The Amherst Select Board voted unanimously 4-0 (1 absent) NOT to a invoke a $6.5 million "Right Of First Refusal" for 154 acres of run-of-the-mill woodland in northeast Amherst to stop "The Retreat", a controversial 700 bed upscale student housing development proposed by a private, taxpaying, enterprise.
In June Amherst Town Meeting voted 98-90 to dismiss a warrant article calling for a $1.2 million appropriation to take by eminent domain only the "development rights" of the parcel. And over the past two weeks the Planning Board voted 8-1 against the purchase while the Conservation Commission opposition was unanimous.
Crowd of 80-85 pack the meeting
Speakers questioned the transparency of process since the town took a long period of time to acknowledge the 2nd $6.5 million offer between Cowls and Landmark Properties was indeed "bona fide", which started the 120-day clock ticking for the Right Of First Refusal.
Project proponents have repeatedly cited the desperate need in this "college town" for more student housing, with current make shift solutions -- the conversion of single family homes to rooming houses -- being far more destructive to quality of life in neighborhoods town wide.
John Musante (center) Any change in contract would bring on new 120 day Right of 1st Refusal
"The Retreat" would also generate $400,000 per year in property taxes in a town where half the property is tax exempt. In 1987 the town took by eminent domain the Cherry Hill Golf Course to stop a 134 unit high end housing project, squandering a historic $2.2 million ($4.4 million in today's dollars).
Cowls also owns 150 acres near Cherry Hill Golf Course (in gold) that could also be developed on the same scale as The Retreat
Tonight by NOT taking this exceedingly expensive 154 acres of woodland, town officials demonstrated they have learned from history. Finally.