Letter: Does Amherst Forward Have a Plan to Protect Downtown Family Neighborhoods?


Storrs, Connecticut. Photo: downtownstorrs.org

The following letter was sent to the leadership of Amherst Forward and to the Amherst Current on November 9, 2023.

Congratulations on gaining a commanding majority of AF candidates in Tuesday’s Town Council election.

Here’s my question for AF and the Council members backed by AF: What will you do about the destruction of my downtown neighborhood (North Prospect St.)? 

Unlike many AF supporters, my wife and I do not live in Amherst Woods, Echo Hill, Amherst Hills, or some other verdant mostly student-free enclave; we live in the heart of what has become essentially Frat Row. As I have said elsewhere, after over 22 years in downtown Amherst, my wife and I find ourselves with little choice but to sell out (probably to an LLC) and leave Amherst entirely. Can AF promote reasonable policies to curb and reverse the current trend in absentee landlord student housing? For example:

  • Enforcement of the four unrelated persons cap 
  • Enactment of zoning similar to that in force in State College PA (“No student home shall be located on a lot any portion of which is closer to another lot used for a student home than a distance determined by multiplying nine times the minimum lot width required for a one-family dwelling in the district in which the student home is located.”) Such zoning would prevent the “critical mass” phenomenon of too many 18-22 year olds living in close proximity to one another. It would also serve as a check on upwardly-spiraling housing prices in a market that simply responds to the demand for high-price rental units.
  • Cooperating with UMass to reduce student vehicular traffic. For example, the University could deny on-campus parking permits to students who live within a certain distance of the campus. Such a policy would greatly reduce the enormous number of gratuitous car trips to and from the campus through residential streets.
  • Denial and canceling of rental permits for LLCs that openly flout town bylaws, fail to remediate egregious violations, and whose properties are subject to frequent “nuisance house” citations.
  • Figuring out ways to do a better job of enforcing laws already on the books that are intended to protect all residents’ right of quiet enjoyment. (Police foot/bicycle patrols? But the APD does not have the budget or manpower…)

I am not anti-student. I made a conscious choice to move to a college town (perhaps I should have made a distinction between a “college town” and a “behemoth state university town”; next time I’ll be more careful). Twenty-one and 22-year old kids living off campus and away from home for the first time are simply doing what society expects of them: They’re partying whenever possible. There’s little that anyone can do to change kids’ (and they really are, for most part, kids in adult bodies) propensity to drink and raise a ruckus. But conditions can be designed to mitigate the harm done by their behavior – and to penalize their behavior when it surpasses a reasonable threshold.

What is Amherst Forward’s response?

Alex Kent
Alex Kent is a resident of Amherst

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

The Amherst Indy welcomes your comment on this article. Comments must be signed with your real, full name & contact information; and must be factual and civil. See the Indy comment policy for more information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.