Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Two steps forward, one slide back.
Alas, my annual membership fee to The People’s Republic of Amherst is up 33 cents this year—that is 33 cents per $1,000 of valuation. Thus I will pay the Politburo $3,800…and it doesn’t even include a personal masseuse.
If a tornado uprooted my humble abode and plopped it down in Hadley, the membership fee there would be about half that ($2,095).
Last night, rather late, Town Meeting took baby steps towards economic development. We extended the business district a smidgeon to include the Lord Jeff Inn and some other Amherst College owned properties in the immediately vicinity thus paving the way for the stately Inn to expand by at least 33%.
Currently valued at $2 million the Lord Jeff membership fee to Amherst this year is $32,000 and they also pay the 4% hotel/motel room tax something the tax-exempt Umass Campus Center Hotel (with room sales last year of $919,382) ignores.
Thus the Lord Jeff expansion is a double win for Amherst: a significant increase in property tax valuation and increased sales subject to the local room tax.
But we narrowly failed to muster the two-thirds required (100-53) for a slight loosening of restrictions to allow hotel/motels in the downtown business district. A great night for Amherst College, as now there is little likelihood of increased lodging competition.
As long as Amherst’s tax base remains 90% housing and 10% commercial, the annual membership fees will remain entirely too steep; and the only one that benefits is Hadley.
JUST THOUGHT OF IT NOW UPDATE: Interestingly, both the Town Moderator Harrison Gregg and Chair of the Planning Board Aaron Hayden stepped down during the discussion last night to avoid Conflict of Interest as they are both employed by Amherst College. Too bad our Select board members, who are employed by Umass (or immediate family), don’t have the same high threshold for integrity.