Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Housing Study Preliminarliy Panned

Amherst Housing & Sheltering Committee this morning

The Amherst Housing & Sheltering Committee voted unanimously this morning to send a borderline inflammatory dispatch to RKG Associates, consultants working on a "Market Study Report."

The lead author of the remarks, John Hornik, even went so far as to raise the nuclear option of not accepting the final report if problems are not adequately addressed.

The $30,000 housing market study was approved by Amherst Town Meeting, but not without a fair amount of criticism along the lines of Amherst does too many studies and never seems to follow up on their recommendations.

The initial draft report was presented last month at a public meeting and as part of the contract  the consultants are required to appear at one more public hearing, probably late next month, before issuing the final report. 

Housing and Sheltering Committee members pointed out the consultants used the term "Pioneer Counties" as opposed to "Pioneer Valley," making it seem like they are unfamiliar with Amherst; and they use industry jargon like "Main Street USA", "exurbanites" or "laptops and lattes" which will turn off local readers unfamiliar with the trendy terms.

Committee Co-Chair Greg Stutsman thought the consultants were confusing "demand with desirability."  Obviously in a "college town" high demand for student housing is a given.  What the committee would like to see is a plan for attracting a more "desirable" demographic (in addition to students) with recommendations as to how to make that happen.

Town planner and liaison to the sheltering committee Nate Malloy agreed they "Can drive the report by asking the consultants to give recommendations for particular demographics." 

Ideally the consultants would come up with both a zoning and physical design blueprint that allows for a high-density development accommodating students, families, low-and-moderate income levels, as well as town employees.

Of course even if the consultants conjure up this Utopian design, it would require the exceedingly hard to acquire two-thirds majority vote of Amherst Town Meeting.

Maybe they can also recommend a good Voodoo priest.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if this committee has an agenda or not but it is good to see someone holding one of these over priced expert consulting firms feet to the fire. This town pays far to much for studies because no one in authority seems to have the backbone to say no to whims of this crazy diversified town.

Walter Graff said...

When no one is in charge, no one makes decisions. Plus in Amherst, no one wants to hurt anyone's feelings so no one ever speaks the truth just shakes their head and smiles. A lot gets done that way.

Anonymous said...

Walter, address the issue at hand, not go on your noodling sourpuss way about everything under the sun... or in your case, clouds.

The thing is with these consultant firms that specialize in fairly specific fields, the hard work was done probably 5 years ago when they originally wrote the report for some other town. Just change the letterheard, search and replace the town name and whammo... pocket another $30k.

Anonymous said...

The presentation of the report is available on Amherst Media.

I know that the general trend is to be negative and trash other people's work, but I thought the report was informative and interesting.

It's hard to impress a community in which each individual is The Smartest Person In Town.