Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Trailer for sale or rent, rooms to let...

UPDATE: Thursday, 7:45 AM
So apparently Mary Carey got her hands dirty and went to the Town Clerks office and perused the ancient books of all things political and discovered the unconstitutional Bylaw banning more than four unrelated house buddies was passed W-A-Y back in 1966. (I'm so glad the Bully uses updated stories on occasion) Now I just wish they would go cyber sooner.
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UPDATE: Wednesday, 5:00 PM

So I’m looking at my Sitemeter and I’m W-A-Y behind last week’s April Fool’s upload (all three of them). Hmmm…

Okay, if it’s satire you want (although God knows how often my little karate student Max Karson got into trouble for trying to use it) here goes:

Amherst Occupancy Bylaw controls those damn Republicans:

The People’s Republic of Amherst initiated a crackdown using an ignored, ancient, exceedingly unconstitutional Town Meeting ordinance and-- like the flying of the UN flag in front of Town Hall— (so old that even Vince O’Connor can’t remember when it was passed), limiting Republicans per household to just 1 in 15, since that is percentage of Republican registered voter s in town.

And if you allow more than that in a household with Liberal Democrats the police will be called called upon too often to referee fights.

Thus the 7% of registered Amherst Republicans will have to form their own shantytown “reservation” or face eviction from house and home. Indeed Dorothy, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home:”

Unless you (try to) live in the People’s Republic of Amherst.
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UPDATE: Wednesday, April 8 10:00 AM


So I couldn't help but notice the Collegian front page story yesterday following up on the Gazette front page article. In the active Comments section one of the young ladies responds to a curmudgeon from Boston who thinks all students are spoiled brats (OUCH!):

Charlotte, I'm truly sorry that your personal experience with college students has been so terrible. However, as one of the girls that live in 265 East Pleasant, I take extreme offense to being referred to as an "ill-bred brat." I understand that you want to vent your feelings about the college kids in your area, but it really has nothing to do with our situation in Amherst. We have had absolutely no noise complaints from either the neighbors or police force. The issue is not about our being spoiled or inconsiderate, it is about the number of cars in our driveway and the fact that we had one more person in our home than is permissible by the town of Amherst. And just because you asked, yes I am the type of student who "eagerly signs up" for charity events-- last year I spent time building a Habitat for Humanity house in a South African township and in past years I have worked with Relay for Life, an especially important cause for me as my younger brother is currently battling cancer. So as much as I appreciate the interest, please take your negative comments elsewhere.

Collegian Article
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ORIGINAL POST: Tuesday morning

So once again academic, overly enlightened Amherst hits the AP wire with a negative story.

You would think if the town (that makes a fool of itself nationally all too often) wanted to suddenly crack down on those evil students using the unconstitutional four unrelated persons bylaw which has been on the books forever and like Rent Control was only briefly enforced, they would have chosen better subjects to make an example of.

Like five macho dudes living in a ramshackle hut with empty beer cans littering the lawn and numerous noise complaints (another bylaw that is enforced almost every weekend) documented in the police records.

But NOOOOOOOO, they have to pick a group of industrious, responsible--women four of them graduating seniors and one a grad student--renting a large house from a Umass professor on sabbatical and throw one out a month before the semester ends.

Amherst has too many young people for too few housing units and now the town is going to further reduce supply (by limiting the number per house) while the demand will stay high.

Sounds like landlords can now increase rents even further.

A few months ago the Select Board voiced their concern to the Town Manager about high legal bills (averaging $160,000 for the past few years) yet now we're enforcing this bylaw in a heavy handed manner when our previous town attorney suggested it would not stand up to a legal challenge. Umass students can get free use of an attorney through Legal Services.

The town needs to hire a PR/marketing expert (Umass has five or six in their Spin Room) to give advice to department heads or the political leadership to head off these bonehead ideas. Until then here's this free advice:

All you need do is ask yourself, as PT Barnum almost always did, “how is this going to play in the heartland”? And right now the People’s Republic of Amherst, once again, looks redder than the People’s Republic of China.

31 comments:

Ed said...

There are three other things here.

First, the ordinance is unconstitutional as hell. What it is saying is that only certain people are allowed to associate with each other - it is as legally shaky as a rule that unmarried women and men may not share an apartment. Further, the homeowner is entitled to an abatement because the town has devalued the property.

Second, there is knowingly violating civil rights under law. There is one thing if you don't know, but if you have a legal opinion and then still go forward, you are looking at 46 USC 1983 violation of civil rights under color of law. And the nasty thing about this is that the police officers involved are sued PERSONALLY (like in police brutality suits) and the town may NOT indemnify them. So while the Town Mangler can also be sued personally, each and every other person involved can be too.

And third, the Deval Patrick administration wants to move a good chunk of undergraduate education to Springfield, Holyoke and/or Chicopee. Those communities want the university, have available land, and are close to the turnpike.

