As we are all looking to the Master Plan to guide how we want Amherst to evolve, I’d like to note how often “character of the neighborhood” is mentioned as an essential ingredient of what we hoping to create for our future. Here are a few quotes from the master plan:
1. That our plan should keep Amherst’s community character as a small town
2. Create design standards that ensure new development is in accord with existing neighborhood character
3. Guide new housing growth so as to minimize impact on Amherst‘s small-town rural character.
4. The Amherst community takes pride in the historic character of its developed areas. Even as higher density development occurs, design standards can help to ensure that such new development is in accordance with the character and needs of the community. Design standards can also be used to support the development of well-connected, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhoods.
5. Emphasize preservation (historic areas of the downtown, village centers, and other specific districts and residential neighborhoods
6. New zoning, development/design regulations, and density incentives must take into account the potential impacts of strong student housing pressures, including the issue of absentee landlords.
7. Protecting existing historic character and residential neighborhoods should be built into development standards.
8. Guide new housing growth so as to minimize impact on Amherst’s … small-town rural character. Any new growth in Amherst should be designed to protect … and preserve its existing character.
9. Increase density of residential units in specified areas when strict design and planning guidelines are met. Amherst can develop incentives to encourage developers to adhere to planning and design guidelines.
10. Land Use Policy Map is consistent with decades of community-based planning expressing the community’s preference to preserve and enhance its traditional New England settlement pattern through control of new development.
11. New infill and redevelopment in existing historic downtowns, village centers, and established neighborhoods will have to abide by rigorous and sensitive design and density controls intended to preserve and enhance existing character.
12. Design and landscape standards should be used to ensure that two-family homes reflect the character of the neighborhood and will be more easily accepted by neighboring residents.
13. New zoning, development/design regulations, and density incentives must take into account the potential impacts of strong student housing pressures, including the issues which arise as a result of absentee landlords.
I hope this makes it a little clearer that the Master Plan, from which we are all looking for guidance, is clearly stating this: preserve and protect the character of Amherst neighborhoods. I’d like to also point out that our central business district is, of course, a neighborhood.
Ira Bryck has lived in Amherst since 1993, ran the Family Business Center for 25 years, hosts the Western Mass Business Show on WHMP, coaches and facilitates business leaders, and is a big fan of Amherst’s downtown.