ZBA Continues To Hear Testimony On Supportive Housing Project At 132 Northampton Road

Architects rendering of the proposed supportive housing project at 132 Northampton Road. Photo: amherstma.gov

Report on Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting (8/25/20)

The meeting was held via Zoom webcast and was broadcast on Amherst Media Channel 17. The recording of that meeting can be viewed here. 

Participants: ZBA members: Steven Judge (Chair), Tammy Parks, Joan O’Meara, Dillon Maxfield, Keith Langsdale. Staff: Planners Christine Brestrup and Maureen Pollock, Zoning Enforcement Office/Building Inspector, David Waskiewicz, Attorney Barbara Huggins Carboni, (KPLaw)

The ZBA is still collecting testimony for the residential supportive living building at 132 Northampton Road but expects to be ready to grant a Special Permit under Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 40B after three or four more meetings that will be held in September. Laura Baker and Jane Loechler, representing the developer, Valley Community Development Corporation, answered questions that were posed by the board on August 6.

  1. Regarding snow removal and snow storage in case of a huge storm, Valley CDC proposed using two parking spaces on the north end of the lot farthest from the front door. Most of its properties need about half a parking space per unit. Valley CDC would like to agree to this provisionally until they learn how many parking spaces the new residents will require. If there is more snow than their property can accommodate, they will haul it away.
  2. Valley CDC presented details of the closets in several units of different square footage, and the closets were deemed adequate.
  3. Due to the large number of questions about the placement of the smoking pavilion, Valley CDC decided to make the whole property smoke-free. Dillon Maxfield questioned this decision.
  4. In answer to the many questions that have been asked about how Valley CDC recruits and selects applicants, they said they work with a couple of agencies regularly and also send an email blast to an additional 30 or 40 agencies when they know they will have vacancies. Tenants undergo the usual screening processes regulated by Massachusetts statutes, with a criminal (CORI) check added. Registered sex offenders will not be allowed to occupy the property. The state must approve the Valley CDC’s plan, which runs to more than 60 pages, for advertising and selecting tenants for its affordable units.

The remaining 45 minutes of the meeting was devoted to public comment. Most were in favor of the project, many coming from members of the Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust. One person asked whether any of the units (particularly those designated for homeless persons) would be furnished or whether some agency could help them find the minimal requirements to call their units their homes. (None will be furnished, but furnishings can usually be obtained easily.)

The discussion of the project will be continued on September 10 at 6 p.m. The ZBA meets next on September 3.

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