Saturday, April 25, 2015

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

 Butterfield Terrace below, Pokeberry Ridge well above

One of the routine arguments put forth by NIMBYs to uphold the sacred BANANA covenant Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything is the tired old refrain, "I moved here thinking my neighborhood zoning was etched in uranium depleted mortar shells." So now that can now never-in-a-million-years, change.

The efforts by homeowners on Pokeberry Ridge, nestled high on a ridge line 100 feet above and perhaps 400 feet back, to torpedo a zoning change on Butterfield Terrace is all too typical.
4 properties propose rezoning from RN to RG (shown in yellow)

Since the four lots in question (currently RN) are already contiguous with (higher density) RG zoning, and are situated within crawling distance of the bustling UMass campus and Amherst town center, it would be hard to find property more suitable for such a change.

Especially since the overly expensive "Master Plan" from a few years back specifically supports such density tweakings.

And even if Town Meeting gives it a two-thirds endorsement required for a zoning change the current owners would still have to get a Special Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals for any development.  And that requires a unanimous vote of all three sitting members.

The Planning Board, who are the appointed experts on such matters, voted 6-1 to support the zoning change and the Finance Committee supported it unanimously.

But the Select Board, demonstrating they are elected rather than appointed, took the easy way out and voted unanimously to recommend "referring the article back to the Planning Board for further study."

David Markland Feb 18 Planning Board meeting

The neighbors who have led the charge to fight the proposal only purchased their house less than a year ago.  And then quickly set about clear cutting their backyard to enhance the scenic vista.

 Before picture

 After picture

Although that does nothing for the backyard view of the houses down below on Butterfield Terrace, and even worse -- since trees naturally prevent storm water run off -- now when it rains, the steep incline turns into a mud slide.

Pokeberry neighbor on the other side not as ambitious with tree clearing

I'm pretty sure when the residents on Butterfield Terrace purchased their homes they expected the steep hillside behind them to remain as a forested buffer from their neighbors up on Pokeberry Ridge.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Arbor Day Dilemma

All trees marked for death have 8.5" by 11" tree hearing notice attached

As usual when a choice has to be made between perfectly placed pavement and living breathing trees, it's the trees that end up taking a fall.

In spite of all the good they do -- sucking up storm water, absorbing carbon dioxide, and providing a shaded respite from summer sun -- the safety needs of pedestrians walking along busy Pine Street comes first.

The Planning Board & Tree Warden will hold a joint "Scenic Road Public Hearing" on May 6  to confirm the removal of ten trees currently standing a tad too close to Pine Street, a renovation project that has dragged on far too long for most area residents.

A new sidewalk is the main cause of the death sentences.  The majority of the trees are past their prime, but a few will no doubt be missed. 

And not just by the Lorax.

Amherst Town Hall:  Promoting Green

Thirsty Thursday DUI

Scott Pascoe arraigned in Eastern Hampshire District Court this morning

Amherst first responders scrambled to mid-Main Street early last night for reports of a "car vs pedestrian."  Fortunately the cyclist was fine, but Amherst police quickly arrested Scott Pascoe, age 44, for driving under the influence and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Click to enlarge/read

In Eastern Hampshire District Court this morning Pascoe had a plea of not guilty entered in his behalf and his case was continued until May 21 so he could hire his own attorney.

Right around the time Pascoe was taking the Breathalyzer at APD headquarters, District Attorney Dave Sullivan announced a moratorium on using breathalyzer results in Court due to a small percentage that seem to be problematic -- most likely due to calibration errors.

I have observed dozens and dozens of DUI  24D disposition plea deals and almost 100% of them had breathalyzer results used for evidence. And I've only observed two DUI jury trials, but in both cases the defendants won and each of them had refused the breathalyzer (a fact that cannot be told to the jury).

The state needs to get to the bottom of this breathalyzer problem -- pronto!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Round Two

Amherst Town Hall gets it right

Not since the 'Smoking Ban in Bars War' 15 years ago has the the little college town of Amherst seen such a successful implementation of a new ordinance.

The much needed Rental Permit Bylaw went into effect last year after health & safety problems within the lucrative industry spanning a generation (or two). 

Building Commissioner Rob Morra has issued a heads up email to all 1,353 property owners and managers and is even offering free informational sessions to make the process even easier.

Those who required a "parking plan" in year one will not need one upon renewal as long as the plan remains the same.

 Memo to all rental property owners

And best of all -- with the town getting more and more digitally savvy -- all the paperwork can done online. 

Amherst Building Commissioner Rob Morra (center) at Rental Bylaw Implementation Group 10/28/14


Shirin Mirdamadi-tehrani signs a waiver in front of Judge John Payne

While Hobart Lane has not been ground zero for a large disturbance -- aka Hobart Hoedown -- in many a year (eclipsed by Blarney Blowout) it is still a frequent stopping place for Amherst police on any given late night weekend, especially when the weather is nice.

Click to enlarge/read

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Tuesday Ms. Mirdamadi-tehrani, age 20, had her case continued until next month so the Commonwealth could confer with Amherst police about an adequate resolution.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DUI Dishonor Roll

Ryan Duffy, age 24, stands before Judge John Payne

While Amherst PD and UMass PD no longer do joint patrols around the periphery of UMass/Amherst on weekends it's still nice when UMPD takes a drunk driver off the road before he gets off campus.

 Either way, on campus or off, a potential killer.

 Click to enlarge/read

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Tuesday morning Ryan Duffy had a plea of not guilty entered in his behalf and his case was continued until May 21.  He is hiring his own attorney.

Party House of the Weekend

266 Stanley Street   

Considering UMass scheduled Spring Concert for Sunday, thus keeping a lot of "college aged youth" in town rather than going home for the long holiday weekend, I'm surprised we only had one Party House.

But it was a big enough bash to resulting in the arrest of the four hosts -- Nathan J Galloway, Elizabeth L Reed, Lily J. Sexton and Chloe D. Swenson -- who were all charged with violating the towns Noise and Nuisance bylaw. 

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Tuesday they all took the standard "diversion" deal offer by the District Attorney's office which negates one of the  $300 tickets, plus they will remain on probation for the next four months.

266 Stanley a little after midnight

Chloe Swenson, age 21, stands before Judge John Payne
Nathan Galloway, age 20
Lily Sexton, age 20