Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Planning Board, August 16, 2023
This meeting was conducted over Zoom and was recorded.
Doug Marshall (Chair), Bruce Coldham, Fred Hartwell, Jesse Mager, Janet McGowan, and Karin Winter. Absent: Johanna Neumann
Staff: Chris Brestrup (Planning Director), Pam Field Sadler (Assistant)
12 members of the public attended on Zoom
Review Of Large Solar Project Postponed
The Planning Board received a request from Tom Reidy, attorney for Amp Solar, to delay the Planning Board review of the 41-acre solar array project with battery storage planned for forested land off Shutesbury Road in Amherst. The project will need to obtain a Special Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, but the Planning Board will review the plans and make a recommendation to the ZBA. The reason for the delay is the need for a wetlands determination from the Conservation Commission, because the previous application from 2021 has expired. (A May, 2021 letter from the Massachusetts Historical Commission also indicated that the area may be archaeologically significant and requires review by the Historical Commission).
The project will first be presented to the ZBA next week with a public hearing planned for October. Reidy suggested that the Planning Board review it on September 20. The Conservation Commission will review the project this fall, but, according to its website, a completed application has not yet been filed.
In public comment, Eric Bachrach asked how the Planning Board could review an application that was incomplete. Planning Board member Janet McGowan noted that the project may be significantly altered based on the Conservation Commission review, which may require a second review by the Planning Board. Chair Doug Marshall said that the Planning Board review is optional because the ZBA will make the final determination on the permit.
Details Clarified For Transitional Housing Project On Belchertown Road
ServiceNet’s plan to create 12 units of transitional housing at 10-12 Belchertown Road received a favorable Site Plan Review on February 20, 2023, but several aspects of the project were outstanding. Architect Larry Tuttle presented plans for external lighting at the site and the access ramp and railings. He said ServiceNet has been concentrating on interior plans, so he does not yet have the detailed architectural plans also requested by the Planning Board.
Tuttle said the lights on the parking lot will use existing poles, but the fixtures will be mounted on eight-foot extension arms in order to provide light to the interior of the 39-space lot and still comply with dark sky guidelines. Marshall was concerned with the appearance of the long arms, but Planning Board member Fred Hartwell, who was in charge of the town streetlights in the past, said that there are several streetlights in town with arms of that length so he was not concerned. Bruce Coldham noted that mounting the lights on poles avoids interference from the tall trees at the periphery of the site. Each unit will also have a wall mounted fixture at its entrance. The west end of the building will have a motion controlled, wall-mounted fixture near the dumpster. The three windows on that side of the building will be eliminated.
Tuttle also said that ServiceNet has opted for a framed access ramp, instead of the concrete one proposed in the original plans. He is currently evaluating the proposed decking to make sure it complies with the Americans for Disability Act (ADA). The Planning Board asked that the railings for the ramp and the stairs for the individual entrances to the unit be the same design and material. ServiceNet will submit the corrected plans to the Planning Department. The organization hopes to obtain a building permit shortly in order to commence construction before winter.
In-Person Meeting To Discuss Housing Scheduled For August 30
The Planning Board will meet in the Town Room at Town Hall on August 30 at 6:30 in order to discuss increasing housing in town. This is the first of three in-person meetings on housing scheduled for the fall. Marshall indicated that increasing units in areas with already dense housing, such as apartment complexes, would probably create more housing than the now-withdrawn easing of regulations for duplexes and triplexes proposed by Town Councilors Mandi Jo Hanneke (at large) and Pat DeAngelis (District 2)..
In that vein, Planning Director Chris Brestrup said that Colonial Village is planning to add 84 units to its existing 90 units. Ten or 12 of the new units will be affordable. Karin Winter asked if this expansion would include bicycle paths along Route 9. Brestrup reported that a MassWorks grant will permit construction of a multi-use path on both sides of the road.
The meeting adjourned at 8:15. The next Planning Board meeting will be in-person at Town Hall on August 30. The board will also elect officers and committee representatives at that meeting.