Friday, March 29, 2013

A Cold Reality


Finance Committee Chair Andy Steinberg Co-Chairing Budget Coordinating Group Thursday morning

Amherst finance guru Andy Steinberg addressed the two town meeting warrant articles calling for many millions of dollars in spending for the eminent domain taking of two properties in town and his brief comment Thursday morning could fit on their tombstone:  "It's hard to imagine how these things are feasible."

Indeed.

But where was he 25 years ago when the town spent the most money in history for an eminent domain taking:  Cherry Hill Golf Course @ $2.2 million, simply to satisfy 100 NIMBYs in North Amherst.

But yes, two wrongs do not make a right, and at least maybe town officials learned something from the Cherry Hill debacle ... maybe.  The taking of W.D. Cowls property in the bucolic Cushman section of North Amherst would cost many times more than the $1.2 million that appears in the warrant article.

Since Cinda Jones has an offer of $6.6 million on the table from a serious developer who wishes to construct high end student housing,  that is how much it would cost the town to take it.  6.6 million.  Dollars.   A UFO piloted by Elvis landing in town center on the 4th of July is f-a-r more likely to happen. 



The taking of Echo Village, which would cost close to $3 million, has a far better shot with Amherst Town Meeting, as the impacted residents who are being evicted will generate far more sympathy than the well off white people from North Amherst.

And the new Echo Village owner, Jamie Cherewatti, is not overly popular with neighborhood groups all over Amherst.  At the Housing & Sheltering Committee meeting yesterday, where about-to-be-evicted tenants presented their case to the committee, Town Meeting member Paige Wilder chimed in, "Jamie Cherewatti owns four houses in my neighborhood that are all party houses."

Social activists Vince O'Connor and Kevin Noonan also spoke in behalf of the tenants urging the committee to support their article for an eminent domain article.  O'Connor pointed out if the town used Community Preservation Act money to fund some of the taking it would place an affordable housing restriction on the deed.

 Peter Jessop, Chair Amherst Community Preservation Act Committee

The CPAC did vote on Thursday night to support an emergency appropriation of $15,000 to help the tenants with relocation.  Apparently the former owner, Jerry Gates, was a tad more benevolent than the new owner and did not require first and last month's rent for new tenants so now there's no savings to rely on for getting a new apartment where that is required.  

But if Town Meeting should override CPAC committee recommendations and use money towards the outright purchase then the 24 units of housing would count towards the town's affordable housing stock, currently at 10.8%. Now in danger of falling below 10% and opening the town up to a Ch40B development.

 Echo Village Tenant Tracylee Boutilier addresses Housing & Sheltering Committee

Either way, with the Residential Rental Property Bylaw bringing a game changing permit system to town also on the warrant, Amherst Town Meeting should be more interesting than a night of network reality TV.

I can't wait.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

"well off white people from north amherst" sound kind of racist there Kelley. You know better than to stereotype everybody in one area. Why that's just down right offensive.

Larry Kelley said...

Obviously you "can't handle the truth."

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is the "truth" Larry. Many people on Henry street will be impacted by the proposed development on the Cowls land and I am sure they will be against it....and I am equally sure that they are NOT "well-off" white people.

I was also taken aback by your characterization, Larry. It was a jarring comment to say the least and I am sure you phrased it that way to get comments. Aren't comments the bread and butter of any blogger. Though I have to admit the way you refuse to post comments flies in the face of that idea.

Larry Kelley said...

I should have known that was YOU.

Actually I believe the vast majority -- if not ALL -- the North Amherst residents who signed the original petition article in 1987 to take Cherry Hill Golf Course were white.

And I believe the majority of folks now impacted by the Echo Village eviction are minority.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, it is social class, not race.

Well-off minorities act just like well-off white people, sometimes worse. Some of the most racist things I have ever heard said have come out of the mouths of Black & Hispanic folk with 6-figure incomes.

Anonymous said...

The majority of them are all dead and buried now, so what's the connection? When you say something stupid, just admit it and move on.

Larry Kelley said...

Actually Vince O'Connor is alive and well and he was THE chief architect of the Cherry Hill taking.

Anonymous said...

"100 NIMBYs in North Amherst"

I'm sorry, you mean property tax payers that collectively pay millions in taxes.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, the well off white people.

Anonymous said...

So, you think Amherst should confiscate a business (Echo Village) because you don't like the owner of that business's decisions?

Anonymous said...

Why don't we take the $6 million and buy them all condos on the open market?

Larry Kelley said...

Actually I'm a private sector kind of guy.

Tom McBride said...

So CPAC argued against taking the Echo Hill apartments by eminent domain?

Larry Kelley said...

According to Chair Peter Jessop he, "tried to steer the conversation away from discussion of an outright purchase. I think most of the committee grasped that we are in no position to make that idea a reality."

Anonymous said...

One of the saddest things about the proposed project in Cushman is that it's not a wealthy neighborhood. The houses are small or modest, some are quite old, and they are the major assets of most of the people who live there. While it's true that the people in Cushman are better off financially than the folks in the Echo Hill apartments, in a town where 6ooK spec houses have become normal, they are not the wealthy. They are UMass staff, teachers, healing arts folks, artists, etc.If the project goes forward, the livability of their neighborhood and the value of their houses will be ruined.

Larry Kelley said...

Or not.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous, because that is the real truth about the folks in cushman village.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, if you can't trust Anons who can you trust?