Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preserve and Protect (self interest)

North Amherst Congregational Church (now under new management).

After narrow back-to-back victories sabotaging the attempted rezoning of North Amherst Village Center to encourage denser, smart growth through Form Based Zoning, the local NIMBYs -- who only need  one third plus one of antiquated Town Meeting to agree with them to block such proposals -- have come up with a new scheme, yet another hurdle for town officials and local developers: Declare the area a "historic district."

A recent article in Preservation Nation portrays the merry band as selfless neighbors fighting valiantly to protect their heritage against "future threats," presumably the evils of corporate greed.

But they fail to mention the lead architect of this gambit, Louis Greenbaum, is a major rental property owner of less-than-upscale housing, who stands to benefit by preventing any mixed-use development that increases the supply of Amherst rental housing.

Oldest saying in capitalism:  "When products compete, they get better."  And God knows, with the squeaky tight housing market in our little college town, home to a very large flagship University, we could use new housing developments to compete with the current supply of aging, expensive units.

Historical preservation, when used correctly, is an admirable, worthy endeavor.  Using it as a weapon against badly needed development is a travesty.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of a historical district- I noticed that the Cowls property on Meadow St has sold- Wonder if
it will be student housing?
I sure hope not

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! You’re saying what I’ve been thinking for some time now—we need to have *more*, not *less* student housing. I think that’s the only way to (gradually) get rid of all those and way-too-expensive decrepit properties that are being rented out right now.

The only reason property owners are getting away with what they’re currently charging is because there are no alternatives. And because the market is so out of whack, even new properties (like the new condo building near the parking garage) get to charge ridiculously high rents ($2,000+/month for a 2-bedroom). I’m convinced that if there’d be a greater supply of decent-quality newer properties, renters would treat those properties with more respect and perhaps even take some pride in where they live. With the dumps they’re practically forced to live in now, I sort of understand why they don’t bother making an effort to keep things looking good.

I hope the town will see that what these few big property owners are doing isn’t going to be in their best interest, and find a way to somehow defeat these quasi-slumlords. Perhaps it’s time for some sweeping gestures from the side of the new building inspector?

Anonymous said...

Yes, we need more Pufton Villages and The Boulders. Crime-ridden zones where you would be afraid to walk at night. Look at the high percentage of police calls to those developments before you call for more of them.

Anonymous said...

You had me until you said "($2,000+/month for a 2-bedroom)."

Since that number is complete poppycock. The average 2-bedroom is around $1,200 or less.

LarryK said...

I've been looking at them very closely for the past two years.

Single family homes that have been converted to two family homes (meaning 8 unrelated tenants) make my Party House of the Weekend list way more often than those complexes.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 9:40 PM:
Yes, the average is indeed about $1,200 for a 2-bedroom. However, the 2 bedrooms in Boltwood Place are renting for $2,180 a piece, for 1,000 sq. ft. I fully agree with you that that is ridiculous! :)

Kilgore said...

Is this a legitimate case of "destroying the village to save it?"

LarryK said...

Be careful how you use "legitimate."

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for this Fox News-like 'fair and balanced" piece. It is important that no facts get in the way, like the fact that the historic commission has plans for this to be a historic district and it does have lots of historic buildings. And it is amazing that Greenbaum has bamboozeled so many North Amherst neighbors. They must be a bunch of dumbos to be foolishly mislead into thinking that they will preserve their neighborhood. Thanks for pulling the wool off.

LarryK said...

You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

I hate when people say "North Amherst (or any) neighbors" like it's an all inclusive group. I'm a North Amherst "neighbor" who was very much in favor of the rezoning and I know a lot of other "neighbors" who were as well. A similar thing happened at town meeting with someone claiming the Applewood residents were against the rezoning there. A week after the Atkin's Corner rezoning was voted down a letter appeared from a bunch of angry Applewood residents claiming that they, in fact, were very much in favor of the zoning change and resented someone speaking "for them" on the floor of town meeting. But, as Larry says, it only takes a vocal minority (claiming to represent the majority) to convince 1/3 plus one of town meeting members to resist change. I'm all for historic preservation, but something really stinks about the timing of this proposal.

Anonymous said...

WD Cowls has not sold any property on meadow street. - Cinda