Editor’s note: This letter was sent to the Amherst Town Council on March 4.
I am writing about something which has troubled me since it was announced.
Doug Marshall, one of the town’s new Planning Board members, also works as a Capital Project Manager and Planner for UMass. Since the Town and the University’s interests don’t always coincide, and more than occasionally are actually at odds, isn’t this a clear conflict of interest? Merely to recuse himself from matters directly involving UMass seems to be inadequate since I would argue almost everything before the Planning Board has some sort of impact on the University. In Mr. Marshall’s managerial position at UMass, he is undoubtedly aware of University housing needs that could be satisfied by “unlocking” certain zoning restrictions in Town, which might not be in the best interests of off-campus residential neighborhoods.
Certainly, being employed by UMass is not grounds in itself for disqualification to serve on our Planning Board, but being a professional planner for UMass does. Mr. Marshall could serve on any number of the town’s other boards and committees, but not on the Planning Board.
Did this come up when Mr. Marshall’s name came before the Council? Was any legal authority consulted before his appointment was approved?
Seems to me that Mr. Marshall can plan for the University or can plan for the Town, but he can’t do both.
Steve Bloom is former Chair of the Lincoln-Sunset Local Historical District Study Committee and a former member of Amherst Town Meeting and the Local Historic District Commission.