Letter: Plan First, Zoning Second

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Editor’s note:  The following letter was sent to the Amherst Town Council, Town Manager, and Planning Department on March 19, 2021.

I am very pleased to hear that a Moratorium on new construction will be discussed by on Monday, March 22.  For over a year, many in the community have been asking to please PLAN first, and make zoning changes SECOND.  Hearing recently that the Planning Department has requested funding to hire consultants for good “Downtown” Vision design standards, it is especially important to adopt a Moratorium that allows time for this to happen; it would be ineffective and unconstructive to allow development to proceed prior to gaining that shared Vision of our Town.  With new development proposals coming forward as we speak, creating breathing room for the planning to occur is critical.

There are over 10 zoning changes under consideration at this time, placing great demand on Town Staff time, yet without any consensus on a Vision of what we are trying to achieve. With a Vision in place, we then have a basis by which all zoning changes can be reviewed – does a given change support the Vision or is it detrimental?

I strongly support a Moratorium of sufficient length to allow this big picture planning to finally occur!  Our Boards and Departments will then have clearer and stronger guidelines for decision-making, since their zoning-based allowances, waivers, and other considerations shape projects which will stand beyond our lifetimes!  Let’s provide them stronger tools so that new construction contributes to the aesthetic quality of life in Amherst, adds affordable housing, provides sufficient parking, and contributes to making Amherst a place to visit and spend time. 

Thank you for considering support of a Moratorium to achieve these goals.

Pamela Rooney

Pamela Rooney was a member of the Amherst Planning Board from 2000 to 2006. She is a Registered Landscape Architect and Assistant Director of Campus Planning at UMass Amherst.

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