CRC Recommends Marshall and Ferris for Planning Board


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Report on the Meeting of the Community Resources Committee, June 25, 2024

The meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. The recording can be viewed here.

Pam Rooney (Chair, District 4), Pat DeAngelis (District 2), Freke Ette (District 1), Mandi Jo Hanneke (at large), Jennifer Taub (District 4)

The Community Resources Committee (CRC) of the Town Council voted to recommend the reappointment of Doug Marshall and the appointment of Melissa Ferris to the Planning Board for three-year terms. Marshall currently serves as chair of the Planning Board and will be beginning his second full term. Ferris recently moved back to the area after growing up in Northampton. She has lived in Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn, and is now enrolled at UMass to complete her undergraduate degree. The vote for Marshall was 4-0-1, with Jennifer Taub abstaining. The vote for Ferris was 3-2, with Mandi Jo Hanneke and Pat DeAngelis voting no. Hanneke and DeAngelis preferred Lawrence Kluttz for the second seat.

The CRC recommendations will be presented to the Town Council for approval on July 15.

In response to the questions, Marshall described himself as “level headed and fair minded.” He said he listens attentively to those speaking at Planning Board meetings, reads email submissions from the public, and tries to keep an open mind. He frequently raised points in Amherst’s Master Plan as a basis for making decisions on individual projects and zoning. He said he has enjoyed his time on the Planning Board and would like to continue, feeling his experience would be valuable.

Ferris cited her experience as creative director at both National Geographic and Barnes and Noble publishers, which routinely involved helping disparate groups reach consensus on the final design of a book. She also stated that she has experience in reading architectural drawings from arranging exhibitions for her husband’s sculptures. She stated that she was applying to the Planning Board in the hope of seeing housing for a more diverse population in town, rather than primarily student housing, which she worried would be vacant when the predicted demographic cliff shrinks college enrollments in the near future. She also believes in the importance of public opinion, saying, “These are our neighbors. Those affected by a project should have a say, so all feel represented in the final decision.”

Kluttz moved to Amherst from Durham, North Carolina 18 months ago. He noted that Durham was also a community under pressure, and said that through an effective town/gown partnership with Duke University it has “improved its housing situation.” He said his family chose to move to Amherst because of its character, and he is looking forward to contributing to the town. He has also applied to be part of the Conservation Commission. He said that in his policy work, he valued input from varied sources, but added that it was important to base decisions on sound policy even if the decisions were not popular. He spoke of maintaining a balance between encouraging development and keeping the character of the town.

All councilors acknowledged Marshall’s experience as a UMass planner and his service as chair of the town’s Planning Board for the past two years. Taub objected to his saying at times that Amherst’s primary need is  for student housing and that the shortage of worker housing cannot be dealt with “until there is more housing for students.” 

Hanneke liked that Kluttz has lived in another university town and hoped that he could bring a new perspective to the housing needs of Amherst, but Taub pointed out that the city of Durham, with its relatively large population of 300,000, is much different than Amherst, where there are more students at UMass alone than nonstudent residents of the town. She preferred Ferris because of her recognition that Amherst needs more housing and development for its year-round residents.

DeAngelis was wary of the importance Ferris placed on the needs or opinions of abutters. She recalled vociferous objections of some abutters to the construction of East Gables on Northampton Road in 2018 and said that the finished building “fits” with the neighborhood and supplies much-needed housing to previously homeless residents. She seconded Kluttz’s views about needing a balance between the public,  the Master Plan, and the zoning bylaw. 

Rooney noted Ferris’ experience reading architectural drawings, an important skill for a member of the Planning Board and  Kluttz’s experience in policy development and planning. Ette also expressed a slight preference for Ferris.


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