Here is some good news. In the midst of an effort by many in Amherst to prevent the adoption of several changes in the zoning bylaws that would permit overdevelopment downtown, the Planning Board has recommended against the proposal to remove footnote m from the bylaw. The town announced today that the ongoing discussion between town leaders and community members has revealed that removing footnote m would not result in their stated goals, and would have negative consequences. That will mean that “densification” from construction of too many apartment buildings, townhouses, triplexes, and the resulting overcrowding and harm to housing values, and too many cars where there are too many people is not going to happen in downtown Amherst.
There will still be ways for an owner-occupied property to get some additional rental income, via the already allowed conversion to duplexes or tiny houses in yards (actually called Accessory Dwelling Units).
There are still many other issues to be resolved, including enacting a moratorium, to force the town to temporarily pause issuing building permits so they can study the consequences of more five- story dorms, with all of their problems (no setback, no affordable units, no parking provided, lacking design elements, lacking public spaces) and also explore right-sized development in the north end of downtown,around Triangle Street. Also, yet to be resolved are questions such as what exactly is mixed-use and how do we attract stores, restaurants, offices, and a diverse residential population.
A brief moratorium in issuing new building permits will enable judicious planning for a successful downtown design. The proposal for a moratorium is currently under consideration by the Planning Board, The Community Resources Committee and the Governance, Organization and Legislation Committee, each of which will submit recommendations to the Town Council which will then vote on the issue. Arguments in support of the moratorium can be found here, here here, and here). I encourage registered voters in Amherst to join me in supporting the moratorium by signing the digital petition, asking the Council to vote to adopt it.
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 business leaders, and is a big fan of Amherst’s downtown.