Opinion: Is Amherst Redeemable? 


Photo: Google Maps

John Varner

If you moved to Amherst before the mid 2000’s, consider why you came to town.  For many, Amherst was deemed to be an idyllic place.  It had the cultural advantages of an academic community, within a semi-rural environment.  It had a quaint town center, with locally owned stores catering to the basic needs of its residents.  It had a school system famed for its rigor, diversity, and its ability to offer classes for students who struggled, or who were working above grade level, and drew students from around the valley.  It had peaceful neighborhoods and a town meeting style of governance which, though not a model of expediency, allowed for residents to participate in debate and decision making. It had good roads and a couple dozen well-maintained conservation areas that protected open spaces.  It was a paradisical progressive bubble.  Some still perceive it as such, but much of what drew people to town a couple decades ago has changed, and not for the better.   

The University, which helped to employ and stimulate the community, has grown significantly, and seems to have run amok.  It appears to be largely unconcerned for the welfare of the town or its residents and has increased its enrollment while lagging behind in providing student housing, and police, fire and ambulance services.  The stresses on community services and infrastructure continue to mount, even as the Chancellor announced last year that the town’s real estate problems were not the University’s problem.  While it is true that most students bring life to the town and are not a problem, it is also true that dozens of intoxicated students are ferried by town ambulances to the ER on some weekends.  There are parties where hundreds of students disrupt neighborhoods.  Thousands of student vehicles use town roads while the excise taxes paid on those vehicles for highway maintenance remit to students’ home towns. Students now outnumber permanent residents in one of the smallest towns in the U.S. to host a flagship campus, and the town’s infrastructure and social fabric are being frayed as a result.   

This has helped to further derange the real estate market, already distorted by national trends.  Local individuals who bought and responsibly managed an investment property or two to serve as student housing have been overshadowed by LLCs and developers who have little concern for the harmonious functioning of residential areas, thus allowing student housing conversions to metastasize throughout all but the toniest neighborhoods. Real estate agents are, understandably, more than happy to facilitate the bidding wars that raise their commissions but drive single family homes out of the reach of young families and into the portfolios of investors.  Calls for inclusivity and low-income housing aren’t matched by policies that would prevent low-cost housing from being soaked up by desperate students. 

Amherst’s “semi-rural” surroundings have increasingly become construction zones.   

“Quaint” has been wrung out of the town center by the spendy, boxy apartments built for students by out-of-town real estate barons.  The town’s stores, decimated by on-line shopping and the Hadley big box retailers, have mostly gone under.  Town center has essentially become a bar and food court for UMass.  Emily Dickinson’s grave marker bearing the inscription ‘Called Back’, in what was once a bucolic cemetery, now lies in the shadow of an apartment building catering to well-off students. 

Town Select Board members, formerly tasked with allocating funds for the enforcement of town regulations, have been replaced by a Town Council dominated by Amherst Forward, a faction that equates minimal regulation of wholesale real estate development with progress.  There is obsequious deference to the University.  Little is being done to collect data that would allow for tracking housing and problems with tenants and landlords, or steering development in more managed ways.  Enforcing existing regulations is egregiously under-resourced.  Projects were ‘sold’ to the public based on unrealistic cost estimates and will now drive increases in property tax rates that were already high.     

The school system, once the pride of Amherst and a primary magnet for parents relocating to benefit their kids, is struggling, especially at the middle school level. Questionable leadership hobbled classes for students with learning challenges.  Programs within the school system and partnerships with UMass that catered to students who were working beyond grade level were curtailed, because middle school was viewed as a developmental stage where students’ preoccupation with socializing precluded serious learning.  Now the middle school is embroiled in an ugly tangle of issues involving race, gender and sexuality and charges of nepotism and the evangelical indoctrination and mental abuse of LGBTQ students. The high school, formerly noted for the diversity and academic achievement of its students, has gone through fractious periods of racial tension and self-segregation.   

The Amherst Forward leaders in the newly constituted Town Council are working hard to limit council’s debate of issues, and trim or eliminate input from citizens all together.  Town Council is now seen by many as a hopelessly toxic environment that discourages participation.  Misplaced priorities and budget decisions have racked up debt that will further elevate Amherst’s high real estate taxes.  The budgets for the renovation of the library and new school construction have ballooned while the features of the community that used to draw their prospective users – families – to Amherst dwindle. Chronically underfunded town roads are pocked with holes and conservation area management struggles with minimal resources. Rushing to take on complicated, intractable national issues, while admirable statements of the town’s values, has diverted time, money and attention that could be spent on issues more germane to the effective management of routine town problems, and might be better addressed by establishing separate extra-governmental commissions in town.   

