So besides running for Town Meeting in Precinct 5 I am also mounting a write-in campaign for Redevelopment Authority, also known as the ARA (Amherst Redevelopment Authority).
This is an at-large seat, left open when hotel magnate Curt Shumway decided not to seek another term and nobody collected the 50 signatures required to be on the ballot.
I had been the Governor’s appointee to the ARA (5 members with 4 elected, one appointed) since 1996 first under William Weld.
Jane Swift reappointed me and then my term expired in 2005. Strangely enough the Select board unanimously approved my reappointment last year in a letter to state authorities that somehow seems to have gotten lost in the mail. In the waning moments of his governorship Mitt Romney appointed Jeanne Traester, a Republican who was beaten by a 3-1 margin in her bid against (D) Ellen Story for State Representative.
The ARA has not even had a meeting in two years, so why do I care? Well, the ARA has Design Review approval in the Center School complex Urban Renewal Project area…in other words Boltwood Walk, home of the bitterly opposed downtown Parking Garage.
When the ARA donated the property to the town we did so with only one condition: the Garage had to be expandable. The inclusion of supports in the foundation capable of supporting an additional deck added tens of thousands to the $4 million project. Still a good deal for the town, considering the donated parcel had a market value of $350,000.
IF the town is going to expand parking in the downtown and IF the Boltwood Garage affords an economical way to do that, then the ARA could once again lead the charge.
I also find it appalling that the ARA approves something as mundane as Pinocchio's restaurant changing the color scheme on an outdoor sign, but nobody seems to have done anything after the restaurant had to close because of a structure fire, almost two years ago, that left much of the building uninhabitable.
Recently everyone’s favorite community activist Vince O’Connor (who received almost a zero rating from sustainableamherst.org) filed a petition for Town Meeting calling for the “…abolishment of the ARA.”
Vince helped lead the charge to oppose construction of the parking garage and even wanted Town Meeting to take the ARA parcel of land by eminent domain. Of course, the ARA came into possession of the land in the first place by using eminent domain.
Thus, it would have been a reenactment of the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack.
I think the ARA still has some important work to finish and I want to help make that happen.