North Common parking lot. Fifteen of these spaces will be lost with the design adopted for remodeling the Common. Photo: Art Keene


This was a lengthy meeting of almost five hours.  


  • Extensive discussion of the downtown improvement plan that includes a parking garage, a band shell on the south common and considerable remodeling of the north common.
  • Approval of the revision of the Town’s General Bylaws mandated by the new charter.
  • Extensive discussion of parking problems on Lincoln Avenue. Council agreed  to collect information from neighbors, town staff and Transportation Advisory Committee and use that information to formulate an action plan and schedule a public hearing on that plan.
  • Appointment of Douglas Marshall to the Planning Board.
  • Approval of performance goals for the Town Manager.

The Four Towns Meeting will be held at the Middle school on Saturday, February 1 at 9 AM.  

There will then be a reading of a proclamation for Black History Month on the steps of Town Hall at 1 PM on Saturday, February 1. 

General Public Comment
Vince O’Connor, a resident of Summer Street, requested that Amherst’s Police Department be evaluated for and trained to prevent differential treatment of minorities, as racism is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s political climate.  

Amy Zuckerman  a resident of The Boulders, shared her concern about the unsafe fire safety conditions at her complex, noting  lack of proper signs and maps to exits.

House Bill 2810 – Green Infrastructure
The Council voted unanimously to support the Massachusetts House Bill 2810 to promote green infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions and issued a proclamation in support of the bill.   

Downtown Improvement Plan
Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Assistant Manager David Ziomek,  Amherst Business Improvement Director Gabrielle Gould, and outgoing Economic Development Director Geoff Kravitz presented a first look at a plan for improving the town center.  This presentation is not on the town web site, but can be viewed on the Amherst Media recording of the meeting  (from about the 15 minute mark to the 1 hour and 40 minute mark).  In addition to the Kendrick Park playground which is already in the planning stage, they proposed a performing arts band shell for the South Common.  The BID is working on a design and would like to raise one million dollars for the project. Plans were also revealed for the remodeling of the North Common to improve drainage, add walkways and seating, deal with aging trees, and create a gathering place in front of Town Hall.  There would be a loss of 11 parking spaces with this plan. The final Town Meeting approved funding to begin this project. The fourth facet of the downtown improvement plan would be a privately financed parking structure, to be constructed on the town-owned part of the parking lot behind CVS. It will ideally  provide 200 parking spaces in place of the 70 currently at the site. (see also an article on the proposed garage in The Daily Hampshire Gazette). Preliminary plans will be presented to the Council in February and March for the performing arts structure and April and May for the North Common and the Parking garage.

There were many comments from councilors and the public on these proposals.  Councilor Cathy Schoen (District 1) wished to see a complete accounting of the costs of the projects and how they would affect the other proposed capital projects.  Councilor Shalini Bahl-Milne (District 5) commented that a public performance space would likely encourage diversity and inclusion. Councilor Alisa Brewer (at large) hoped that there would be a maintenance fund to maintain and improve the structures built.  Councilor Steve Schreiber (District 4) and Councilor Evan Ross (District 4) thought there never should have been parking on the North Common and were pleased to see the parking area reduced. Councilor Dorothy Pam (District 3) felt that Kendrick Park would be a better place for the band shell.

Opinions on the North Common remodeling were mixed.  David Mazor who owns buildings across the street was appalled that the town would consider reducing the size of the busiest parking lot in town. Sharon Povenelli , co-owner of Hastings, and Jeremy Austin of  J.Austin were enthusiastic about the proposed improvements. Povenelli stated, “Hide parking and promote parks.” Carol Johnson, Executive Director of Amherst Cinema said that parking is the number one concern of cinema patrons.  The cinema brings 2000 people to downtown every week. O’Connor expressed hope that the parking garage would provide more than the net 33 spaces for the $6million spent on the Boltwood structure. He also warned about the effects of the five story buildings downtown with minimal or no parking.  The latest is the Spring Street project which does not even have handicapped or zip car parking.

Council President, Lynn Griesemer (District 2) will be soliciting comments from the councilors about these projects.

