About 50 people attended tonight's Select Board hearing on The Retreat
After over two hours of public discussion the Amherst Select Board took no official vote this evening on a recommendation to the Planning Board concerning The Retreat, a "Cluster Subdivision" in Northeast Amherst consisting of 123 lots holding 175 housing units with a total of 641 beds. All of them rented to students.
Neighbors once again packed the Town Room and speaker after speaker brought up a litany of complaints over parking, noise, "unsafe" private roads, and the overall impact of forever changing the character of a historic neighborhood, Cushman.
Even Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe acknowledged that if the roads in the development are private rather than town accepted public roads, the Amherst police department could not enforce "open container" laws. And to that Ms. O'Keeffe admitted, "I'm disappointed."
Although she was quick to point out "noise" bylaws could be enforced on the private property.
The Select Board took note of all the complaints and Ms. O'Keeffe will prepare and present a statement to the Planning Board at their Public Hearing on Wednesday night, where no doubt the same crowd will show up to once again voice their disapproval of the student housing project.
Early in the discussion O'Keeffe summed up what tonight's SB meeting was really all about:
"What we’re really doing is sending a message: It's the obligation of the town to ensure that this is as responsible a project as it can be. We are all watching this. This is BIG, significant, and impactful. Of great concern and interest to many."
And perhaps the key statement of the night, a sentiment shared by everyone in the room: "We have an obligation to get it right."
As does the Planning Board, who will pick up the hot potato on Wednesday night.