Planning Board Delays Approval Of Belchertown Road Transitional Housing


Example of landing for ServiceNet's proposed transitional housing on Belchertown Road. Photo:

Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Planning Board, January 4, 2022

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

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

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

Plans For Transitional Housing On Belchertown Road Still Incomplete
When ServiceNet’s plan to provide 12 units of transitional housing at 12-20 Belchertown Road was discussed at the December 7 Planning Board meeting, the Planning Board requested more complete architectural plans and suggested decreasing the size of the parking area and increasing green space. The board also asked the applicant to provide a more detailed plan for vegetation. It was also raised at the last meeting that the property at 10 Belchertown Road was included in the project, but was not included in the posting of the application. Therefore, the legal notice of the hearing needed to be reposted and additional abutters notified.

The original application was mainly for resurfacing the existing parking lot and repairing the headwall over the stream on the southeast corner of the property, with minimal alterations to the building exterior. Twelve studio apartments would be created to house ServiceNet clients in need of temporary housing. However, Planning Board members thought the amount of parking was excessive for the number of units, and thought some of the pavement could be replaced with grass. The new landscape plans show several new areas of grass, especially on the northern end of the property and arbor vitae to provide a screen to neighboring property. Several catch basins have been added to the plans for stormwater management.

Landscape architect Ryan Nelson and ServiceNet representatives Tom Miranda and Connor Burgess were present at the meeting, but architect Tim Nyar has not been able to provide final architectural plans due to the recent death of his mother. Also, the Conservation Commission did not have a quorum at its December 14 meeting, so they will discuss the effect of the project on the stream and wetlands at their meeting on January 11.

Several members of the planning staff and board members noted some inconsistencies between the site plan and the architectural renderings in the material used for the entrance stairs and the railings. The board also wanted a lighting plan to be sure there was adequate light in the parking lot, and they suggested that the plan include bicycle racks and possibly an EV charging station.

Board member Johanna Neumann wanted assurance that only native vegetation would be planted. She also noted that programs exist to make roof top solar panels affordable. Miranda agreed, but said the priority was to get these badly needed units open, and then ServiceNet could look into the feasibility of solar panels.

Because of the incomplete information on the project, the Planning Board voted 6-0 to continue the hearing until January 18 at 6:35 p.m.

The meeting adjourned at 8:34 p.m.

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