Saturday, November 6, 2010

There they grow again

93 Fearing Street. Lincoln Apartments (brick building behind fence) in back.

Umass is in the process of purchasing 93 Fearing Street, probably because of its prime location abutting Lincoln Apartments, recently renovated family housing (105 units) set aside for Graduate Students and faculty. The house,currently assessed at $403,000, has been owned and occupied by the same family for 50 years.

Obviously owner-occupied houses in that neighborhood are not the problem when it comes to rowdy student behavior.

Next door neighbor Gretchen Fox appeared before the Amherst Select Board on 10/25 to complain about the purchase and husband John Fox has also been routinely attending the ARA meetings over the past six months to question The Gateway Project.

Since this will take the three-family house and property (over one acre) off the tax rolls it will cost Amherst about $6,500 annually in lost revenue (plus 2.5%.) Umass is the #2 landowner in town behind Amherst College and overall tax exempts own half the property in town.

-----Original Message-----
From: Todd Diacon
Cc: Nancy Buffone ; ; ;
Sent: Fri, Nov 5, 2010 3:36 pm
Subject: Re: Umass/town relations

Dear Larry: Thank you for your thoughts and query.

I have met with John Musante to discuss 93 Fearing Street, and soon will follow
up on the meeting with a memo explaining our plans for that property.

As to the other issue, we believe the Gateway Project will produce the win-win
situation of additional housing that individuals affiliated with the university
will find attractive (undergraduate students, graduate students, new faculty),
while contributing to the town's tax receipts.

Todd Diacon
Deputy Chancellor
University of Massachusetts Amherst

On Nov 5, 2010, at 1:13 PM,
Amherstac@aol wrote:

Not asking as an ARA member, just as a nosey blogger. The bricks-and-mortar
media sleep from around noon Friday until Monday 9:00 AM, but I do not.

What is up with 93 Fearing Street? I could not help but note the Fox household
has divided to fight a two-front war: John Fox continues to hammer The Gateway Project (and I would not take heart that he failed to show for last night's ARA meeting) on the Commentary pages of the venerable Daily Hampshire Gazette and Amherst Bulletin and wife Gretchen attacks Umass for purchasing 93 Fearing St via public comment at the SB meeting Oct 25.

Since the sizable property is contiguous with Lincoln Apartments, I'm assuming it will be used as housing of some sort? And IF melding seamlessly with Lincoln Apartments that would seem to indicate Grad students or faculty, thus making the neighbors happy?

Of course the upside for the neighborhood is a downside to the town as Grad
Students/Faculty have a far greater impact on our public schools. Last I looked
we had about 60 kids (@ $14,000 per) attending Amherst schools from tax-exempt housing located at Umass, including Chancellor Holub's two daughters.

And speaking of which, what is the status of the Amherst school department's
modular classrooms at Mark's Meadow?

The 5 year "Strategic Agreement" signed with Umass about 4 years ago did clearly state that if Mark's Meadow closed Umass would sort of, maybe, consider a Payment In Lieu of Taxes to cover the $750,000+ in education costs for children in the public system from Umass?

And if the purchase of 93 Fearing street goes through, that will cost the town
another $6,500 or so in property taxes per year. If I were your PR flack I
would be thinking about all of this (especially now).

Larry K

Tax-exempt house with a view


Ed said...

Larry, facts matter. First, there are no children in Lincoln Apartments because UMass (illegally) evicted all the parents of children under six back in 1999. There is lead paint in Lincoln and hence anyone with a child (or who gets pregnant) is required to move to North Village.

Second, other than it is available, I don't understand why the university is buying it -- UMass is supposedly so broke that they will have to increase fees.

Third, you (or someone) needs to calculate how much it would cost the town if all the taxed real estate currently being rented to UM undergrads was to become instead Section 8 rentals to single mothers with children. And not just in terms of schools, ask your cop buddies about Southpoint (aka "Gunpoint").

Fourth, do you know that half of all the tickets that the UMASS police write goes to Amherst? We are not just talking the $300 fines the town has, and all of that, but one municipality sending its ticket revenue to another.

Facts matter and I think UMass would wind up sending Amherst a bill if everything including enhanced property values were evaluated.

What would Amherst look like if UMass had 5000 students rather than 5000 employees? What would Amherst look like if 4000 people didn't have jobs anymore?

LarryK4 said...

Well, those 50 or 60 kids are coming from somewhere on Campus, and Umass even acknowledged that in the "Strategic Agreement" signed with former Town Manager Larry Shaffer about 4 years ago.