Amid the chaos and dysfunction of town politics, I am being asked to run for a position on Town Council.  My friends wonder why anyone would want to do that.  My wife is concerned that winning a seat will disrupt our retirement plans and fill me with frustration and aggravation that would drive both of us crazy.  Although I am past retirement age, I still enjoy working part time, and volunteer as a co-director of an educational non-profit, which will be jeopardized by running for the Council.  After having two medical procedures, my cardiologist tells me what I already knew: stress is not good for my heart.   

I am left with a lot of questions.  Primary among them: Is Amherst FUBAR?  Can the University ever be persuaded – or forced – to be more responsible in its dealings with the town?  Did decisions made in the past lock the town I love on a doomed path?  Where are progressive younger candidates?  Do I want my ‘sunset years’ to be entangled in what will be, at best, a long, arduous, tedious effort to redirect the town’s trajectory?  How much of my remaining time do I want to expend on this?  Where is the line between civic duty and martyrdom?    

I am struggling for answers.

John Varner is a resident of District 3

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24 thoughts on “Opinion: Is Amherst Redeemable? 

  1. thank you for taking the time to express your concerns, many of which have become my concerns. I have valued living in Amherst. moved here in 1997. it has been a wonderful place to livefor the most part. I continue to live here, although no longer involved with many town issues since the dissolution of our beloved Amherst town meeting, of which I was a part.

  2. Thank you John for your accurate picture of the changes in Amherst. We have lived in the area since 1974 when
    Amherst was the vibrant hub in Hampshire County. We bought our home in downtown Amherst in 1985. It is not the same town our children grew up in. Change does happen but these changes have negatively affected the bucolic town we once knew. I hope future change will enhance the town positively. Thank you for running for Town Council. You have my support.

  3. Mr. Varner, I really hope you decide to throw your hat into the ring. You’re just the tonic our ailing town needs. One of the most rewarding things about small town life is that one person can make a difference. And real change on our beleaguered planet starts on a local level.

  4. Given the current level of dysfunction in town government and the polarization and toxicity that characterize our town politics, I am wary of encouraging John to run for office. It’s not because I think he wouldn’t be great at the job – I think he’s been quite compelling in representing the interests of his district in print and has a good vision of what needs to be done. But I worry, as does he, about what the hazards of service might mean for his health. Just as I worry about how our youngest town councilor, Ellisha Walker, will continue to manage a full time job, and kids at home, and the the demands of the office without sufficient support from her colleagues. I worry about the difficulty if not impossibility of serving under current conditions for anyone who is not retired and affluent. We’ve seen time and again the failure of the council to address the challenges faced by Councilor Walker – the only member of the council with small children at home. And we’ve seen the unwillingness of the council to raise councilor compensation which might make it just a little bit easier for the non-affluent to serve. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A new majority with a different vision could do things in a different way – one that is more collaborative, more efficient, more open and more compassionate. No telling where that could go if folks were open to new possibilities. I encourage John to try to imagine conditions in which prospective candidates wouldn’t need to ask – Why would anyone do this? And whether he runs or not, I ask him to help us think about how we bring those alternative visions into being.

  5. Who is asking Mr. Varner to run for Town Council and why? What makes you think you can do better than our current council?

    If you feel compelled to run, well, good for you… Throw your hat in the ring and run a rigorous campaign.

    Based on what you have written above, I don’t think you would have my vote, but if you would actually provide some real suggestions about what you’d seek to accomplish versus what’s on the current docket, then perhaps voters could make up their minds in a rational, thoughtful manner.

    Talk is cheap. Governing is hard. Tangible proposals have realistic costs and benefits affiliated with them.

    Let’s hear more fron you about how you’d fix or change things.

  6. The new district three will have no incumbents so perhaps that is one reason people might ask someone to run…

  7. Mr. Blumenfeld:
    I am not counting on the votes of anyone who views unbridled real estate investment as ‘progress’, or favors jeopardizing Amherst’s fiscal future with unrealistic spending on over-blown projects.