Remember that a good number of professors *and* students commute out here from the inside-495 region and many of the local .dpc jobs have already moved to Shrewsbury.

You could well see a lot of the upper level undergrad classes moving down to "outreach" centers. There is housing down there and it is closer to the kids who are commuting. So you will have just the freshmen and grad students on campus/in Amherst. The kids who behave themselves and spend money (but don't have children of their own) won't live in town....

Oh, and, property values, well....

Anonymous said...

someone needs to build a student apartment complex a la univ of colorado - boulder

they put them together but structure deposits/payments to dscourage hobart lane style stuff

there is no reason why undergrad bs and blight housing a la cherwati should be tolerated

i agree that the wrong people got picked on; typical amherst

maybe keenan and his friend can go offer top dollar assistance?

Gavin Andresen said...

It's OK to regulate nuisance BEHAVIOR.

But we all aught to be able to do whatever the hell we want, and live with whomever we want, in our own houses (unless and until we do something that puts our neighbors, or their property, at risk).

Anybody know which section of the bylaws has this law? And what does "related" mean, anyway-- we're ALL related if you go back far enough...

Anonymous said...

Related I think means biologically or by marriage. I am not sure all of them have to be related to each other.

So, a husband and wife and three children is OK.

I am not sure about a man and his 2 children that lives with a woman and her 3 children. (That would be 2 related plus 3 related).

5 college students not OK. Although, if two of them were married would that be OK.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, makes me wonder what could happen if Donna and I adopt two more kids?

Anonymous said...

I guess you have to live at the gym.

LarryK4 said...

Sometimes I think I already do.

Anonymous said...

I think adoption should be included in the related category.

How is this all checked anyway? Are the five students listed on a lease? Why not just remove yourself from the lease and then move back in. Is the Town Manager going to have a bed check to see if more than 4 people slept there last night?

LarryK4 said...

Not sure how it is “checked”—but the WAY it occurs is the same way everything else happens in this town. Somebody (a neighbor) starts squeaking loudly.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why an ordinance that is so obviously and blatantly unconstitutional is being enforced? Why should people have to sue? The town should be smarter than that.

Anonymous said...

OK, imagine a little 3 bedroom ranch. Put 2 college boys in each room. Bring in 3 more to live in the basement that doesn't have an extra fire exit. They each have a car that ends up parked on the lawn in the winter. They each invite over friends for some great parties, yeah! They all park the entire length of your street and yell at each other as they leave, hey dude, and their drunk girlfriends scream alot.
Wanna live next to that?

LarryK4 said...

When my dad died in 1963 at only age 49 from a work related head injury (fetching far less publicity than Natasha Richardson's accidental death from skiing) my mother, in order to survive, (A) went back to work as a public school teacher back before the teachers unions had the power, prestige and influence they have today so therefor she was W-A-Y underpaid; and (B) rented out as much of our BIG old house on High Street as she could.

At peak we had two apartments upstairs each with three students, a seasonal wrap around porch (all in glass, so cold as hell in the winter) with another two and the cellar/basement with two more—all of them “unrelated” (but somehow we all got along).

Our cellar/basement did have two exits as did the porch but I’m sure my Mom violated a half-dozen local ordinances at the time.

But she treated all the students like family. If some calamity were to occur that caused pain, suffering or death to any of her tenants I can assure you it would also have done the same to her four children.

You do WHATEVER in order to survive. For my Mom, it was renting out over half our home. For her students/tenants it was good deal as she charged less than market rate.

For sure, profiteers take advantage--but there will also always be good hearted landlords like my Mom, just trying to survive.

The town needs to figure out the difference.

Gavin Andresen said...

Anonymous 3:53:

I'm pretty sure we've got zoning laws that prohibit parking cars on lawns. If we don't... well, we should.

And as for great parties and noisy girlfriends: we've got laws that cover those behaviors, too, when they're a nuisance to the neighbors.

The issue isn't how many people are in the house; the issue is whether or not they're a nuisance.

When did we go from "innocent until proven guilty" to "five unrelated people living in a house MUST be up to no good..."

Ex-Townie said...

Well said, Larry.

We too had many "tenants" in our various homes in Amherst way back when and it always seemed to work out well for everyone involved. I think the primary problem w/in Amherst - and the big difference between then and now - is that most of these landlords today are absentee owners who are rarely on the premises (and usually living in an entirely different state). They aren't around like our mothers were to enforce noise ordinances, pick up trash, and basically just make sure the student tenants are behaving themselves & being good neighbors. Too bad.

I agree that Amherst should be able to figure this one out w/out punishing EVERYONE because of the bad decisions/neglect of a few people. Perhaps the answer lies in somehow ENcouraging "resident" landlords (through tax breaks, allowing higher occupancy rates, etc.) and DIScouraging the absentee landlords, who have very little skin in the game when it comes to the behavior of their tenants. Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

God damnherst...

Jim Neill said...

