Demonstrators in favor of article 42 (taking Echo Village Apartments) outside auditoriumAmherst 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.