    Who is asking me to run? Friends. Acquaintances. People I don’t even know, who have collared me at the Farmers’ Market, et., etc..
    Why are they encouraging me to run? Because I have given voice to their concerns about Amherst’s misplaced priorities, and the authoritarian, unresponsive members dominating Town Council. Because I am concerned about the town’s refusal to even track problems with landlords, student housing and conversions, and I see having reliable, publicly accessible data on issues as key to developing coping strategies. Because I am concerned by grossly over-budget projects like the library and grossly under-budgeted issues like road maintenance. Because I share alarm over investors turning entire neighborhoods into student enclaves while driving single family home costs out of reach of single families. In short, for many of the concerns I shared in this and other opinion pieces.

    I have quite a few policy proposals. More than a year ago, I researched what other small college towns have done to cope with single-family to student rental conversions, and problems associated with student housing. I forwarded 18 pages of regulations adopted by State College PA (home of Penn State) that have limited the effects of this phenomenon, and helped to claw back rental properties into the single family housing market, to Town Council. I have quite a few additional ‘planks’ in a potential platform for a run, and if my personal concerns dissuade me from actually running, rest assured I will be working with Town Council’s more progressive members to institute them.

  8. It’s the same problem everywhere there is a decent place to live. People with no real stake in the town use its amenities and style to make money with no regard for the social and economic consequences of their actions. Amherst has carried political correctness to new levels of absurdity but stll doesn’t know how to fix a pothole or even run a school district. Best solution? Move out. Mr Varner is right on.

  9. Of all the issues pointed out by Mr. Varner, the most puzzling and most ignored are our generic college town problems–expensive, substandard student rentals, run-down student apts, too many student rentals on a street, neighborhoods slowly turning from mixed neighborhoods into student housing enclaves, massive expensive student apt buildings, lack of housing on-campus at UMass and cheapo PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) payments from UMass and Amherst College. Has the Town Council even identified any of this as a problem? Has the Town Council researched how other towns and cities deal with the impacts of having a huge number of students? Has the Town Council raised these any of these issues with UMass –the driver of all these negative trends? Well, no. I applaud John Varner for taking the initiative, doing research and sending successful models to Town Council. We need people like him in our government. I also applaud Town Councilors Jennifer Taub, Pam Rooney and Dorothy Pam for raising college town issues, working on the rental registration bylaw and working toward solutions. Planning Board member Bruce Coldham sent questions to Planning Directors in college towns similar to Amherst and is having phone conversations with them about solutions. Putting Varner, Coldham, Taub, Rooney and Pam will generate more ideas and solutions than the dismal inactivity we see now.

  10. Good to see support for Varner’s ideas. The University underpays because it can. Unanimity by disparate factions is needed to pressure the State PILOT program to change from acreage to assessed value of buildings, infrastructure, and land. Only then can this community get its roads maintained, its water and sewer kept up to par, and its taxes bearable by its family residents.

  11. I agree with everything Janet McGowan said and also think John Varner would make an important good difference on the town council. We are not only not doing the right things, that don’t seem that hard to do (for one, better utilize the perspectives of the community; also, have more direct talks with UMass) but we are actively doing wrong things (wholesale relaxing of zoning with admittedly no idea what will result). We need more people dedicated to transparent and inclusive government and the ability to consider unintended consequences and also better measure our priorities.

    I understand John Varner’s dilemma, wanting to simplify and relax in this chapter of his life. But I hope you decide yes, and imagine you’d enjoy the opportunity.

  12. Ms. McGowan, Thank you for your concerns and kind words.
    Although TC, under the presidency of Ms. Greisemer and the defacto leadership of Ms. Hanneke deserves ‘credit’ for where we are today, UMass, and its leadership (Chancellor and board of trustees) also must share responsibility. Cooperation from UMass and the state legislature will be essential to remedy some of Amherst’s problems. They must also hear from concerned town residents. E.g.: The university has more students than the town has residents, but the town gets nothing to compensate for their use of town roads and police services. Money is remitted for ambulances, in lieu of taxes, but a fairer solution: UMass should have its own ambulance service and EMTs. There is also little or no coordination between the disciplinary body of the University and the town. Student malfeasance off campus should be brought to the attention of the University, and UMass disciplinary procedures applied for violations of town housing regulations, noise and partying complaints, etc. Drunken, rowdy, disruptive behavior is not tolerated on campus (in theory), and students should be held to the same standards by the University if they live off campus.

