Planning Board Approves Temporary Structures At Survival Center And High School

Photo: Art Keene

Report on the Planning Board Meeting of 9/2/20 

The meeting was held via Zoom webcast. A recording of the meeting can be viewed here


  • New members take seats on Planning Board
  • Temporary structures approved for the Survival Center and High School
  • Zoning Subcommittee placed on hiatus

Participants: New members Andrew MacDougall and Thom Long joined Jack Jemsek (Acting Chair), Maria Chao, Janet McGowan, and Doug Marshall (new member Johanna Neumann was absent). Staff: Chris Brestrup (Planner) and Pam Field Sadler (Assistant)

Temporary Shed at the Survival Center
The Planning Board quickly approved a request by the Amherst Survival Center(ASC) to erect a temporary shelter in its parking lot in order to continue its lunch-to-go service during the colder months. ASC Finance director Kara Schnell presented the proposal. The current tent being used for this service is inadequate during inclement weather. Due to the need for social distancing and the greatly increased need for services, the inside space at the Survival Center is totally taken up by the expanded pantry. Only staff and volunteers would be in the temporary shelter; meals will be prepared in the industrial kitchen at the Center. Patrons would pick up their lunches between 12 noon and 3 p.m. from outside the Center’s garage doors. During the pandemic the food pantry has been serving 25–30 households per day, with delivery service to 700 households per month. About 225–250 to-go lunches are served every day.

Since the shelter would only be used from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., no lighting would be necessary; no electricity or heat is planned. The Planning Board did place a condition on the approval: that the Center return in one year’s time to indicate whether the shelter was still needed (to ensure that it does not remain after indoor service is resumed).

Tents at the High School
School Committee member Ben Herrington presented a plan to erect three large tents to the north side of the High School, where modular classrooms are being dismantled. These 30×30-foot open-sided tents would be used for outdoor classes, especially for one-on-one instruction in good weather. They would be removed in the winter, but might be needed again in the spring. The proposal was approved unanimously with the condition that the tents be removed in 18 months unless the applicant returns to request an extension.

Applebrook Cluster Subdivision
Attorney Tom Reidy stated that the developer has agreed to a switch of Lot 16 for Lot 7 in the subdivision; Lot 7 will be held from sale until the roads are finished, which Town Engineer Jason Skeels estimated will cost $58,000. The developer plans to complete the roads this fall, at which time Lot 7 will be released for sale.

Zoning Subcommittee
With the Community Resource Committee of the Town Council (CRC) planning to take over rewriting the Zoning Bylaw, Zoning Subcommittee (ZSC) Chair Maria Chao stated that she does not see a need for the subcommittee to exist. In fact, she said, the work the subcommittee did in the fall and winter was all for naught; every time they came forward with ideas, the Town Council changed its plans.. She suggested that the subcommittee be placed on hiatus. MacDougall questioned why the CRC was more relevant to zoning than the Planning Board. Only one member of the CRC, Steve Schreiber, has ever served on the Planning Board. 

McGowan pointed out that the ZSC welcomes members of the public to participate in its meetings and has planned an area on the Town website to gather feedback on zoning issues. In contrast, although the CRC meetings are open to the public, they are held at 2 PM on weekdays, which makes it unlikely that the public at large can attend, and they also limit the time allotted for public input. 

McGowan will work on the flowchart about how the Planning Board will communicate with the CRC. Brestrup said the Town has allocated $40,000 for a consultant to advise on downtown zoning. She has requested another $60,000, but is unsure whether the current financial picture in Amherst will allow it to be granted. 

At the next Planning Board Meeting, to be held on September 16, the Board will decide on the liaisons to the various relevant committees. The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 PM. 

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1 thought on “Planning Board Approves Temporary Structures At Survival Center And High School

  1. No Planning Board member has yet been nominated or assigned to be the Planning Board representative at CRC meetings. This is a correction to the above story. Thank you.

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