Jonathan Tucker, Stephanie O'Keeffe, John Kennedy
Amherst Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe deemed the draft document the Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods Working Group has been toiling over for a dozen public meetings, "Not absolutely perfect regulations, but pretty damn good!"
And with that, after a little clarification help from Phil Jackson who seconded the motion, the committee came to a lopsided 8-2 vote in favor (2 property managers voting no) of forwarding the draft document (part 4.a.1. was taken out today, so it no longer exempts owner-occupied rentals) to the Town Manager, who will craft it into a warrant article for Amherst Town Meeting.
The Residential Rental Property Bylaw will require a rental permit that is exceedingly easy to get and conversely, very hard to lose.
As a General Bylaw it will only require a majority vote at Town Meeting rather than the difficult to achieve two-thirds vote that all zoning articles require.
Because we are a "college town," Amherst has a far different housing market than national average: out of 9,621 year round units 4,258 -- or 46% -- were owner occupied, and 5001 -- or 54% -- were rentals. National average for owner occupied units is 67%.
Also synonymous with being a college town, college students comprise 59.4% of Amherst's population. And while the vast majority of college students are industrious, hard working, solid citizens, a small percentage who live off-campus make life miserable for average working families and retired citizens.
With a permit system in place Amherst will have a new weapon to control irresponsible slumlords. Like the nuclear arms race of the 1950s and 60s, weaponry town officials hope never to use, but the threat will act as a defining deterrent to bad behavior.