  13. UMass is obviously the elephant in the room, but we have two other institutions of higher learning that also could contribute more. Amherst College is by all accounts wealthy, and yet its contributions are insignificant in comparison to its presence and use of town resources. Hampshire College is often overlooked because of its location in District 5 and yes, it has had its own recent struggles, but its recent revival shows that it has the energy and resources that could make it a more active participant in the life of the town.
    The relationships of the town to UMass, Amherst College, and Hampshire College each are unique, but it is undeniable that their respective and collective presence has a profound impact on the town. Yet, there seems to be little appetite on the part of either the Town Manager or the Town Council to recognize it. The issues are admittedly complex but they will remain unsolved and grow even worse until and unless there is a commitment to start addressing them. I sincerely hope that the next Town Council will take on town-gown issues as a priority, establish a dedicated committee of Councilors and interested residents to do the kind of research that Mr. Varner identified and initiate changes that are within the scope of town authority, but also to open reasonable discussions with UMass, Amherst, and Hampshire about PILOTS and other strategies of support. These conversations are long overdue.
    I hope the new Town Council includes Mr. Varner as well as others who can bring similar and complementary perspectives to the table. It’s time to get creative. Otherwise, the possibility of a redeemable Amherst will remain dim.

  14. Last year Amherst College gave the town of Amherst an unrestricted donation of $130,000, its largest
    gift in recent years.

    This may seem like a magnanimous gesture, and in a sense it is, since the College did not have to give
    the town anything. However, consider these statistics:

    1. Amherst College reports an endowment valued at $3.3 billion, ranking it among the top 1% of
    the wealthiest colleges and universities in the country.
    2. Amherst College’s endowment per student is $1.2 million, placing it in the top ten nationally.
    3. The Amherst College president’s salary was reported in 2011 to be $589,000, ranking it 11th
    nationwide in presidential compensation per student.
    4. The Amherst College main campus carries a tax-exempt appraisal of $367 million in the most recent valuation.
    5. If this Amherst College property were taxed at the regular residential rate of $20.97, its annual
    assessment would be $7.7 million.

    6. Compare these voluntary payments from other leading institutions:
    a. In 2012 Brown University agreed to give Providence $31 million over 11 years.
    b. Boston University contributes more than $6 million per year in PILOT payments
    c. Yale University gives New Haven roughly $8 million per year in voluntary payments
    d. Williams College, has made an average of $900,000 in annual contributions to
    Williamstown over the past decade. It recently agreed to fund a $5 million endowment
    for Mt. Greylock School District capital projects. In 2006 it started a similar fund for
    Williamstown Elementary School that is now valued at $1.5 million. (Could we do this for the our new Elementary School Project?)

    This is the most recent data I could find related to Amherst College’s payment to the town. UMass and Hampshire have similar issues, but are less well-off. We fully maintain some of the sidewalks and all the roads abutting the campuses, off-campus students rely on major services such as police, fire and public works. The town has a great bargaining chip, which is auditing how much those services cost to provide, and refusing to provide said service if we do not get PILOT for them. The fact that our town’s taxes are not structured to have them contribute their fair share is quite an unfortunate surprise. The average family income of a student at Amherst College is $158,000 per year, that is over double Amherst’s AMI of $61,000, yet a resident earning $61,000 per year pays far more in taxes than Amherst College students. Could we create a user fee for students to use town services if their family makes above a certain income?

    Our town does not have emergency services available for residents when students require all of them. The same is true for affordable housing. This is not just a matter of opinion when people’s lives are at risk.

  15. Great bit of reporting, Julian. Thanks.
    MA requires that excise taxes (used to help maintain roads) be paid to towns based on where a car is ‘garaged’. For more than half a year, students’ cars are ‘garaged’ here, in Amherst, using roads that we pave, sweep and plow. Amherst’s permanent residents are footing the entire bill for students’ use of our town roads and streets. If the excise taxes cannot be garnered by Amherst, the town should issue parking stickers for a fee to all cars registered on the town’s campuses. Any car bearing a college parking pass that lacks a town sticker could be subject to ticketing. This would also apply to cars with out-of-state plates. This would certainly not fully rectify the town’s low-balling its budget for road maintenance, but it is a start…
    As for ambulance services, UMass should have to maintain its own vehicles and EMTs, and could coordinate with the town’s rescue service.

  16. UMass Lowell pays $1 million a year in PILOT payments to the City of Lowell, according to the Boston Globe. UMass Lowell has only about 18,000 students.

