Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The Ghost of Christmas yet to come?
So yeah, I'm sticking my oversized neck out by publishing this but, unlike WikiLeaks, I will provide background and context for this important document, obtained under the legitimate protection of an Executive Session Monday night at the Amherst Redevelopment Authority meeting (legal advice from the town attorney is exempt from disclosure under Mass Public Documents Law.)
Kind of an "Executive Decision" on my part--as the acting Chair of the ARA and, as such, I of course take full responsibility.
I consider it a journalistic "correction" for something I previously published. When overly concerned, outspoken neighbor John Fox (a retired Washington attorney) visited the Amherst Select Board to rail against the Gateway Project and present to them a petition signed by 147 fellow "concerned citizens" he also attached to that petition an email exchange he had with town planner Christine Brestrup declaring Umass was subject to local town zoning and as such was limited in what they could develop on the former Frat Row, a now vacant prime piece of property (worth millions) sitting at the entry/Gateway to Umass.
Turns out our town attorney disagrees with that assumption. And it's an extremely critical point: UMass does not need the town or the ARA to build anything--including any kind of housing--on the former Frat Row. Backs up what Mr. Diacon pointed out an an ARA meeting months ago; they could build a 20 story residential project designed exclusively for undergrads if they so desired--all of it off the property tax rolls.
Key sentence of attorney Bard's email being the close: "It is therefore my opinion that, were UMass to retain ownership of the Gateway site and to development it for its own use in furtherance of its essential governmental function, such development of the site would not be controlled by the Town's Zoning Bylaw."
So NIMBY neighbors: be careful what you wish for. Torpedo the Gateway Project as envisioned in this joint coalition between the town, ARA and Umass...at your own risk.