Bylaws Review
The second reading of the proposed General Bylaws produced a discussion regarding several sections that were targeted for revision by councilors. The new version was passed 11-0-2 (Schoen and Darcy DuMont (District 5 abstaining).   Topics slated for future consideration were referred to the Governance, Organization and Legislation Committee (GOL) for further discussion. These involve the Condominium and Cooperative conversion bylaw, the regulation of signs and the Responsible Employer for public construction projects, which would require contractors to put in writing that they will obey labor laws.  DuMont requested strengthening of the ban on single use plastic bags, and Mandi-Jo Hanneke (at large) proposed eliminating snow blowers, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers from the noise bylaw. The Bylaws committee was then dissolved by unanimous vote.

Lincoln Avenue Parking
There was a lengthy discussion about parking on Lincoln Avenue.  Residents had brought a petition to the December 16 meeting of the Council,  addressing dangerous conditions caused by parking on the street by those commuting to the University of Massachusetts along with the added traffic crearted by those wishing to avoid the downtown.  Griesemer proposed a public hearing regarding this topic for the February 24 council meeting. However, Brewer objected to calling a public hearing when there was no definite plan to discuss. The residents want to ban parking on the street during the day, and town staff have also formulated a plan to address parking on Lincoln Avenue but no one plan has been formally proposed.  The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) has not discussed the matter. Brewer stated that traffic on Lincoln was taken up by the Select Board in 2015, and the town staff’s proposed plan was found unworkable. A motion was made to formulate a plan from recommendations of the residents, the town staff and the TAC at the next council meeting on February 10 with the goal of scheduling a public hearing at a later date.  This proposal passed 8-5, with DeAngelis, Schoen, Hanneke, Andy Steinberg (at large), and George Ryan (District 3) voting no.

Board of License Commissioners
Doug Slaughter presented the Board of License Commissioners report. The report was not discussed in detail.  Slaughter suggested an amendment to the open containers bylaw to permit the sale of alcohol on public property for special events like the Taste of Amherst.  Hadley has permitted such sales at its Asparagus Festival for several years. Several councilors supported this proposal, but Brewer had reservations about giving total discretion to an appointed board with little experience in licensing.  The matter was referred to the GOL Committee.

Town Manager’s Performance Goals
The ad hoc Committee on Town Manager Performance Goals presented their recommendations for a second reading.  The goals were divided into seven headings: strong fiscal management, climate action, long term planning consistent with the town’s long term vision, personnel management, expanding community engagement, economic development, and relationship to the Town Council.  The goals were adopted unanimously, with an amendment to add village centers to the economic development section. The vote on the amendment was 10-1-2 (Sarah Swartz, District 1, against) and (Schoen and Steinberg abstaining).

The Community Resources Committee incorporated the Downtown Parking Working Group’s recommendations into the Town Manager Goals.  These included a staff member dedicated to parking, consistent signage, an updated parking web site, and earmarking of a portion of the Transportation Enterprise Fund revenues for downtown parking. 

Other Committee Work
The Audit committee was dissolved by unanimous vote. Its duties were turned over to the Finance Committee.  Griesemer is working on assigning councilor liaisons to town committees, and will present a list of committees which would benefit from councilor liaisons at the February 10 meeting.  

Planning Board Appointment
The Outreach, Communication and Appointments committed recommended appointment of Douglas Marshall to the Planning Board by a 4 to 0 vote with DuMont abstaining.  DuMont felt she needed more information and wished that there could have been follow up questions in the public group interview on January 22.  She also wished that the applicants could have told what they could add to the Planning Board that was not already represented. Brewer objected to DuMont raising these issues at the council meeting, when, she argued,  they should have been discussed in the committee. DuMont answered that she was explaining her abstaining vote. Marshall’s appointment was approved 11-0-2 with DuMont and Schoen abstaining. 

Town Manager’s Report
The Town Manager’s Report contained the announcement of  Black History Month activities, including the program at the Bang’s Center on February 8 from 11 to 3.  The BID sponsored Winterfest begins this weekend with luminaria on the Common on February 1 from 5-8 PM.  Bockelman is hoping to present a proposal for renovation of the North Amherst library with funds from an anonymous donor at the next meeting.

Minutes of  the January 6 meeting and special meeting were approved.  The meeting adjourned at 11:25 PM

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

The Amherst Indy welcomes your comment on this article. Comments must be signed with your real, full name & contact information; and must be factual and civil. See the Indy comment policy for more information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.