  17. Thank you, Julian, for all of the important information you shared. I would also add a link to an article from the Princeton University Office of Communications, titled: “University Contributions to Princeton: 2021 Summary.” [https://www.princeton.edu/news/2022/03/17/university-contributions-princeton-town-2021-summary]

    In addition to other monetary and in-kind support, the article notes: “In 2021, Princeton University paid $11.3 million in property and sewer taxes to Princeton. Of the $11.3 million property tax payment to Princeton, $4.8 million went to the Princeton Public Schools
    Of the $11.3 million property tax payment, about $6.2 million was paid on property that is eligible for exemption under state law.”

  18. According to Amherst assessor’s records, more than 40 single-family houses, duplexes and triplexes throughout town are owned by Amherst College and used exclusively for those affiliated with the college. This while town employees cannot afford to live in town.

    Meanwhile, just last year UMass purchased a private home on East Pleasant Street now listed as a UMass Residence with an exempt tax status. Let’s hope the University doesn’t decide that purchasing private homes might be a better solution to housing some members of their next freshman class than building more dormitories.

  19. The other question that needs to be asked, perhaps publicly, and then answered, is: “Why do the Town Manager and the Town Council have so little appetite to essentially stand up for the town, and ask these institutions to contribute more than a symbolic amount to the running of the town?” Everyone seems very willing to point out all the benefits that these institutions bring, but there is also a tremendous amount of wear and tear on many aspects of the town and its residents because of their presence, and this is what officials seem very reluctant to acknowledge. Positive contributions by one party shouldn’t absolve them of their responsibilities as a community member, and it shouldn’t mean that they in effect get a free ride, while others pay the majority of a town’s costs.

  20. Thanks to John, Julian and all the other commenters. John’s idea of a “cars on campus” surcharge to fiscally benefit the “City known as the Town of Amherst” is interesting.

    It could also simultaneously provide incentives — and funding! — for the restoration of regular passenger rail service to Amherst (from both the Boston and New York areas) via a rail shuttle on the existing track to Palmer where high speed east-west service is (someday!?) to return. This would not only help with balancing our fiscal budget, but also shrink our carbon/environmental footprint.

    In the meantime, completing the Mass Central Rail Trail (a 104 mile bike/ped/multi-user path joining Amherst and Northampton to the Boston area, with over 55 miles already open, of which our own Norwottuck Rail Trail is the western dozen miles) might be equally fitting. Please see


    and especially


    for more details about the MCRT.

  21. I’m not as knowledgable as many commenters, and support the additional points made by them. If the regional press was truly working in the public interest, they would cover these issues and seek a response from the institutions currently free riding on local tax payers. If I’ve missed such efforts, please post references widely. Little heat can be generated without wide dissemination.

  22. My perspective on this article, as a 22-year resident of Amherst and the parent of two children who’ve gone through public schools here (one still in high school), is that it raises many good points, offers some interesting solutions, and also relies on a kind of dystopian narrative that I don’t find helpful or always true.

    The example that jumped out at me the most was this sentence: “The high school, formerly noted for the diversity and academic achievement of its students, has gone through fractious periods of racial tension and self-segregation.” I don’t think this fully captures the current state of ARHS, and I say that as someone who is in my 7th consecutive year of having at least one child there. Public schools are complicated, challenging and underfunded, and ARHS certainly has its share of struggles. As Mr. Varner’s comment suggests, it is not immune from racial tension; I think recent events at the middle school have reminded us that no school is magically shielded from the problems that plague our larger society. I would never say that ARHS is perfect or that it serves all students and families as it should, but I don’t think this one-sentence description is a fair or accurate summary of our high school or its students and staff. As one example, my family and I just attended–along with hordes of other families–the student art show, which is a stunning testament to the quality of teaching and learning that takes place at ARHS and to the diversity and achievement of its current students. And it is no accident that the horrible situation at the middle school has been brought to light primarily by the student newspaper at ARHS, which is an equally stunning testament to the work of its faculty adviser and a slew of student journalists.

