ZBA Continues Hearing on Supportive Housing at 132 Northampton Road

Aerial rendering of proposed affordable housing project at 132 Northampton Road. Photo:amherstma.gov

Report On the Meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals (10/7/20)

The meeting was held as a Zoom webinar and was recorded. 

Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals: Steven Judge (Chair), Tammy Parks, Joan O’Meara, Dillon Maxfield, Keith Langsdale
Town Staff: Maureen Pollock (Planner), Rob Morra ( Zoning Enforcement Office/Building Inspector), John Witten (Town Attorney) 

This meeting was a continuation of the public hearing for affordable studio apartments at 132 Northampton Road. (See here, here, here, and here for reporting on previous hearings.)

The Board discussed making this property non-smoking and, if not, the best location for a smoking area. Valley CDC provided two alternatives in response to questions raised by the ZBA on September 25: 1) a bench, screened by fencing and plantings, in front of the building and 15 feet from the sidewalk; and 2) a covered, freestanding pavilion with seating to the west of the building, 25 feet away, adjacent to an Amherst College parking lot. By a straw vote (4-1), the ZBA preferred the second option. Langsdale voted against that location, preferring the bench because it would be a deterrent to residents’ smoking.

In answer to questions about creating a non-smoking property vs. providing a designated smoking area, Valley CDC noted that neighbors will object to cigarette smoke emanating from the public way if residents are not allowed to smoke on the property and use the sidewalk instead. As part of the lease agreement, smoking in nonsmoking areas can be enforced but Valley CDC has found that eviction hasn’t usually been necessary as tenants tend to “police” each other to avoid evictions.

The rest of the meeting consisted of a discussion of the waivers requested by Valley CDC. The ZBA received a long document from Valley CDC on the day of the meeting, but no one on the board had time to read it. Therefore, the chair read it line by line at the meeting.

The vote will occur at the next ZBA meeting, October 15 at 6 p.m. Conditions on the Special Permit will also be determined at that meeting.

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