John Fox on the attack at ARA meeting earlier this month.
So Umass neighbor John (crazy-like-a) Fox seems spoiling for a fight at every opportunity--even when he has to s-t-r-e-t-c-h it a bit in order to engage.
He attended the 12/15 zoning forum (fair enough, as it was advertised as a "pubic forum") and joined forces with other anti-development BANANAs: (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone) to rail against anything remotely resembling progress--especially the Gateway Project, a once-in-a-generation joint enterprise between Umass, the town and the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, a quasi-state agency with a proven track record at urban redevelopment dating back 40 years.
And since the ARA did not attend the forum, Mr. Fox made sure to forward his 7-page diatribe to our entire 5-person committee (four elected by town voters and one appointed by the Governor) via Planning Director Jonathan Tucker, even though Mr. Fox has our individual email addresses.
Today's Springfield Republican article should answer what appears to be his central question asking where the "new" Town Manager John Musante stands on the this long overdue coalition/partnership with Umass, an entity where Mr. Fox was once employed.
Indeed his location to campus, only an underhand pitch away, must have been awfully convenient back then.
Mr. Fox purchased his home in December, 1983 when the total student population was 25,833-- not much more than the 27,569 hosted today. And if memory serves (since I was attending the University back then) the fashionable nickname at that time--deservedly so--was "Zoomass." An image the University has worked hard to change over the past decade, with good results.
So it's not like Mr. Fox can argue the real estate agent never told him about this giant entity that looms over his frontyard. And at that time "Frat Row"--at the entrance to his street--was in its absolute glory, with about 200 rowdy kids who loved to party hardy. Former "Frat Row", with depressing shadow cast by NIMBYs
Neither is it likely that this intimate close proximity to Umass has hurt his property value any, since Mr. Fox's humble abode is currently valued at $546,800 and he only paid $109,100 twenty-seven years ago when a dollar was worth 2.1 times what it is today, or $229,110 in current dollars. Not a bad ROI.
Last night Mr. Fox carried his cacophonous campaign to the final Select Board meeting of the year, where he submitted a petition (how very 60s of him) requesting the town stand down on spending $30,000 for a consultant to help facilitate the "visioning process"--a very long, involved public input period, which I'm sure Mr. Fox will take every advantage of to press his one-note protest song.
The ARA has never said student housing at Gateway would be "substantially" or "primarily" undergraduate housing. We are saying the University needs additional housing (undergrads, grads, faculty) and Amherst's downtown desperately needs an economic boost, and our anemic less-than-10% commercial tax base could use some reinforcements.
This mixed use, privately developed project substantially dresses up the main approach to Umass and will be--as Umass deputy chancellor Todd Diacon has stated many times--"a win win."
Umass gets upscale housing that will provide much needed competition to the local slum lords who take advantage of students by packing them into one-family houses in residential neighborhoods, while the town gets a much needed increase in the commercial tax base, and the downtown expands seamlessly into the heart of Umass via an attractive corridor.
The $30,000 consultant cost is not town tax money, it is ARA money. In fact, Amherst has no control over the ARA, although we do work closely together with the town for the common good--something these noisy neighbors should try sometime.
ACTV did not air live the first few minutes of Mr. Fox's diatribe. When they get around to rebroadcast, if they air the entire monologue, I will reedit.
Disclaimer: Although I'm a longtime member of the ARA, Umass graduate, currently a Continuing Education student and 5th generation Amherst resident, I speak here, as I always do, strictly for myself (and for the hard-pressed taxpayers of this town) using that cherished American ideal known as the First Amendment.