FINANCE COMMITTEE APPROVES BORROWING FOR NORTHAMPTON ROAD AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECT

Preliminary architectural plans for proposed Valley CDC studio apartment project at 132 Northampton Road, Amherst. Photo: amherst.gov

The Finance Committee (FC) voted 5-0 to recommend borrowing for Valley CDC’s Northampton Road affordable housing project on June 25. The meeting followed a 4-hour public forum the previous evening, held to air community views on the subject. FC Chair Andy Steinberg reviewed the Community Preservation Act (CPA) guidelines for projects and the proposed funding for this project, which authorizes the town to borrow $500,000 as a bond to be paid back over five or ten years through annual CPA appropriations.  The bond will be used to leverage an additional $3.5 million from other sources. 

Sonia Aldrich, Town Comptroller,  reviewed the actual cost to the town and clarified that no money would be borrowed until the project was fully-funded and approved .  By then, the debts for Hawthorne Farm and the town hall masonry project would be retired, which would free up some CPA revenue for other projects.

Kate Sims, a resident of Dana Street, questioned, as she did at the public forum the previous evening,  the cost of the project and whether the money could be better spent. Tim Atteridge of Northampton Road wanted to know if any town tax revenue would be used in addition to CPA funds and objected to using tax dollars to support the project.  Laura Baker of Valley CDC clarified the proposed budget and the money allotted to cover project overruns and other unforeseen costs. Valley CDC is now paying about $60,000/year to cover maintenance and taxes on the property, she said. Aldrish confirmed that only CPA money would be used to fund the town’s share.

After approximately 2 hours of discussion, District 5 Councilor Shalini Bahle-Milne moved to recommend the Valley CDC project to the full council at their July 1 meeting.  Council President and District 2 Councilor Lynn Griesemer seconded, and the motion passed unanimously. Steinberg and District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen will prepare a report stating how the project fits the goals of CPA and what the financial implications are for the town in the short and long term.  The measure requires a two-thirds vote of the full council (9 councilors) to be approved.

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