Is the problem with the recipe or with the ingredients? If there are five separate ingredients in your cake recipe and the cake collapses, do you conclude that the problem will be solved by limiting yourself to four ingredients? And mandating that no one shall ever use more than four separate ingredients in a cake in Amherst? Which to exclude? These are individual residence problems, the product of the individuals living there. It is cowardly to punish everyone so that the problem homes (the small minority) can be legally broken up.

S.P. Sullivan said...

I live in a house next to a soccer field. I don't call the town manager when a soccer game wakes me up on Saturday morning.

I got tired of being woken up by rowdy college kids, so I moved further south in Am'erst. And I'm a college kid.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I live next to the DPW (who are great neighbors by the way)

And I actually like it in the dead of winter when I'm awakened during a snow storm to the "beep, beep, beep" of those Big old plows backing up and heading out to make Amherst safe.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but you both knew those were there when you moved in. What happens when the house next door is sold to someone who doesn't give a crap, or goes to Italy on sabbatacal, and you have to call the cops over and over and over and over......
No, it isn't just about how many people live in the house. That rule had been ignored for years and they are just using it for leverage now.
And, no, I don't live anywhere near UMass.

Ed said...

Is the Town Manager going to have a bed check to see if more than 4 people slept there last night

Apparently, the Amherst Police are. The girls mentioned "a nice police officer" who came over and busted them. Which raises all kinds of interesting questions, not the least being one of racism.

Do the police know that there are people living in Section 8 Apts who are not on those leases - of course, they are arresting them. Yet they ignore that, and bust these girls, who are white. Racism....

And as I understand it -- and this from the Housing Discrimination folk - the ONLY limit you can put on number of people in an apartment is based on the State Sanitary Code's specifications for square footage of bedroom and total square footage of the unit. 105 CMR 410 - it is specified in the regs. And if there are 7 bedrooms, each 100 square feet then there can legally be SEVEN girls in that house....

And if the town wants to look for issues, what about the ~A2 units in the Boulders, none of which meet basic code because the ceiling is too low. Fair is fair...

Ed said...

When did we go from "innocent until proven guilty" to "five unrelated people living in a house MUST be up to no good..."

They are UMass students, hence they inherently must be guilty....

Ed

Anonymous said...

Yikes Ed...get over yourself.

With that last comment re: "they're UMass students so they must be guilty" you're engaging in the exact same kind of profiling that is being talked about throughout this thread: taking a few bad experiences and extrapolating those outward to create a dangerous stereotype. All residents of Amherst do not believe that all UMass students are n'er-do-wells - quite the contrary, most of us live here BECAUSE of the vibe/opportunities that UMass and its students bring to this town. So drop the "poor me" attitude and open your eyes up to the greater reality that's around you - the gray-colored glasses you wear are narrowing your focus and clouding your vision.
(and please spare us all a lengthy treatise on WHY UMass students are persecuted, misunderstood, etc. and how it all ties into the Spanish Inquisition, Rule 6 of the Klingon Code, and the price of oil)

Anonymous said...

Laryy, just wondering why you posted the picture of the South East st. house? Isn't it a totally different NIMBY issue?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, kind of (but NIMBY is NIMBY).

And if it were not for the NIMBY's on South East Street THAT "house" (where somebody lived with no electricity or running water and the town did nothing about it) would be GONE and a nice, taxpaying development of modest proportions would already be in place.

Condo units marketed to older folks so it would not impact our venerable schools.

Anonymous said...

whats the status on that project? I thought the developer was finally given the go-ahead for a watered down version.

LarryK4 said...

I think it's still in limbo (thanks to the NIMBY"s).

Naturally there is talk about using Community Preservation $ (you know, the stuff that falls like manna from the heavens) to purchase the entire site.

Hey, a million here and a million there pretty soon you're talking real money.

Helen said...

I think that bylaw passed in the mid to late 80's. I was a new town meeting member at the time. I'm surprised they have just started enacting it, as we were told at the time that it was probably illegal and most likely wouldn't stand up in court. There were quite a few town meeting members who got up to speak in favor of it who lived near problem properties. And if I remember correctly, there were some other college towns in MA and other states who had also enacted similar by-laws which were talked about during the debate.

LarryK4 said...

Thanks Helen,

Yeah, I kinda figured it had to predate my tenure (or should I say "sentence") in Town Meeting that started in 1991.

Anonymous said...

I lived in a Southwood apartment in the late 80's and recall we just didn't put the extra names on any paperwork to avoid the 4 person rule. And we stayed out of trouble!

Anonymous said...

" (or should I say "sentence") in Town Meeting"

I don't remember anyone holding a gun to your head and forcing you to run, so quit complaining.

LarryK4 said...

Of course the ironic thing is now a gun is being held to my head NOT to attend Town Meeting that starts next month on school grounds.

And with the arrest on Sunday of a guy in East Longmeadow (who is running for School Committee) for trespassing for watching his kid play ball on a Sunday morning I'm starting to take that Trespass Notice a tad more seriously.