The Umass website describes Lincoln Apartments as "family housing".

I believe the moving ticket violations on campus written by UMPD only returns 50% to the town.

Just as a State Trooper writing a speeding ticket on Rt. 91 generates a 50/50 cut with whatever municipality the vehicle happens to be in at the time.

Ed said...

Amherst and UMass are making the exact same mistake that Detroit did -- the town and the university are making deals that screw the customer (the students) and presuming that since the customer has always been willing to pay more for less in the past, the customer will continue to do so.

No, and the cracks are starting to become visible around the edges. The "problem" with student partying this year is because of the kids (from out of state) who saw the Potemkin Village of what the UMass student experience is supposed to be, and then learn that you can't have as much fun here as at BU because there really is nothing to do in Amherst...

Remember the Globe article about how Massachusetts kids aren't coming to UMass if they have the ability to go somewhere else? Now why would that be????

So there are 50-60 North Village kids in the Amherst schools. When you include the Pomeroy Lane Coop, the other stuff HAP has along with the new development, they will have at least as many kids in the Amherst schools

Where you are going with this Larry is where the fringe Libertarians go -- the argument that those without children ought not be forced to pay for those who do. And this is a very slippery slope that leads to the execution of the elderly as "useless eaters" and the rest of it. But what you really are saying is that the people who have children in the schools should be the ones paying for their education and not the community as a whole.

But even taking that, you are talking about 600 kids in the schools, while you have probably 6000 apartments that would become Section 8 housing for single mothers were they not being rented by UM students. Hence you would be talking 8000-16,000 more children in the schools were it not for UMass. Which is more expensive - 600 children or 16,000?

And remember that you are getting property taxes on these 6000 units, taxes you enjoy without the ordinary expenses of children in the schools, and hence UM subsidizes you.

But let's take it one step further -- lets say that UM responds by evicting everyone with a child. (So what if it is illegal, it is UMass...) Do you think that these children will evaporate? No, you still will have them in your schools, and you also will be picking up the social service and police costs that the university now absorbs. How much do you think it costs to have the social service network that the university has for these children -- and could Amherst afford that too?

I am not defending UMass - but facts do matter....

Flush said...

Starving the Frown of Amhurts, one property at a time.

Love it.

Anonymous said...

It's all BS, like a bad movie that jumps back and forth several times so you cant remember it. Hoops of fire, laws, taxes, last years article, boo hoo our finances are down 1.4 million, yet we had a 780,00 bonus for raising taxes last year.....whatever

Anonymous said...

How many near sighted meglomaniacal, Martin guitar playing, pot smoking, four time divorced jugglers driving four wheel drive Subarus can one small town hold?

Ask the Prozac whipped men of Amherst, they'll tell you.

Anonymous said...

I actually spend more in fuel and go to a college/university in the Springfield area. From what I see of courses at UMass the two programs are comparable, but I pay lessthan $800 a semester to take one class.

We have seen the banking and investing industry adjust. The automobile and housing industries adjust. The only place left to see a much needed adjustment is in the Educational world. When this one comes we actually may start to see salaries across the board adjust.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I'm taking a course at Umass this fall and I think it was almost $1,100 (ouch!).

And oddly enough the previous three were all taken online but at the same price.

You would think, since online students don't impact the infrastructure, those courses would be a tad cheaper

Ed said...

What everyone in Amherst fails to realize is that McDonald's "Hamburger U" is now accredited. That there are more seats in corporate education courses than in higher education itself -- and that sooner or later, corporations are going to not only start hiring high school students and educate them themselves (much like much of the R&D has shifted from higher education to corporate research centers).

This already is happening in India, and that may well be part of why Obama is over there. When parents start seeing 22-year-old junior executives (who have no student loan debt) they are going to stop sending their kids out to Amherst and the game will be over...

Anyone remember the Penn Central Railroad, circa 1972 or so? So will be UMass....

Anonymous said...

Did I say....."I told you so?" Ummm....ya I did a while back concerning the "gateway bullshit"...LOL

Anonymous said...

A couple of relevant facts. The house at 93 Fearing Street was built by (then professor) Philip Hasbrouck (for whom Hasbrouck lab is named) in the early part of the 20th century. The house has been continuously occupied by his descendants until now. When the family wished to sell the property, they approached UMass first, because of the historical connection between the house and the University. UMass accepted to purchase it.