The influential Planning Board voted 8-1 to advise the Amherst Select Board NOT to invoke a Right Of First Refusal on the 154 acres of woodland in northeast Amherst currently under a $6.5 million contract to become a gated student community known as "The Retreat."
Planning Board Chair David Webber summed it up succinctly: "The price ($6.5 million) is too high."
About two dozen neighbors impacted by the development turned out to voice their displeasure with the project, including the usual worries over noise, traffic and vandalism. But it's not like a casino is on the drawing board.
The Retreat will house 700 students on 154 acres, generating about 1,000 car trips per day vs Mohegan Sun's proposed casino in Palmer on 150 acres, generating 20,000 visitors and 10,000 cars per day.
Most of the 1.5 hours of testimony was wasted with long winded complaints about procedure.
Jack Hirsch wants a "cost benefit analysis"
Under Ch61 the town has 120 days to decide to invoke its Right Of First Refusal, but the clock only starts ticking when a "bona fied" offer has been made.
Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek: "Property is not a high priority for the town."
Landmark Properties contract with W.D. Cowls, Inc was first submitted in March but the town rejected it as not bona fide, due to an easy escape clause.
The second contract was tendered on April 23 and was also initially rejected but after months of haggling the Town Attorney agreed on Monday that it was legitimate. Therefor the 120 days is retroactive to April 23, or a drop dead deadline of August 21.
Vince O'Connor: Town Attorney should be "terminated" for taking too long reviewing contract
Either way the Select Board set their July 29 meeting as the day of reckoning and asked for the advice of the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission, who will take up the discussion next week.
W.D. Cowls President Cinda Jones: Gets paid $6.5 million one way or the other
Planning Board member Connie Kruger pointed out the town has a "significant need for student housing" and that the number one cost to the town for servicing new housing is children in the public schools -- which for this project will be zero.
Amherst Planning Board: David Webber Chair (center) voted yes, Sandra Anderson (far right) only dissenting vote
The Retreat is a double win for the town: providing badly needed housing for a never ending supply of students coming to UMass/Amherst, while generating hundreds of thousands in annual property tax revenues.