Friday, July 27, 2007

A Tree (or two) Grows in Amherst

Since half of Amherst is tax exempt (owned by Amherst College, Umass and our Conservation Department) the other half has to pick up an awful lot of slack. And then, within that taxable half shouldering twice the burden, homeowners contribute 90% while commercial property only accounts for 10%.

So now when property goes off the tax rolls it’s like throwing a drowning person a 25-pound Olympic weight plate rather than a life preserver.

Recently Umass purchased and demolished Frat Row, five funky big old houses at the gateway to Umass that previously generated over $50,000 in taxes. And Amherst College outbid developers for the Dakin Estate next to college owned Amherst Golf Course. Although the property was valued at less than a million the purchase price was four times that so if, say, Barry Roberts, had won the bid he would have paid Amherst $60,000 the last two years and much more when his development was completed.

And speaking of Roberts, the town now wants to purchase 7 of his 13 lots in North Amherst (the more mountainous ones) for anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 to quiet the NIMBY types mostly those living in Leverett. Thus, instead of adding $2 million to the tax levy Amherst gets less than zip.

Any time anybody wants to develop or expand their property the neighbors are quick to cite turtle habitat, swamp fauna, or increased traffic that will endanger the kids. I fear greatly that Amherst College is going to discover that sad fact when they go before Town Meeting to get the zoning change (requiring a two-thirds vote) for the $5 million expansion of the Lord Jeff Inn, which would more than double tax revenues to Amherst (yes, the Lord Jeff and the Golf Course are on the tax rolls).

While the trees in question are common—maple and fir—they are pretty BIG. And in this town, as long as they are large enough to hug…


Tommy said...

Dude, is that you portrayed as "Mr. Moustache" in the spoof of Amherst Town Meeting in the new edition of Local Buzz? It is not online so you'll have to get a copy downtown.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Tommy,

Yes indeed, as Rodney (God rest his soul) would say, “I get no respect!”--from Amherst Town Meeting or would-be journalists. Hey, at least he didn’t’ mention my grey hair. Ironically yesterday I received from the Comptroller (fancy term for person who balances the books on our $60 million enterprise) the Cherry Hill Golf Course revenues and expenditures for FY 07 (ending June 30) and EVERYTHING I said that night materialized.

I’ll post something middle of next week as I’m getting backed up with so many interesting topics at the moment, and I know Cherry Hill bores the Hell out of Mary Carey.

I vaguely remember using the term “paradigm shift” but I think in regards to something other than the Golf Course (amazingly I bitch about a lot of things this town does wrong). That term comes from the ‘History of Science’ course I took at Umass twenty years ago and we spent an awful lot of time on Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”; and his premise is as valid today as it was then--especially in politics.

Of course you gotta wonder if hip young scribes for ‘The Buzz’ can pronounce Thomas Kuhn’s surname? And if ‘The Buzz’ were so hip and cool and like-NOW-man, then why is their content not completely available on the web? And if they really piss me off, I’ll remind them that “Buzz Cut,” otherwise known as “Flat Top Crew Cut (popular with, gasp, conservatives) was the most popular hairstyle during the 1950’s.

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