Friday, May 16, 2014

Targeting Development

When a roundabout becomes a bullseye

The significant downside of requiring a two-thirds vote of Amherst Town Meeting for anything remotely related to development reared its ugly head once again on Wednesday night.  The failure to attain that hefty super-majority may have sabotaged the common sense upgrade to a major intersection on the outskirts of town center.

If article 32 passed it would have significantly enhanced the prospects for a state grant to cover all the construction costs.

As usual a majority supported the article (79 "Yes" to 62 "No").   And that majority comes in handy when someone tries to kill the article by "referring it back" to a board or committee for further study, as happened with this seemingly benign article.  That motion failed by majority voice vote.

Article 32 won a majority, but not the two thirds required to pass

The issue did not seem to be the improvement of the intersection (with the roundabout being only one of three options).  The real issue is NIMBYs wanted payback for the Planning Board approving Kendrick Place, a five story mixed use building that will target, gasp, student renters.

And in the little college town of Amherst, just the mention of  "student renters" is fighting words. 

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amherst residents don't care about what goes on in Town Meeting.

Larry Kelley said...

They do when Town Meeting screws up. Which is all too often.

Anonymous said...

There are NO political consequences to how Town Meeting members vote.

None.

Town Meeting members get reelected for the asking.

Larry Kelley said...

Take Vince for instance. Please.

Anonymous said...

What was Vince/Abe's vote on this?

Larry Kelley said...

He voted "NO".

While I was looking up his vote I noticed of the four tally votes taken so far, he and I have voted exactly the opposite on all four.

Anonymous said...

The roundabout makes sense which is why they will vote against it. That intersection is a MESS. Always. This idea MAY improve on that….wouldn't want improvement in Amherst /sarc

Anonymous said...

Larry,
When can the charter issue be brought back for a vote? It's ridiculous the way a few government and development hating townspeople can hijack the process at the expense of the rest of us. I'm speaking as a town meeting member trying to fight the good fight but feeling overwhelmed by the 2/3 majority required for many of these initiatives that make sense both economically and in terms of our master plan.

Haven't we said that we want denser development in our downtown and village centers? If so, why are we decrying the Kendrick Place proposal?

Haven't we said that we want to protect family neighborhoods from student encroachment? If so, why is this student housing project approved for our downtown such a bad idea?

We can't rant against the Retreat and the ways in which it is antithetical to our master planning principles and then turn around and rant again against a proposal that is very much in keeping with those principles.

We can't rant about the lack of available housing for young families in our community and then vote down or hold a grudge (by way of a town meeting vote) against projects that seek to increase the very kind of housing stock that we need in order for those families to be able to compete in the marketplace.

Our system of governance is dysfunctional and needs to be changed.

Larry Kelley said...

Can come back anytime.

But only after someone collects 2,500 signatures of registered voters calling for a Charter Commission

Anonymous said...

There isn't enough dissatisfaction with governance in this town to lead to the end of Town Meeting.

There isn't enough anger in town, or enough intelligence to see how much Town Meeting gridlock affects property tax levels, to lead to Town Meeting incumbents being thrown out of office.

It is a body of people, primarily elderly people, enormously distrustful of change, even the change that would lead to more revenue for the Town. So they cut off their noses to spite their faces, on vote after vote after vote.

And the electorate doesn't pay enough attention to hold them accountable.

Anonymous said...

Wow that is ugly. Nice fit into a historic New England town. Why not add some Jersey barriers and an extra roundabout too?

Anonymous said...

Check out how traffic moves through that intersection now. Now that's ugly....and dangerous.

It's not a photograph Larry has posted there, so judging its appearance based on that is misguided. I think it will be fine.

But Larry's got it right: it's all about the student housing planned near there. One member said it directly the other night: "I don't want to spend a dime for another unit of student housing." Apparently, even if that student housing adds to the tax base.

It's a reactionary system of government built on spite and distrust.....a fiscal suicide pact.

Anonymous said...

This anti-student house argument is extremely short sited and miss-guided. It's lead by people who have had direct negative effect of students in there neighborhoods, which is very unfortunate, But by always opposing anything that has the words "student housing" in it, it only making sure that more people in our town will see the deterioration of their neighborhoods as well. If we have new student housing options, perhaps the current troubled neighborhoods will get some relief.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else feeling like the Planning Board is throwing things at the wall to see what sticks? Articles stuck on the warrant but being pulled off during town meeting or still being drafted.

The town is beautiful, a great place to live and has some traffic jams at certain times. Get over it or take another road or put in a left hand turn lane with an arrow. There is no fiscal crisis, money is being put away for a rainy day. Of course people in neighborhoods overrun by students don't want more student housing. I don't want this to happen to my neighborhood, so I listen.

