The following letter was sent to members of the Amherst Town Council on December 17, 2021
You reportedly plan to vote on Monday, December 20, on whether to change the zoning of the town parking lot that is catercorner behind the downtown Amherst CVS. The proposed change would permit the construction of a 4-story parking garage on that town lot.
I have seen nothing to indicate the response of either of the abutters — the owner of the CVS, and St. Bridget’s Church – to this proposed parking garage. The Town lot is narrow. Construction will require temporary easements from both abutters. Are the CVS owner and St. Bridgit’s prepared to grant these? Town Councilors: Do you know?
The CVS lot, also, is narrow. If the CVS delivery trucks no longer have space enough to turn around, can the CVS itself even remain open? Town Councilors: Do you know?
Furthermore, the downtown CVS stocks an unusually wide array of groceries. It provides food shopping for the many elderly Amherst residents who live downtown, but who do not drive. If the parking garage makes the CVS close, where and how will they get groceries? How will they get their prescriptions filled? Town Councilors: Do you know?
Since I moved here in 1999, downtown Amherst has lost its shoe store, music store, art gallery, antique consignment store, jewelry and gift store, a book store, and more. Some gave way to charmless dormitories. There are ever fewer reasons for year-round Amherst residents to go downtown. There are ever more reasons why we must trek to the malls or Northampton to supply this or that need. If we lost the downtown CVS, as well, our downtown Amherst amenities would take yet another hit.
We were promised that a Town Council would be more responsive than Town Meeting. Please therefore postpone this vote. Investigate thoroughly how a 4-story garage on this Town lot would affect its next-door neighbors, the CVS and St. Bridget’s Church. I do not know the owner of the CVS. I am not a parishioner of St. Bridget’s. Yet I do not hesitate to say: you owe the CVS owner, St. Bridget’s, Amherst’s elderly who live downtown, and your other year-round constituents this much.
Sarah McKee has lived in Amherst for more than 20 years. She is a former President of the Jones Library Trustees, and is a member of the D.C. Bar.