Sunday, May 19, 2013

Truth In Advertising

 Atkins Water Treatment Plant, Market Hill Road, Historic Cushman neighborhood

The YouTube video NIMBYs published trying to rally the masses against a private land deal in northeast Amherst is loaded with misinformation.

If they were a business and Amherst Town Meeting does follow their suggestion to steal property development rights via heavy handed eminent domain taking, they would be easy pickings for a lawsuit under Mass General Law 93A (Consumer Protection) for false advertising,  which allows for triple damages.

That of course would be on top of the $6.5 million total Amherst would eventually have to come up with to fulfill the "highest and best use" reimbursement provision for a hostile land taking.

Amherst, the #4 property owner in town,  already owns or permanently protects 27% of its land mass.  And when you factor in the other BIG THREE tax exempt landowners -- Amherst College, UMass and Hampshire College respectively -- a little over 50% of all land in town is tax exempt.

Cowls 154 acre tree farm off Henry Street is hardly "North Amherst's last remaining contiguous woodland."    In fact, Cowls owns 600 acres of forest in North Amherst and this particular tract has the least desirable ranking on the town's master list for land to be conserved.

Click to enlarge
 Salamander Tunnels only "priority area" in the entire parcel

Yes the Salamander Crossing is a beloved icon, a symbol of the town's respect for conservation and saving critters both great and small.  Which is exactly why Landmark Properties has promised to protect the crossing and move the main entry way for the development away from Henry Street over to Market Hill Road, where the non-historic Water Treatment Plant sits on the side a a rocky outcropping.
 Click to enlarge/read

Landmark Properties handout for Town Meeting

Cowls sold that land to the town for the treatment plant and as part of the deal the town installed infrastructure for a future development exactly like "The Retreat."

Perhaps the biggest mistruth is the absurd assertion that the development "Will threaten the Atkins Reservoir."  The land has town water/sewer!   Unlike a lot of the houses on Flat Hills Road and Shutesbury Road that have sprouted "Stop The Retreat" red signs like worms on a lawn after a summer drizzle.

Chairman Mao, err, I mean the narrator asks, "Shouldn’t all in Amherst be involved in deciding how to use this land?"  Well, no.  It's private land and this is not the People's Republic of China.

So no, No, NO!  You do not have a right to be "involved," if that involvement means stealing the property by eminent domain. 


Anonymous said...

another good post...yes land rights are #1 i also have to ask, if any of these residents of cushman village owned land and wanted to sell it for lots of money...would they...i would bet YES!!!
also, what does the town want ...there will be students...they will need a place to live..if one listened to the Chancellor, he said no college requires all students to live on campus....and THESE STUDENTS SPEND MONEY IN OUR TOWN which allows the people, residents of cushman village to work..i could go on for ever...

Walter Graff said...

Ha, this video is laugh out loud. Here's one simple reality. The plan is not for a skyscraper with bathing in Atkins. It's for a well manicured, set-in-the-woods scenario. Not s single resident will be able to see any of these homes unless they drive onto the property. This development with have NOTHING TO DO WITH the ecology of Atkins, nor anything else for that matter. For such a socialist community this reminds me of the 50s. Then it was allowing 'coloreds' in neighborhoods. Now it's college kids but that seems okay if it affects home values in a neighborhood.

The last poster was correct, given the chance to sell big any of these homeowners would. In the end the only thing this is about is homeowners afraid of the loss of their house values. What they don't realize is this will help value, not destroy it. North Amherst is about as historic as the rest of the town, no more. The salamander is about as common here as in 30 other states it readily resides in (and Canada). Other than that and a poet house they show on Market Hill Road, this argument is about nothing but self preservation (as in being able to sell their homes at the highest value). Selfish at best.

The Juggernaut said...

Shockingly I agree with you Larry, the first in a long time.

I said it months and months ago, the town cannot "fight" like it is Vietnam; patchworks of neighborhoods belonging to students mixed in with year-round residents. Understand the school is there to stay, and adjust accordingly.

It is clear that the generals of Amherst, so to speak, are losing the proverbial war.

Anonymous said...

It's not for us to judge...

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, if Chapter 93A doesn't apply to UMass (and there is a recent Federal Court ruling to that effect, then why would it apply to the Town of Amherst either? It only applies to persons, natural and artificial, not to subdivisions of the Commonwealth.


