Saturday, August 23, 2008

Economic development, eh?

So you will notice the "coming soon" part of the banner is pretty weathered--as in having been up in the New England sun for over three months. I actually took this photo a month ago when I covered Pizza Rama calling it quits after 39 years. And the banner has been down for the past two weeks, although I'm told by a reliable source they will open in September.

You would think going from a Fish Market that served food (Take out and Delivery) to a Latino Market (Take out and Delivery) is a turnkey endeavor. But NOOOoooo, not in Amherst!

Here we have the Planning Board pumping molasses in front of any Good Ship trying to navigate the waters to opening, and building inspection folks delaying reopenings.


Max Hartshorne said...

They might get their license faster if they knew how to spell Caribbean!

john sendelbach said...

hey larry,

ok, so i have "heard" and "read" the rhetoric that amherst has anti-business type practices, of which this appears to be a fine example. i believe the anti-business thing, but for the rest of us, could you elucidate a little about what just exactly gives businesses a hard time starting and maintaining in amherst?

i have experienced overly picky building inspectors here, making sure there is a nail in every hole in the joist hangers, etc, whereas in montague, well i think you know what i mean...a number of years back i had some friends living in lake pleasant, right next to the town inspector...whose house was lacking siding and a 2nd story porch rail, or door opening to nothing up there, i can't quite recall. anyways, they get away with murder up there when it comes to building...why so different in amherst.

just a side note...i feel amherst has enough preserved land, and that is why our taxes are so high...let's get some new building going on here! if you want views, there will still be plenty to see.

why should i care, they took my house now i am back to renting.

john sendelbach said...

what's the easy way to remember how to spell it? there "natives" (sorta) are called CARIBS.

the is a malt beverage named CARIB which always pops out in my mind when i see it.

hi max, i know steve h. of gonamad ....any relation....he has my bobblebox (mailbox):

maryd said...

Thanks for the update. We were really happy to see what would be there and had not seen any activity so far.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Max,
I always blame those errors on the print shop.

As you know Amherst (other than state aid) is 90% funded by homeowner/condo property tax and only 10% from commercial property. Not a great balance.

And half the property in town is owned by tax exempts: Amherst College (#!), Umass (#2), and the town itself--mostly Conservation (#3) and Hampshire College probably #4.

The Planning Board and especially the Conservation Committee always seem to think first about how to stop something from happening rather than how to help make it happen.

The disaster of Meadow Street (your area of the woods) where Town Meeting rezoned the Light Industrial land to Flood Prone Conservancy in order to stop a Umass spin off from going in is a prime example. It cost the town 125-K in legal costs (the landowners over 500-K).

The 17 units on South East street will soon be another example as NIMBY's (if it gets approval) will want the town to take it using Community Preservation money (which is spent like it was manna falling from heaven)

I believe Amherst also failed to fill a building inspector position (penny wise and pound foolish) as the inspection fees bring in more money than the department costs taxpayers.

Helen said...

I'm glad you covered that Larry. I noticed this morning when I got back to Amherst how their sign was gone. I was hoping they hadn't given up on opening as I'm looking forward to a new restaurant in South Amherst! :)

LarryK4 said...

Hey Helen,
Yeah, me too. And even though the "academic (lower-on-the-totem-pole) Anon" insists he does not know a single person who works out at my club we do get (September-May, anyway) a fair number of local folks coming through.

And it's pretty darn convenient to grab dinner on the way home (not too mention the Irish bar out front for Friday nights!)

Anonymous said...

> And half the property in town is
> owned by tax exempts: Amherst
> College (#!), Umass (#2), and the
> town itself--mostly Conservation
> (#3) and Hampshire College
> probably #4

Someone involved in town affairs once told me (a few years back) that the value (not acreage) collectively owned by non-college non-profits in Amherst exceeded the value of what UMass owns. (This was while the Boys Club was still tax exempt.)

I think this info was correct. While in most cases it is just a house here in one name, a house there in another, the cumulative effect of all this likely does add up to more than the largely-undeveloped (largely wetland) acreage owned by UMass...

Take, for example, the Men's Resource Center -- they enjoy fire/police protection and other municipal services. That house could rent for a couple of grand a month (easy) and has an assessed value of what with its prime location?

So be careful about blaming the college students -- all of the left-leaning nonprofits are equal burdens on the town taxbase.


Anonymous said...

0ne other thing:

Most (all) of Amherst and Hampshire College's land is dry buildable land.

Most of the land that UMass doesn't already have stuff on (and much of the land that it DOES, including Southwest) is wetland. North Pleasant Street can not be moved (as has been discussed since the '70s) because the proposed new route is through wetlands, they had enough trouble moving Governor's Drive in the '90s.

UMass owns a good chunk of land that runs from just north of Rafters up along 116 to the traffic light, I *know* that UMass owns all the swamp/river land up to at least behind Puffton and think that they own further. And North Village is a swamp that was filled in with the demo debris from the WPA buildings razed to build the stuff in the '70s, if you go off into the woods you can still see piles of it.

According to the Amherst property tax maps, at least the last time I looked, this is all considered dry land that can be developed -- but almost all of it is very swampy and considered undevelopable since the wetlands protections acts came in.

