Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Development Delayed

Map of proposed development (click to enlarge)

Due to a trivial paperwork error neighbors in North Amherst will get an extra couple weeks to raise the $6.6 million required to match the developer's offer via the town's "right of first refusal" that goes hand in hand with property protected by the state's Chapter 61A conservation law.

Last night the Select Board voted to send a letter to W.D. Cowls, Inc informing them of the bureaucratic boo boo and advising company president Cinda Jones that the 120 day clock has not started ticking.

NIMBYs have filed a petition article with Amherst Town Meeting calling for the use of eminent domain to take the property from Cowls to sabotage the land sale/development deal that will bring desperately needed, taxable student housing to Amherst with convenient access to UMass.

Proponents request Town Meeting appropriate only $1.2 million for the hostile taking, and it's unclear how the other $5.4 million would suddenly materialize.


Anonymous said...

What is the Town were to sell its land at 586 South Pleasant Street to Landmark Properties for the student housing development, then use the proceeds to build a new DPW facility at the Town owned property at the old Ruxton Facility (currently underutilized) off of Pulpit Hill Road. Win, win!!

Larry Kelley said...

I would much rather see the town turn my neighbor into a new fire station.

Anonymous said...

why are tax monies "desperately needed"?

Larry Kelley said...

The housing function is "desperately needed"; having it be on the tax rolls is just a nice bonus.

PhilJ said...

what if the new development were built so that:

a) the open space were configured to prevent gatherings of 100s (never mind 1000s)? this is one of the shortcomings of places like townhouse, which at the time thought all that "open space" was awesome.

b) did not allow vehicles (other than delivery, service and public safety)? a satellite lot (think how umass used to be years ago - want your car? head to p lot!) could be available for residents to park their cars. a shuttle bus that was on a circuit - development, parking lot, campus - would eliminate the need for cars and be very, very green.

Anonymous said...

Larry Kelly said..."I would much rather see the town turn my neighbor into a new fire station."


PhilJ said...what if the new development were built so that:"

So, are you volunteering your neighborhood? It's much more convenient to the University.

Larry Kelley said...

I live next to an active DPW. They are great neighbors but can on occasion be a tad noisy (not the drunken rowdy kind of noisy mind you).

I would also imagine a fire station can be a tad noisy.

Either of them is fine by me.

The concern is not for "the University" because that is why we have North Station. The concern is for the folks in South Amherst.


Anonymous said...

why doesn't the university house it's own students? it's charging tutition. why does amherst have to provide this housing? why isn't hadley responsible or sunderland?

Larry Kelley said...

A bevy of UMass students do live in Hadley and Sunderland.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I wasn't as clear as I needed to be...
I meant the EXACTLY because MANY would rather have a Fire Station than a student housing community in their neighborhood. So does that make you a nimby too?

My 2nd comment was not about a fire station but placed after the quote from PhilJ about the student housing community.

Gee, Nitwit? And we've only just met.

Larry Kelley said...

The proposed student housing development is in the middle a very large forest, not a neighborhood.


Anonymous said...


I think you arecmisinformed about the location of this proposed development. It is not "in the middle of a very large forest." This is a 150 acre plot that has many houses on Henry st and Flat Hills road that abut, as well as a number of other houses within "shouting distance." In addition, much of the land is probably unbuildable due to ledges and powers lines.

As a homeowner like yourself, I understand and share your desire to increase the tax base and provide appropriate student housing (although this should be university function, not a town responsibility, in my view), but this is not the place to do it. This location is not handy to the university and is on a small and windy country road. If Ms Jones wants to provide land for student housing fine, but let her find a more appropriate location from among her many properties.

Larry Kelley said...

BANANA: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

Anonymous said...

Lets put the new student housing next door to your house Larry, nitwit.

Dr. Ed said...

Looking at the photo, it appears the plan is to discontinue an existing road - is that an error or ???

Also, it seems like that using this land for housing would be consistent with the adjacent usages -- ledges can be blasted and power lines can be placed underground (as they are at UMass, not to mention in most cities).

I see an awful lot of adjacent little lots, and Cinda would be within her rights to sell the whole damn thing to someone who wanted to develop all of it into equally small houselots with NO open space at all.

This is probably the same geographical formation as the "notch" and the folks running the stone crusher would probably blast & haul it for free as they could use it, the powerline is old and of relatively low voltage and can be buried without much difficulty -- sure this costs money but relative to what a houselot is worth in Amherst today it isn't.

And why is UMass responsible for housing its students? Why isn't McDonalds and WalMart responsible for housing their employees? Why isn't Amherst responsible for ensuring that every municipal employee resides in town?

-- blast all the ledges out (most/all of which likely could be sold to the stone crusher flatten it with no trees, and make it into another Orchard Valley.

