Planning Board Discusses Changes To Restaurant Permitting


Photo: Amherst Business Improvement District

By Maura Keene

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. The Planning Board packet can be viewed here.


Doug Marshall (Chair), Bruce Coldham, Janet McGowan, Karin Winter, Thom Long, Andrew MacDougall, and Johanna Neumann

Staff: Chris Brestrup (Planning Director), Nate Malloy (Senior Planner), and Pam Field-Sadler (Assistant)

Three members of the public attended. Marshall read their names at the start of the meeting. There was no public comment offered.

The two hearings on the agenda for this meeting were postponed. The Archipelago Investments, LLC proposal to construct a 68-unit private apartment-style dormitory at 47 Olympia Drive was continued until October 19 because the Conservation Commission has not yet finished its deliberation on the project. It is slated to be discussed at the September 28 Conservation Commission meeting. Also, the board has not yet received a letter of evaluation from the town engineer.

Although Archipelago representative Kyle Wilson was not at the meeting, he relayed through Planning Director Chris Brestrup that he is revising the application to take into account the Planning Board’s recommendation for 24/7 management at the site.

Planning Board member Janet McGowan had questions about the adequacy of parking at the site, since the UMass lots which Wilson stated could be used for resident parking, have been sold out with the existing residents of Olympia Drive according to Nancy Buffone, Associate Vice Chancellor of University Relations,so it is unclear how they can accommodate the residents of the new building. Karin Winter also wants Archipelago to allow space for bicycle parking and perhaps to consider establishing a bike path from the central campus to the site. Brestrup said she will convey this input to Wilson.

The other public hearing was to be a discussion of the FEMA floodplain maps and the bylaw to create Zoning Article 16: Floodplain overlay district, but the approved final floodplain maps have not yet been received from FEMA. Therefore, the hearing was continued to November 2. 

New Permitting Recommended For Restaurants
Article 14 of the zoning bylaw temporarily allowed expedited approval of some outdoor dining and other provisions to help businesses survive the pandemic. Article 14 is set to expire in December, 2022, so the Planning Department, the Community Resources Committee (CRC) of the Town Council, and the Chamber of Commerce would like to incorporate some of the provisions that have worked well into the zoning bylaw. Specifically, the Planning Department recommends allowing restaurants and bars that serve food to be approved by site plan review, instead of special permits. Bars that do not serve food, nightclubs, and establishments with a capacity over 250 will still require a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

If no change is proposed in the use or the exterior of the building, other than paint color or signage, a change in ownership can be approved by the building commissioner, as was done for Garcia’s. A restaurant that becomes a nightclub after hours, such as the Monkey Bar, may require two permits, one for each function. All of these establishments are only allowed downtown and in village centers. These changes do not negate the need for review by the Design Review Board, or the Historical Commission if applicable.

In addition to the changes in Article 14, associated changes are needed in Articles 3, 5, 11, and 12 of the Zoning Bylaw. Senior Planner Nate Malloy felt the ability for restaurants to be permitted by site plan review would encourage more establishments to locate in Amherst.

The proposed zoning changes will be discussed at the September 29 meeting of the CRC and then will go to the full town council in October. A public hearing will probably be scheduled in November. The Planning Board will further its discussion on November 2.

New Format For Planning Board Packets
With the packet for this meeting, each document was listed separately, instead of as one long document. Planning Board members felt this format was easier to utilize, since it was often difficult to find a certain item in the often voluminous packets. Board members thanked Assistant Pam Field-Sadler for the new format.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:50 p.m. The Planning Board will not meet again until October 19.

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