    I am also tired of a narrative that seems to me to suggest that, if I don’t think the apartment buildings downtown are the end of Amherst, I am among the residents described in Mr. Varner’s later comment as “anyone who views unbridled real estate investment as ‘progress’.” Nick Grabbe articulated this point better than I can here: https://theamherstcurrent.org/2021/11/15/development-labels-arent-helpful/
    I think those projects are complicated, there are things I wish had been done differently, and yet like many people who write and contribute here, I am worried about our ability to create and sustain a sufficient commercial tax base. I recently went to Protocol after an ARHS PGO event and was kind of delighted to see it full of a mix of college students and older people like myself; I hope we can figure out ways to create and support more vibrancy in our downtown. (And yes, “vibrancy” in a college town where students outnumber permanent residents is always going to look different than it will in a town without that makeup.)

    I also find Mr. Varner’s reference to State College, PA very interesting in this regard, because while he is absolutely correct that they have some potentially useful ways to preserve single-family neighborhoods, their downtown is increasingly dominated by really large apartment buildings that make the ones in Amherst look quaint; here is one article that describes the situation: https://www.statecollege.com/articles/business/another-12-story-high-rise-is-in-the-works-for-downtown-state-college-it-might-be-the-last/. As I think I have shared before here in a comment, I grew up in State College. My mother still lives there (and in fact sits on the Zoning Hearing Board), and every time I visit I am struck by how it is dominated not just by high rises in downtown but by a vast network of growing urban sprawl. I really applaud Mr. Varner’s approach of learning from other towns, and I’m not saying that State College doesn’t have some good ideas; I just think it’s important to evaluate the broader context, which highlights the difficulty of identifying a perfect solution.

    Amherst residents are thoughtful, talented, opinionated and multifaceted. I really hope we can find ways to talk about the serious challenges our town faces without reflexively dividing ourselves into opposing camps, and while simultaneously appreciating what is good even as we seek to improve it.

  23. Thank you Ms Queeney for your thoughtful comments. I would like to add some salient points.

    30 years ago, Amherst was a utopian bubble. While ‘dystopian’ is not a descriptor I’d choose, Amherst is certainly no longer utopian. My recent opinion piece on the idea of UMass constructing a model ‘arcology’ to minimize the environmental and social impacts of its student population is anything but dystopian.

    Absolutely true, ARHS is still turning out high quality student artists and scholars. I applaud the recent expose of the problems at the middle school done in the ARHS paper by student journalists and their advisor. But the concerns about the Middle School were being brought to the attention of the administration for many months before any action was taken. ARHS used to be among the top 10 high schools in MA, and was recognized as the best in Western MA. It is now ranked around 130th out of 600+ statewide, and 9th or 10th locally. This precipitous drop is not a random fluctuation.

    I chose State College as both an example from which to learn, and a bell weather for Amherst. 50 years ago, PSU was as big as UMass is now. State College now has almost three times the number of permanent residents that Amherst has, in a smaller geographic area, and PSU has nearly 3 times the number of students that UMass has. PSU has not just grown its enrolment, it aggressively courts alums to retire to the area. PSU’s Beaver Stadium is one of the largest in the U.S., and on Nittany Lions’ home game weekends, the stadium and surrounding parking lots (where tail gate parties draw 10’s of thousands), becomes the third largest population center in the state after Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Yet State College’s zoning rules, which includes tracking student rental housing and problem properties, steps to discipline renters and/or owners of problem properties, and includes a minimum distance between student rentals, lot line – to – lot line, which has allowed the town to claw back housing into the single-family home market. While I would hate to see Amherst follow on State College’s path on growth, the steps it has taken to address its problems are exemplary. Amherst does not have to re-invent the wheel with regard to regulations, it just has to catch up to what sveral communities around the country have already done.

    Nick Grabbe is correct that Amherst has to ‘thread the needle’ where housing is concerned. However he neglects citing the low PILOT rates paid by UMass and Amherst College. He glosses over the out-of-place design and zoning variances of the apartments recently built and currently under construction, and the lack of associated parking. He also failed to mention that these apartments were originally not framed as student housing, or that they are priced at the high end of the student rental market. He conspicuously avoids holding UMass to account for admitting far more students than it or the community can reasonably house.

    As for Amherst being divided into opposing camps, and a need for dialogue, there is this: I applied for a position as an alternate on the Zoning Board last year. I expressed my views on zoning as being a guide for home owners and investors, essentially a contract that allowed all sides to know where they stood vis a vis development. Instead of welcoming another viewpoint to the debate, my ideas were regarded as threatening to Amherst Forward’s intentions to deregulate housing and development, and I was prevented from taking a seat through arcane machinations. So much for debate.

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