source of financing, some projects can request local preference such that up to 70% of the units in the first lottery be restricted to local people. After the first lottery, when these units are vacated, new tenants are the next in line on the wait list, usually people who reside in the greater Springfield area from which the Area Median Income (AMI) eligibility is derived.

    I ask that the proponents of the affordable units ensure that as many of the units as legally permissible be reserved for people who live and work here already. Otherwise, we will never have enough affordable units for our residents while letting our neighboring towns off the hook for providing their 10% affordable units.

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