ZBA Approves Applewood Addition


Architect's rendering of proposed new additions at Applewood. Photo: amherstma.gov

Report On The Meeting Of The Zoning Board Of Appeals, September 22, 2022

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. It can be viewed here.

Steve Judge (Chair), Tammy Parks, John Gilbert, Dillon Maxfield, Craig Meadows, and Sarah Marshall (Associate member)

Staff: Maureen Pollock (Planner) and Rob Morra (Building Commissioner)

Applewood Proposes Three New Buildings
Loomis Communities, which operates Applewood, filed for a special permit to modify a previous special permit to construct three small additions to the site at 1 Spencer Drive. The proposed additions are a meeting room, atrium, winter garden and small café at the main entrance with three residential units on the second floor; a small pool pavilion on the east side of the site; and a three-story addition containing six residential units.

Loomis CEO Marge Mantoni said that Applewood is a nonprofit containing 103 units (177 total bedrooms) for those ages 62 and older. It opened in 1991 and has a waiting list of over 120 applicants.  Landscape architect Jeff Squire and architect Matthew Hughes presented the plans for the new additions. The new main entrance will require the loss of two parking spaces, leaving 159 total spaces. Mantoni said that, at this time, 74 residents have cars and staff occupy 29 spaces, so only three-quarters of the available spaces are in regular use. She added that overflow parking is available on Spencer Drive during special events. She did not feel that the nine additional residence units would have much influence on parking. Applewood operates a van for its residents, and there is a PVTA stop across the street.

The six-unit addition will blend with the existing structure. Although the height of the new addition exceeds that allowed by the zoning by three feet, the roof line is the same as the existing structure that was allowed to exceed the height requirement in its permitting, so the new building height is also allowed by the prior approval. The pool pavilion is a one-story, 1200 sq. ft. building containing a 16 by 16 foot prefabricated resistance pool. There is a small skylight over the pool.

Mantoni was unsure how many EV charging stations were needed and where they would be located. The requested special permit was granted with specified conditions by a 5-0 vote ,with the provision that the Planning Department confirm the plans for EV charging.

New Internet Provider To Service Aspen Chase Apartments
The ZBA also unanimously approved a special permit for Otelco, a telecommunications company based in Alabama, to construct two telecommunications cabinets in the field near 615 Main Street. The cabinets, each the size of a dorm refrigerator, will supply high speed internet service to the Aspen Chase apartments. Richard Pascluto presented the plans that also include a propane generator, to be used for a power failure that lasts longer than the estimated 8-hour battery life of the fiber telecommunication cabinets. The cabinets and generator will be placed on crushed gravel with a fabric liner. They will be surrounded by a six foot chain link fence and will be accessed by a narrow road, also paved with gravel.

Aside from some brush removal, the area will not be disturbed. No trees will be removed and no impervious material will be used. The crushed gravel paving has been approved by the wetlands administrator Erin Jacques. Pascluto said there would be no noise outside the 20 by 20 foot area leased for the cabinets. He added that Otelco hopes to expand its service in the town in the future.

More Information Requested Before ZBA Will Issue Permit For New Construction At ReNew Apartments
The ZBA continued its discussion with Redwood Construction of California which purchased the ReNew apartment complex off East Hadley Road in March of 2021. Redwood hopes to construct another apartment building containing 47 units, six of which will be affordable. At its last meeting on September 8, the ZBA requested information on the number of children under 18 at the complex and on police calls to the area. Chair Steve Judge said the number of children at the site was important to determine the adequacy of the recreation equipment at the site.

Redwood representatives Tyler White and Rachel Window said there was no way they could determine the number of children at the site, because that information wasn’t on the lease. However, Building Commissioner Rob Morra suggested that the group get that information from census data or from school enrollment. Window, who said she visits the site at least once a week, said she will attempt to get an accurate number for the children who live in the complex.

In response to other ZBA suggestions, Redwood increased the bicycle parking racks from two to 13 (about one per building), and agreed to keep one of the two community gardens at the site. Judge encouraged the group to work with Healthy Hampshire or a similar group to help residents establish and utilize the gardens. The plans also show a third picnic table and more trash and recycling cans in the grill area.

Although White had previously asserted that there had been no police calls to the complex, Judge found that Amherst Police Department logs showed over 200 calls in the 18 months Redwood has owned the property. White analyzed the calls and showed that 35 were medical calls, 22 were to assist other agencies, 23 were noise complaints, and 11 were for suspicious activity. There was no violent crime in this time period. Nevertheless, the group agreed to hire a security guard for weekend nights and will do an evaluation after six  months to determine if the guard is needed.

Questions also remained about snow removal and storage and the location of an EV charging station. The hearing was continued until October 13, so Redwood could present the data requested about the number of children in the complex in addition to the other information.

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