Candidates’ Statements for Openings on ZBA


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The Community Resources Committee of the Town Council will interview seven candidates for positions on the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) beginning July 1, 2025. There is currently one opening among the five full members of the board, who serve three-year terms, and four openings for one-year associate members. The term of full member Craig Meadows expires on June 30, so also must be filled. Meadows and associate members Hilda Greenbaum and David Sloviter have applied for reappointment. Steve Judge (Chair), Everald Henry, and Philip White will be continuing on the board.

Statements of Interest for the candidates can be found here. The interviews will be held over Zoom and will begin at 6:30 p.m. The meeting link is here. The ZBA is a quasi-judicial body that holds public hearings and acts on applications for Special Permits, Variances, Appeals of actions of the Building Commissioner, and Comprehensive Permits. 

Summaries of Candidates’ Statements of Interest
Meadows, who has served for four years on the ZBA—one year as an associate and three as a full member—and is a 50-year resident of Amherst,  wrote, “I have served as the Chair of the ZBA when the current Chair has been away on a few occasions. I believe my knowledge of engineering, housing and carbon reduction incentives and tax credits have brought some additional perspectives to the ZBA. I would be honored to continue to serve on the ZBA for another three years.”

Greenbaum stated, “I know the bylaw well from having served now nine years on the zoning board, having attended the annual State teaching sessions, having chaired a significant number hearings in the past, and writing the decisions therefrom. I think that I have served honorably and provided needed input to the cases on which I served over the past year. I honor and respect the other members of the Board and would like to continue as either a full or associate member of the Board as you see fit,”

Sloviter’s statement reads, “I would like to continue to contribute to the town where I live as I have done for the past two years as an associate member of the ZBA. I believe that I would continue to bring experience and knowledge from several different areas to the ZBA, as I have already proven. For over 35 years, I owned and operated a business that dealt in specialty chemicals. Operating a small company with  so many diverse activities and customers gave me a lot of experience solving problems.”

New Applicants
David Ahlfield wrote, “I have been a resident of Amherst since 1988 and have served in Amherst Town government in two capacities. I served about five years as a Town Meeting member. I served seven years on the Amherst Board of Health (2007-2014) with the last three of those years as Chair of the Board. I have also been involved in nonprofit organizations in the area and have provided service to my faith community. I enjoy being involved in my community. About five years ago, I retired from UMass as Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. With time to become more involved in Town government. My professional background in civil engineering, hydrology and water resources includes over 30 years of teaching, research, and consulting on topics related to water.”

Rizewana Khan’s Statement of Interest reads, “Through my experiences on the Human Rights Committee Commission, I have developed a deep commitment to promoting equity, justice, and inclusivity in our community to advocate for responsible and sustainable development practices that prioritize the long-term well-being of our community. Further, my background as an educator has equipped me with valuable skills and perspectives that are directly applicable to serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and contributing to its mission of promoting the health, safety, convenience, and general welfare of the residents of Amherst. Also, my time in California provided firsthand insights into the negative consequences of overdevelopment and unsustainable land use practices. Witnessing the erosion, wildfires, and flooding that resulted from poorly planned housing schemes underscored the urgent need for thoughtful and responsible development strategies. Additionally, I observed how skyrocketing real estate prices led to homelessness and exacerbated the lack of affordable housing, posing significant challenges to the well-being of residents. Furthermore, the development of housing on agricultural land contributed to water issues, highlighting the importance of preserving vital natural resources and protecting agricultural lands for future generations.”

Vincent O’Connor served as an associate ZBA member for six months in 2023. He wrote, “There is nothing of great consequence I can add to the Statement of Interest I previously filed in 2022. Based on that Statement of Interest and a subsequent committee interview, the Council appointed me to a six-month term which ended in June of 2023. During that period, I filed one written dissent, from the ZBA decision re the Pray Street nightclub application, which I invite members of the CRC Committee to review.” During his 2022 statement, O’Connor said that he viewed Amherst’s Zoning Bylaw as a “land-use contract between the local government and residents, fashioned over many decades of insights, work, and compromises.”

John Varner detailed why he wants to serve on the ZBA. He said, “I believe my 30 years as resident and property owner in South Amherst, and my rich history of employment and association memberships give me an in-depth perspective and a broad set of skills to bring to the ZBA. I spent parts of nine years as a maintenance employee of the National Park Service, instilling in me a deep appreciation of the need to respect and conserve natural resources and giving me experience in landscape architecture, outdoor construction and road maintenance. I [also] worked for several years in biotech. 

“As the community continues to grow, Amherst must deal with the changing character of the town, and the limitations on future growth imposed by the town’s geography (e.g.: the limited amount of land left to develop, and the fact that a large percentage of Amherst is held by institutions that remove it from the tax base). These challenges demand zoning regulations be as concise as possible in order to protect property owners’ investments. However, they must be malleable enough to allow for approaches to zoning and development that are creative and flexible, as Amherst strives to retain features that make the town, with its semi-rural flavor and its proud history as a progressive, intellectually stimulating community, a unique place to live. The town’s principal challenge going forward is to address the realities of this situation while looking out for the best interests of its more permanent residents, home owners and tenants alike, regardless of income, race or ethnicity. The fact that Amherst’s rate of owner-occupied homes is at least 20% below the national average, and rental rates are distorted by the demands of an under-housed student population means there are special challenges posed by juggling the rights of owners and the landlords of rental properties, especially as related to workforce housing.”

Varner previously applied to be a member of the ZBA in 2022, but was not selected in a controversial decision and a close vote. He received a majority of votes of those councilors present, but not the seven votes required, due to the absence of two councilors.

Interview Format
As in previous CRC interviews, all candidates will be asked the same questions, and the order of those responding will vary. Each applicant will have up to three minutes to answer. All will have received the questions in advance. The questions are:

1. What do you feel you bring to the ZBA that can make it successful? Please include any experience you have appearing before the Planning Board or ZBA or watching one of their meetings.

2. Tell us about an experience you have had collaborating with a group, particularly where opinions conflicted, or the decision was controversial? 

3. Please explain the difference between the role of the ZBA and the role of the Planning Board. 4. When interpreting a provision of the Zoning Bylaw, should the ZBA consider the intent of that provision, its common-sense meaning, and/or some other factor? 

5. In considering those with an interest in a Special Permit, should the interest of one party be given greater significance than another party? 

6. What’s your opinion of waivers, exceptions, dimensional special permits in the Zoning By-law? When should they be used and when should they not be used? 

7. What is your approach to incorporating public input into your decision making? 

8. What else would you like us to know about you that makes you a strong candidate for the ZBA?

 9. Please confirm you have the time to commit to meetings, hearings, and site visits. And if you currently serve on any Town boards or committees, do you see any conflicts with serving on multiple boards and can you manage the time commitment for all? 

10. Are you interested in being a full member, associate member, or either?

There may be follow up questions from CRC members. After the interviews are completed, the CRC members will deliberate on which candidates to recommend for appointment to the ZBA. As of July 1, there will be two openings for full members, including Meadows who has applied for reappointment. The CRC may recommend up to four associate members. The full council will then vote on candidates.  

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