Time to tell UMass to shoulder its burden and build some quality housing for its faculty, grad students and undergrads. They have the space. We will all be happier.

Anonymous said...

"Money is being put away for a rainy day"

Prove it.

If we had level school enrollments right now, we'd be in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Way off the mark on this one, Larry. An apartment building with 143 beds and 4 parking spaces in an area with no street parking is misconceived. How about a building with say 100 beds and 50 parking spaces? 25 spaces? This is a classic case of developer greed and town acquiesce. Everyone accepts the need for development. The problem is that developers keep pushing the envelope. There is plenty of profit to be made with reasonable structures built along the scale of the existing town.

Larry Kelley said...

Glad you liked it.

Anonymous said...

Larry et al.
The anger against the takings had nothing to do with "student" housing!! The issue is that the Planning Board went out of its way to give waivers for setback, height etc. to the developer without considering the impact on the intersection or where people who want to go downtown will park. Having been on the Zoning Board of Appeals for 8 years, we MUST enforce the bylaws to the fullest! Including for Olympia Oaks on which we spent about two years "getting it right."--with 42 units on 14 acres (6 for development, the rest perserved). The apartments (not allowed in Fraternity/Sorority zones) were approved by the Planing Board in two sessions with, again waivers, for height, parking, setbacks . . . and again Town Meeting changed to zoning bylaw to make the development of student housing in Frat Park Legal!! This is what makes me mad and cynical! Hilda G.

Dr. Ed said...

One member said it directly the other night: "I don't want to spend a dime for another unit of student housing." Apparently, even if that student housing adds to the tax base.

This is why I consider Amherst to represent the epitome of hypocrisy -- you have no basis for demanding that the students consider themselves residents of the community when the community itself doesn't consider them such.

(Stephanie, this means you....)

If a town -- any town -- has half of its residents living in really shitty housing, when a town has half of its residents living in overcrowded & squalid conditions because the housing available to these residents -- the town has to spend money and "fix" the problem.

That means that the town needs to build and subsidize housing for the UMass students.

You'd do it for anyone else -- yet the attitude towards the UM Students is "I've got mine, sucks to be you."

Replace the word "UMass Student" with "Migrant Farmworker" -- does anyone honestly believe that Amherst, circa 2014, would treat migrant farmworkers the way it treats the migrant UM students?

Speaking of farm work, the town "Poor Farm" used to be where the Middle & High Schools are now. In an earlier era, someone like Vince O'Connor would have been provided bed & board at the poor farm -- and also compelled to go out and work in the fields.

Instead of being a "useless eater" provided an essentially free apartment at public expense, instead of being a respected and influential member of the community, he'd be subject to ridicule, scorn & contempt. He'd be expected to stay "in his place" and the police would be expected to keep him there -- using whatever level of force necessary to do so.

Likewise, there once was a time when impeding traffic by crawling across the street would not have been tolerated. Mentally ill or not, that guy would either quickly learn not to do such things or he'd be dead, his choice.

Likewise, there once was a time when someone like Carolyn Gardner would have already been replaced by a long-term sub -- were she a white male, she'd be considered "incompetent" and outright fired if she didn't voluntarily resign. This is reality, a lot of teachers don't make it through their first year.

Students are cruel and colleagues uncaring -- the first year of teaching is hell. I still have the answering machine tape from my first year of teaching, and I play it in my education methods classes so that my students know what they are getting themselves into. Carolyn Gardner is dealing with nasty notes found in a school bathroom -- this was my home phone. But I digress...

My point is that Amherst "talks the talk" about being Liberal & Progressive & Caring & Sensitive and everything else -- yet it is UNWILLING TO "WALK THE WALK" on the values that it claims to have.

Folks, I have no respect for you or your values because you are not willing to live them. Don't talk to me about "social justice" when you're not willing to do a scintilla of anything for a disadvantaged group of Amherst residents.

Anonymous said...

"(Stephanie, this means you....)"

Ed, wake up! Stephanie's not even on the select board anymore. If you spent more time listening and less time talking you might know that.

Anonymous said...

Yo,Ed, nobody gives a fig what you think, let alone whom and what you respect. Either move someplace which meets your lofty standards or get a life.

Anonymous said...

Everybody in Town Meeting (or at least the ruling minority) seems to be mad and cynical like Hilda G.

So they sit on their hands while the tax base goes to shit.

Anonymous said...

"Town Meeting changed to zoning bylaw to make the development of student housing in Frat Park Legal!!"

Student housing voted LEGAL in a Fraternity Park??? A zone predetermined as appropriate for students??? What could the developer, Planning Board and Town Meeting have been thinking???

Better this kind of housing pops up in the woods of Cushman or through the steady encroachment on residential neighborhoods, I guess.

Dr. Ed said...

Ed, wake up! