Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Retreat Charges Forward



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.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

How many beds have been added to UMass with the new Honors College?

Larry Kelley said...

1,500.

Paula Barrows said...

Most townies don't want this retreat to happen. The ones that don't care obviously don't or have never lived in Cushman. This is terribly sad that Cinda couldn't care less about this town. At some point the population of this town will be students or faculty of the colleges. Everyone else is getting sick of the accommodations given to the colleges at the expense of the townspeople.

Larry Kelley said...

If The Retreat was a convent and retirement home for Sisters of St Joseph nuns, the neighbors would not want it.

When Dr. Kate Atkinson moved her family medical practice into a new building she ran into neighborhood opposition.

Anonymous said...

Right, because of usage creep. Someone proposes to build something for one type of usage and ten it slowly morphs into another usage, which may have a different impact on its neighbors. A research park suddenly becomes a doctor's office. If you can't trust people to stick with the usage that was proposed in getting it built, then that's a warning sign in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Boy, for a town full of democrats and liberals you sure don't like change. I thought that was your great leader's call of action. Larry's right, people wouldn't be happy with any change to their precious back yard.

Anonymous said...

As always, the attitude of residents about the Retreat depends on how you ask the question.

When "townies" are asked in conjunction with the alternative prospect of more and more single-family homes turning into student rentals, I bet the answers change.

Walter Graff said...

"This is terribly sad that Cinda couldn't care less about this town."

Without the Cowls there would be no town.

"At some point the population of this town will be students or faculty of the colleges."

Already is the major population.

"Everyone else is getting sick of the accommodations given to the colleges at the expense of the townspeople."

Without the college there would be no Amherst. Most all of the residents and businesses rely on the school. This is a company town. No college, no Amherst. Can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

Would 'Retreat' opponents rather that the student population continue the take over of single family homes in Amherst, allowing them to go to shambles? I'd rather see these homes go to younger families, which Amherst is in dire need of. It's too easy right now to move out of town, or into a 55 and over, rent your home, and make a bundle from renting. <>

If the Town increases the supply of student housing, rental prices can be brought in check. If the older population in Amherst can't make a fortune off of renting, they will sell. This benefits the Town in the long term.

Anonymous said...

The Planning Board voted the right way (the cost was too great for the town to bear). Doesn't change the fact, though, that the project is VERY wrong headed.

Tom McBride said...

In response to Ms. Barrows, I don't think Cinda Jones doesn't care about the town. But if you Ms. Barrows moved to town on your own accord, you have to accept it as it is, a cultural center, good schools, a lot of jobs, and a lot of people and a lot of students. There are a lot of people that would give their left arm to live in Amherst, students or no students.

Anonymous said...

I predict that the deal won't go through in the end and the developers won't actually end up building. They will view it as too risky.

Smile All The Way Thru said...

Paula Barrows,
"Most townies don't want this retreat to happen. The ones that don't care obviously don't or have never lived in Cushman."

If this statement were true, why was it so easy to vote to dismiss the article in Town Meeting this Spring? I am resident of Cushman and I am not at all in favor of stopping this from happening. I do care about my neighborhood. I walk these streets almost daily. This will have a direct impact on my daily life and I am ok with that. I am tired of seeing neighborhoods being taken over by student rentals instead of young families. We have a need for more student housing and this will lessen the burden on family friendly neighborhoods in town overall.

"This is terribly sad that Cinda couldn't care less about this town."

How do you know this? Have you had a conversation with her about this personally? Has she expressed in any way that she couldn't care less about this town? I have had the chance to talk to her personally and do know the answers to these questions. Please do not judge anyone based on assumptions. You know what they say about assumptions right? They make an ass out of you and me.

Lastly, " At some point the population of this town will be students or faculty of the colleges. Everyone else is getting sick of the accommodations given to the colleges at the expense of the townspeople."

The Town has been built on the colleges!!! How can you even make these statements knowing that? When people move to Amherst, they are knowingly moving to a college town. That is, by far, our largest source of jobs in town! There are costs and benefits to that, just like any town.

Are you really ok with spending $6.5 MILLION simply to stop this from happening, with no other benefit? Are you ok with asking the entire town for an override to stop this from being built? Are you ok with asking the town to borrow the money to stop this? The Town does not have this money sitting around, just waiting to be spent.

Anonymous said...

"I predict that the deal won't go through in the end and the developers won't actually end up building. They will view it as too risky."

I agree.

Larry Kelley said...

Can either of you predict tomorrow's lottery?

Anonymous said...

Re: "This is terribly sad that Cinda couldn't care less about this town."

You obviously don’t know who you’re talking about.

There are few people who dedicate more time and money to the best interests of this town. I saw her after 6pm last week painting the public library sign in 95 degree heat. I know she has volunteered at the Survival Center. She gives years on the Chamber of Commerce Board and the uptown Business Improvement Board = community betterment. That mountain in Shutesbury she protected? = public good. And the years the Cushman land you want to “save” has been yours free to use? Could have been posted. What about the miles of trails all over town and this valley, including on the Cushman land – that’s open for public use? That’s her option. She didn’t have to host the salamander tunnels or protect the area from future use.

Cinda is a more devoted Townie than most anyone I know. How dare you slander her in attempt to improve your NIMBY position?

Anonymous said...

Yes. Just not successfully. Otherwise, it would be me and not Cinda raking in the Retreat dough.

Anonymous said...

Why is it too risky again? Are the NIMBY's planning to take the law into their own hands?

Anonymous said...

if the housing study is done well, hopefully it will identify parcels of land closer to the university that can be developed for a large number of student housing units. Also, hopefully progress can be made at the state legislature that will allow developers to create student housing on UMass property. If these efforts are successful or at least have good potential for success, then I doubt the Retreat developers would move forward. Much depends on the housing study and state legislature.

Anonymous said...

Dream on.

Walter Graff said...

Ha!! Another study. Useless study after study that does little and the town always ignores anyway. Besides NIMBY Amherst has a bad case of NOLTBIC (No one like to be in charge).

Anonymous said...

Fools. This could be the answer you are all looking for...taxes AND one spot for students to live. Keep kid in one spot....A-hole residents always want their cake.....

Anonymous said...

Just because someone disagrees with a proposal doesn't mean they're a "NIMBY." Besides which, that word has been used to death and now sounds just plain silly. There's no question that more student housing is needed but it would help if that housing was built in an appropriate area. I continue to believe that the Cushman area is not the right place for that kind of housing. Now I can imagine someone replying "spoken like a true nimby," but as I am not a Cushman resident that appellation doesn't quite hold true. My proposal: stop calling people names just because they don't agree and accept the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion for their own particular valid reasons.

Anonymous said...

So the units can be built..but again, NIMBY. Push it off on another neighborhood. Sad.
I particularly take offense to those who have suggested in other comment streams to build on the Hadley Farm property. Yes, let's pick up and displace an existing thriving asset to a community so that the supposed "Historic Cushman" is preserved. Much smarter plan.
Funny, I haved lived very close to Cushman almost my entire life yet have never seen this Community pride and unity and village feel that everyone talks about.......until now.

Walter Graff said...

"Funny, I haved lived very close to Cushman almost my entire life yet have never seen this Community pride and unity and village feel that everyone talks about.......until now."

I lived in Cushman for 12 years and never saw anything. Most people don't even know their neighbors. No one cares much about anything but their own property. And in this case suddenly their neighborhood which translates to their property and the fear of something they don't understand. Key phrase is fear of the unknown. This development will not impact anything like they try to say, everything from CO2 emissions to the earths mantle as I've read.