So thus the listed value of UMass land is way off because almost all of its undeveloped land can't be built on. By contrast, much of AC's and *all* of Hampshire's land is buildable - the latter were three farms on high land.


Anonymous said...

About Amherst Inspectional Services:

My personal favorite involved the Boyden & Peron expansion on South Whitney Street.

Even though the town only had a 5" (perhaps 4", this was a few years back) water main on the street, the town was demanding that they use a sprinkler system that had a 6" feeder line (with the assumption that it was connecting to at least a 6" town line in th street).

Actually, I think it was (and is) a 4" line in that street....

So it would be one thing if the town agreed to upgrade the town-owned lines up to the meter and THEN required B&P to have the higher level of protection but they didn't do that. Instead the town made them pay for something that was of no use to them *because* the town line it connected to was far too small to meet the needs of this super-duper sprinkler system.

And this was a family-owned business that had been around for a couple of generations....

Anonymous said...

Selective enforcement?

My professional guess is that 90% of the housing rented to UMass students does not comply with basic code, and that about half of it should be condemned for serious safety stuff.

About every decade, we have a few UMass students burn to death, but no one seems to really get upset about that...

Most of the rental housing in this town was built in the '70s with an anticipated lifespan of 30 years -- do the math (without even remembering that it was built in the 3-4 years where aluminum wiring was legal). The various complexes have serious building-wide issues relating to plumbing and wiring, one maintenance supervisor once told me that he honestly didn't know if the electric or plumbing would fail first, but one will soon...

We are talking about well-funded corporations that now own most of these properties and they silence the Section 8 inspectors and somehow have managed to get the town more worried about nails in joists.

There is scary stuff out there, anyone remember the house that lost all its fire escapes after a rainstorm?

Only in Amherst....

Anonymous said...

If someone knows of a rental property that isn't up to code, who would they report that to and could it be anon? Same goes for houses that have more than the 4 unrelated dwellers allowed by law. Is anything ever enforced?

LarryK4 said...

You should report rental housing safety issues in writing to the building inspector or health department. No, they will not take "Anon" seriously.

And no, the town does not really enforce the 4 unrelated dwellers (unless of course they are Republicans)

Anonymous said...

Folks, forget the four unmarried persons living together rule, it was unenforcable before the gay marriage decision and is completely unenforcable now.

Go with this:
105 CMR 410.400:
Minimum Square Footage
(A) Every dwelling unit shall contain at least 150 square feet of floor space for its first occupant, and at least 100 square feet of floor space for each additional occupant, the floor space to be calculated on the basis of total habitable room area.
(B) In a dwelling unit, every room occupied for sleeping purposes by one occupant shall contain at least 70 square feet of floor space; every room occupied for sleeping purposes by more than one occupant shall contain at least 50 square feet of floor space for each occupant.
(C) In a rooming unit, every room occupied for sleeping purposes by one occupant shall contain at least 80 square feet of floor space; every room occupied for sleeping purposes by more than one occupant shall contain at least 60 square feet for each occupant.

Remember one other thing - ceiling height has to be 7 feet or it doesn't count, which means that all of the *A2 apartments in the Boulders are ILLEGAL as the ceiling is only about 5'7" or so.

And how difficult is it to measure square footage? THIS is the way to go about overcrowded apartments, and it also protects you from discrimination complaints -- the housing discrimination people *encourage* people to use this method to determine occupancy of minor children with single mothers...

Anonymous said...

thanks for the response larry. was that meadow street land held by the good ole jones'? if so, i don't feel so bad about curtailing their profitability. haha

as for 105 CMR 410.400:
Minimum Square Footage

in my ex-home, 1325 sq ft and the room sizes would allow like 10 or 12 people living here. i don't sse your point. no more than four is more encompassing of a law....just because it never gets enforced doesn't make it useless. in fact, when considering the jones' holdings, and having been in many of their rentals over the years, i can say without doubt that there are a LOT of 5+ people rentals in town. all someone has to do, a neighbor or concerned sit out front and watch for a few days. get pictures...and report.

Anonymous said...

My point is that - as Chief Justice Marshal explicitly stated in the gay marriage case - the Commonwealth no longer makes a distinction between those who are married and those who are not.

For example, dorm roommates can (and often do) get 209A restraining orders against each other as if they were married couples.

And thus there really isn't any distinction between, say, five adult siblings living in a unit and five adult friends. And it is every bit as discriminatory to not rent to those *without* children as to those with them.

It is discriminatory to not rent to the woman with four children and it is discriminatory not to rent to the woman with four adult co-tenants. And the square footage rule is far more restrictive than you might think because bedrooms must have windows that open directly to the outside and big enough for a fireman to get through. So your 1375 sqft house likely comes down to quite a bit less and then you have the individual room limits.

But you aren't going to get any further with the four adult rule than you would claiming that a father isn't financially responsible for a child because he isn't married to the child's mother. Both are a bygone legal era not relevant today.

Anonymous said...

the 4 person rule acts first, then the 105 CMR 410.400 kicks in. like filters. perhaps "marraige" no longer constitutes 'related', but blood relations like children, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc is hard to get around. so sure, a couple with 4 kids should be able to move into a 2 BR home, as long as they pass through the aforementioned filters successfully.