As to the treatment plant, wasn't there some factory there at one point or something? I seem to remember a name associated with that property.

And as to that photo some seem to think is so inflamatory, exactly what is wrong with a bunch of young people in swimsuits having a good time? I don't see anything on fire, I don't see anyone passed out on the ground, I don't even see people who look drunk.

My guess is that if a uniformed police officer walked into the middle of that assembly, the presumption would be that someone forgot to call his/her/its parents for the past couple weeks and the officer is going to ask the quite embarrassed kid to please call home and tell your parents you are OK.

My guess is that the officer could do it in shirtsleeves, not needing full riot gear....

Historians argue that the Puritans were opposed to "Bear Baiting" not because it caused the Bear pain, but because it caused the audience enjoyment. So too here -- heaven forbid that the UM kids be permitted to have fun.

Don Lesser said...

Build it in Amherst Woods. I'm sure, as responsible citizens, they wouldn't mind the development since the town is dependent on students and it's only NIMBYs who don't want the development near them.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, we saw how well the Solar Farm on ye old landfill went over with Amherst Woods NIMBYs.

Dr. Ed said...

Speaking of students, if this happened in Amherst, with the nonexistent relations between the kids and the cops, it would immediately spiral into rioting that would make Kent State look like a church picnic.

Anonymous said...


I remember you were all in favor of eminent domain takings when you were part of the Amherst Redevelopment Authority's failed "Gateway" plan.

Who was the "Chairman Mao" back then?

Larry Kelley said...

Actually CAN, I'm still highly in favor of taking all of Phillips Street by eminent domain.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. The neighbors next to the Cushman development don't have the right to not want this thing built in their neighborhood. OK, this isn't "the People's Republic of China". But the neighbors who live next to drunk college students do have the right to tell the private property owners of the party houses (who are Capitalists after all; you know just making a buck or two off the student's parents) that they can't rent to drunk and wild 20 year olds. Hey as long as the building codes are met, what's the problem? Seems like your argument is pretty inconsistent.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, neighbors next to Cushman have a Free Speech right to voice their displeasure with a private land deal.

They have no right to expect expensive government intervention at taxpayer expense to prevent such a PRIVATE land deal/development to occur.

Anonymous said...

OK....what is wrong with students living in a complex that provides entertainment.....Keeps them out of the neighborhoods at night.....What is wrong with a private land owner selling her land for it's value and making money...(this is America)......There is nothing wrong with any of this except the people of Amherst want nothing...Bet they are sorry they voted against changing the zoning last year!!!!! GO RETREAT!!!

Anonymous said...

Want to be an instant target of verbal abuse?

Just wear any clothing with the word "Cowl's" on it and walk through downtown Amherst. Then watch your notion of Amherst as a polite place to live vanish before your very eyes.

Captain Of Industry? said...

"Then watch your notion of Amherst as a polite place to live vanish before your very eyes."

Who ever had that notion!

My issue is that the individual, private owner of the valuable parcel did not have to earn the parcel nor the money she will receive for it. She never had to compete for the land or the money, and therefore I have no faith that, now, her decisions regarding the land's fate will reinforce or perpetuate the beloved system we call capitalism, nor do i believe it will reinforce the values and wishes of the residents of an old, rural neighborhood in Amherst, nor Amherst at large.

It's one of the great paradoxes of our nation: The spoils are supposed go to s/he who works hard, is smart, educates their self, competes the hardest... yet (as is the case here) most of what is worth owning in this country is owned by grand-children and great-grand-children of the people who actually demonstrated the actions and principles that earned them their stash...the people who are working the hardest are at the mercy of the decisions being made by the kids who never had to. Most of the "millionaires" in this country inherited their money, never earned it. The 47%-er's who were sitting at that fund-raiser for Romney last summer, for example.

She says she is doing it because the town needs student housing and she's helping out...but how can we be sure her individual (unproven) vision will match the vision of the many who will be affected by her decisions for the rest of their lives? Does Cinda know what's best, somehow?

Yes, I get she doesn't owe anyone anything and she doesn't have to prove anything to anyone, she doesn't even have to know or do what's best..she owns the land and that's how it goes.

Larry Kelley said...

Glad you get it.

Anonymous said...

We all "get it".