Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sound & Fury

 Demonstrators in favor of article 42 (taking Echo Village Apartments) outside auditorium
Amherst Town Meeting dodged a bullet this evening -- actually two -- by voting to refer article 42, the expensive eminent domain taking of Echo Village Apartments (minimum of $2.6 million) back to the Housing and Sheltering Committee for further study, but by only one vote, 95-94.

Echo Village Apartments now managed by Eagle Crest Management aka Jamie Cherewatti

Then Town Meeting voted to adjourn ten minutes before the 10:00 p.m. deadline rather than taking up article 43, the other eminent domain article that could prove many times more expensive than the previous one.

The Finance Committee voted 6-0 against both the controversial articles and that sobering vote tally clearly convinced Town Meeting to be wary of using eminent domain. 

Earlier in the evening Town Meeting voted to spend $60,000 to help buy the 5 acre Rock Farm on South East Street. The four Select Board members in attendance all voted against the deal but it still narrowly acquired the necessary two thirds vote, 125-57.

Total cost of the public/private deal is $500,000.  A benefit to Greenfield Savings Bank, who holds the mortgage, and immediate neighbors living on South East Street.

4 standing no votes from Amherst Select Boad

As part of the deal two lots were pre auctioned at just over $130,000 each.  One will go to a private builder who will construct an expensive house and the other to a social service agency that will build a group home for developmentally disabled individuals, thus tax exempt. 

Over half of Amherst is currently owned by tax exempt institutions leading to one of the highest property tax rates in the region for the other half of property owners who are on the tax rolls.


Tom McBride said...

Highest property taxes?, you forgot to mention the highest property values in three counties. This evening I had dog food for dinner. Okay, I didn't have dog food for dinner, but you get the picture. People don't understand this, one, we are keeping others out of OUR community, and two, ......the schools get a reputation, property values go up because of this, more taxes are needed to pay for the schools, TOWN MEETING votes to make half of the land unusable, property values increase more, it's a vicious cycle or circle that never stops. And two, the consequence is we intentionally or unintentionally keep other deserving people and their children away from our schools and community. And I know that's not what 90% of us stand for. It's like some Greek tragedy. Am I being too dramatic in my illustration? Change the town's name to Greenwich and get it over with.

Walter Graff said...

Let's see, NYOB continues under a variety of names to the point that Amherst will be left-back as the world around it develops, and Northampton has a "serious" issue with removing benches from downtown. Some pretty serious issues going on for people in this area. It's like living in a bubble.

Dr. Ed said...

"The Rent is Too Damn High" guy, Jimmy McMillan, was at CPAC a few years back. Contrary to popular opinion, "TEA Party" Conservatives are neither racists nor closed-minded and it probably was the first time that anyone had ever taken him seriously.

Earnest young people thought that he might actually know something about housing policy and while they might not agree with him, they politely asked him what he thought about everything from tax credits to the demolition of large/problematic housing "projects".

With an accent that clearly indicated that she wasn't from there, one young lady said "OK, if you were Mayor of New York City, what would you do? What would you do to lower 'the rents'?"

It was "deer in the headlights."

I suggest that the problem with housing in Amherst is more Jimmy McMillan than Jamie Cherewatti. I suggest that the rents in Amherst are "too damn high" because there hasn't been any coherent effort in 40 years to do anything to lower them.

The solution is simple: "Build, baby, build." Do you not understand the concept of "supply & demand"? Even Marxist Economics understands the concept that you can't have consumption without production -- you can't have people living in apartments that you haven't first built.

Even the Soviet Planners understood that -- people can't live in apartments that don't exist. And if you have a shortage of something, it inevitably is going to cost more.

So look at the solution proposed: Let's spend a bunch of public money to subsidize two McMansions on a 5 acre parcel that could (SHOULD) house a whole lot more people if public money is involved, let's spend a whole bunch more preventing the construction of more badly-needed apartments, and then let's spend a whole bunch even more in a vain attempt to (essentially) further subsidize the rents of folks already receiving subsidized housing.

As an aside, should you take these units by eminent domain, where is the revenue stream going to come from to maintain them? I doubt that the rental revenue will even repay the taking cost so -- over 20 years or so -- where is the money to repair them to come from?

Massachusetts already has a Greenwich, it's kinda wet there, but Tom McBride has a good point. The only other thing is that where Greenwich, CT has the proximity to (and revenue from) NYC to subsidize it, what is to subsidize Amherst? UMass -- not indefinitely...

Anonymous said...

It's like living in a bubble.

At least this bubble isn't like some of the bubbles in places like Alabama and Texas.

Anonymous said...

The solution is simple: "Build, baby, build."

we know that ed, we (residents of this town who have a stale in its' future and not necessarily the chorale pictured) are trying to share our opinions with each other concerning the best possible locations for development.

Larry Kelley said...

Which is NEVER in anybody's back yard.

Anonymous said...

Yet they do get built in someone's backyard every time, usually by someone who doesn't have their own backyard there.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how you would expect a neighborhood to feel after you've been revealing to us the weekly horrors that occur in densely populated student residences for years now.

This one will be different though, I know, they're gonna maintain it real nice.