North Amherst Residents Offer Input At Annual Forum On The Master Plan

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Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Town Council, September 19,2022, Part 2

The annual public forum on the Master Plan, which is required by the Home Rule Charter Section 2.13, was held prior to the regular Town Council meeting on September 19, 2022. Although the public was permitted to be present in person, none attended in person. The meeting was also broadcast on Amherst Media and on Zoom and was recorded. It can be viewed here

Primer On The Master Plan

Prior to the public forum, Planning Director Chris Brestrup gave a summary of the Master Plan and its history.  She said that a Master Plan is required by state law and that Amherst’s plan was developed after 12 years of work by over 1,000 residents from 1998 to 2010. It was adopted by the Planning Board in 2010 and approved by the Town Council in 2020. It is a dynamic document that offers general guidelines on land use, housing, transportation, open space, economic development, resources, and services. Because the charter requires a revised Master Plan to be completed by 2030,  the town should begin work on the next version in 2025.

Public Comments On The Master Plan
Of the 19 people in the Zoom audience, most represented a North Amherst Master Plan Study Group of 15 that met over the previous five weeks to offer recommendations on how the Master Plan can be adapted for current conditions. Steve Dunn said the group, organized by the District One Neighborhood Association (DONA), was composed of people with a diverse set of viewpoints. They produced an eight-page report dealing with areas for development, transportation improvements, design guidelines, affordable housing, and preservation of historical features, farmlands, and neighborhoods. The report notes the increase in housing prices, student rentals, and e-commerce since the last Master Plan was developed.

Cinda Jones, who does not live in North Amherst but is a major property owner in the area, said the group went through the Master Plan chapter by chapter to develop guidelines for what residents want in their town. She hoped other neighborhoods would undertake similar efforts.

Eve Vogel said she appreciated the openness of the dialogue at the meetings. She said that North Amherst is a microcosm of the town as a whole, containing commercial areas, dense residential areas, farmland, and historical industry. She felt many of the recommendations in the report are applicable to all of Amherst.

Janet Keller, another member of the group, added the need for more net-zero buildings to combat climate change. She hoped the town would hold private developers to the same net-zero standard as for newly constructed town-owned buildings over a certain size. 

Hilda Greenbaum noted that only 12% of housing in North Amherst is owner-occupied, meaning that the population there is more transient than in other parts of town. She stressed the need for more home ownership. 

Meg Gage encouraged the town to adopt the draft transportation plan put forth in the North Amherst group’s report.

In contrast, Laura Draucker disparaged the report. She said, “I’m in District One and this is the first I’m hearing of this group. I just want to offer a different perspective, which is that I don’t think you’re reaching out to everyone. It’s a little disconcerting that we’re talking, spending the entire time we’re supposed to be talking about the town Master Plan, talking about one particular area in town. When I look at the list of people that worked on this report, these are wonderful people who are very involved in things in town, but it seems like we haven’t gotten the full breadth of input from everybody that lives in North Amherst.”

Kitty Axelson Berry, who lives in East Amherst, noted that the implementation committee for the Master Plan was never formed and that it seems that the town “cherry picks” values presented in the plan, downplaying certain goals of the plan such as maintaining and preserving the small town character and  neighborhoods of the town, and the need to maintain a year-round population and economy.

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1 thought on “North Amherst Residents Offer Input At Annual Forum On The Master Plan

  1. The Planning Board twice has voted in support of a key recommendation of the Master Plan: forming a Master Plan Implementation Committee (or MOPIC). This recommendation went to the Select Board but was never sent to Town Council. This committee is sorely needed to monitor and encourage the implementation of the many important strategies listed in the Master Plan — hence the Planning Board twice recommending it.

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