As to the truly obtuse concept of perimeter parking lots, if you think you have problems with the quad at Townhouse now, wait until you have a couple thousand kids in, around (and under) a couple hundred cars and the police in the truly impossible position of dragging owners out of their own parked vehicles and then being responsible for any damage to (or theft of) the vehicles which happen in the absence of the owner.

(Hint - whey do the cops tow a car when they arrest its driver -- because they are legally responsible for the vehicle and everything in it.)

We won't even get into the woman being raped (or fearful she might be) as she walks to/from the distant parking lot late at night (or early in the morning). Back in the '70's, we had a different attitude toward the right of a young lady to go somewhere by herself, and the people planning these perimeter lots were male.

And a PVTA bus gets 4 MPG -- seriously, the PVTA business manager told me that at a public hearing -- so you really aren't helping the environment by making kids having to park their 35MPG cars all in one place but then having to run a Diesel smoke-belching shuttle bus.

Even by Amherst standards, the concept of one big parking lot for the development is truly asinine.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, wanna bet that the DPW building isn't (or doesn't become) a "historical building" once there is any plan to demolish it?

IMHO, the far better plan would be to build the South Amherst Fire Station where that abandoned dairy farm on the corner of Strong Street is -- you would have to pave the dirt road that comes out by the old Grist Mill and do something about a couple sharp turns caused by the old railroad bridge that the bike path uses -- but this would give the AFD (and APD should they even need to use it as a substation) rapid/easy access to both East and South Amherst, to the East is Rolling Green and the complexes around the old dump, to the South are the rest of the complexes and everything heading back to town.

I don't know if the AFD can get under either of the existing bridges, or how difficult it would be to "raise" (i.e. lower the road under) the active railroad one, but both are quite narrow and the bikepath one is both narrow and on a curve -- and there will be a very bad head-on crash there at some point.

Dr. Ed said...

a satellite lot (think how umass used to be years ago - want your car? head to p lot!)

The late John Lederlie once told me that concept was a mistake, that the thing they didn't realize in the '60's was "how much we would come to love our cars." Furthermore, he told me that about 18 years ago, before laptops let alone WiFi; before we started considering our cars support platforms for our electronic toys.

For an example of how far things have gone, take a look at the average police car. There is very little that an officer can't do now from a cruiser, but the flip side is that the cruiser has essentially become a police substation and no longer is merely a means of conveyance. The officer needs that cruiser and needs to have the engine running to power all this stuff.

Furthermore, student costs have increased at 2/3 times the rate of inflation for the past 30 years. Not everyone has Daddy's Credit Card -- a lot of kids have upwards of four jobs, and employers wanting them there on time, and some quite tight schedules that don't give them the time to hike to the "P" (now "E") lot nor to wait for the shuttle bus.

When the professors all agree that they don't need to bring cars onto campus, then we can start talking about student parking rules that may have been appropriate when one could also buy a handgun at the local hardware store or order a surplus army rifle from Montgomery Ward (as Lee Harvey Oswald did).

Remember too that back in the 1960's, both open burning and the dumping of raw sewerage into the river was legal, as was driving at almost twice the legal OUI limit of today -- the .08 of today was 1.5 until the 1980s.

Anonymous said...


We are not talking utility power lines here. These are the mega transmission lines that run through Amherst. I doubt WMECO/National grid will bury them.

Anonymous said...

Too bad this didn't happen earlier and the family housing that we are building on Olympia Drive could have been put on this parcel and the Olympia Drive parcel could have been used for student housing.

Anonymous said...

What are we going to do about the endangered salamanders? I thought they were the town's biggest concern?
Money Talks, Money Talks.
Welcome to the real world.

Dr. Ed said...

We are not talking utility power lines here. These are the mega transmission lines that run through Amherst. I doubt WMECO/National grid will bury them.

Yes, it is a WMECO 118kV line, and one which they have two projects relating to, currently in the "concept" stage -- UMass building a new substation out at Tilson Farm with two 55 MVA transformers, and then to upgrade the Amherst Substation.

Lines of considerably higher voltage are often buried, and notwithstanding what may be some valid concerns from radiation coming from them, the right-of-way of a power line is a lot narrower than you might think -- look at the map and you will see that these lines haven't impeded development of the rest of Amherst.

As to WMECO's willingness to bury the lines and/or move them to a more desired location, they are a company that doesn't want to have fights with landowners and most utilities will move stuff if you pay them enough to do it.

Anonymous said...

Now we can have "Salamander Day" every spring. What a great reason fo another drunken weekend. Build the student housing with a built in reason for a new party. Even the crunchy-granolas can party at this one.
Beer and weed for everyone, yahoo!

Anonymous said...

Walter, are you ashamed of your name or something? Are you a CAN now?