ZBA Approves 28 Affordable Apartments 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 (10/29/30)

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

Participating: Steven Judge, (Chair), Tammy Parks, Craig Meadows,Dillon Maxfield, Keith Langsdale, Sharon Waldman. Staff: Planner Maureen Pollock and Zoning Enforcement Officers/Building Inspectors, Rob Morra, David Waskiewicz

The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) granted a Special Permit to the Valley Community Development Corporation (VCDC) to construct a two and one-half story Victorian style 12,000  sq.ft. apartment building at 132 Northampton Road. The project abuts the parking lot of an Amherst College sports facility. An existing rental house will be demolished.

Two of the 28 studio apartment units are reserved for clients of the Department of Mental Health, ten units are reserved for single homeless people with a maximum income of $17,500, eight for low income tenants earning less than $29,950 and eight for moderate income tenants earning less than $47,850. The low and moderate income units are not subsidized and will carry rents of $740 and $795 respectively. Some of the amenities include a multi-purpose common room, patio area for common use, raised-bed gardens for tenant use, a covered bike rack and covered smoking pavilion.

In public comment before the meeting the homeowner to the East asked again that the trees planted by the Keedy family, the former owner, be removed and replaced by an 8-foot solid fence and landscaping. The developer had agreed to this, but Board member, O’Meara, wanted the trees saved despite their less-than perfect health and stated that this shouldn’t be a cost to the developer.  Parks also wanted to save the trees but felt accommodating the abutter was important. Laura Baker, Real Estate Project Manager of Valley CDC, also wanted to accommodate the abutter, because that family will have to live next to a much more intense use than a single family house. A motion to save the trees failed (4-1-0).

Other issues in the Findings of Fact and Conditions on the permit were whether the property should be smoke-free, the placement of the smoking area, the terms of employment of the Resident Service Coordinator (RSC), and the length of time between granting of the  Special Permit and granting of the temporary occupancy permit (when tenants can move in).  Langsdale moved to locate the smoking area away from the Amherst College parking lot where tents are often erected to the east side but this motion failed, and a motion to make the project smoke-free was not seconded.

A RSC will be on-site 27-30 hours each week to accommodate requests from the abutters. Clients are guaranteed service for twelve months but if they need more time it can be available throughout the entire tenancy.

As for the “no assignment” clause in the agreement, this project will be transferred to a single entity in order to secure financing, a  process which can begin with the granting of this permit. As to the length of time between the granting of the permit and tenant occupancy, three years is allowed by statute, but Valley CDC suggested twenty months after the granting of the building permit for which they can apply when funding is secured and construction documents completed. The clock is now ticking on the 14 day limit for filing the decision with the Town Clerk, after which a 20 day appeal period ensues.

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4 thoughts on “ZBA Approves 28 Affordable Apartments At 132 Northampton Road

  1. …a residential services coordinator will be assigned…”to accommodate the abutters”? hun…? See my comments on above pingback – the ZBA process on this project.

    The Commonwealth’s Board of Licensure will assure that this worker will be qualified to meet the needs of the residents – a la` the position title. No town bd, commission or committee can do this. Let’s hope the Planning Bd and ZBA have been broken in by this process and learned what the role really is…132 Northampton Rd and the Perry are not enough to meet the needs of: 1) the population which serves the wealthy in this town, 2) those who are homeless and, 3) the growing aging demographics. We will see more of these (it is hoped).

    Let’s assist (may B force?) the U to take care of their student’s housing needs. They do not seem so inclined. The U’s Lincoln & N. Amherst projects will not be enough – further pressuring the town. An A.CommunityL.T. member has shown 50% of 50% of our neighborhoods (all over town) is absentee landlord student housing (private home conversion). Let’s hope the middle class (families) have a place in Amherst. The extremes do not make a healthy community. We need diversity to sustain a vibrant town.

    Chad Fuller

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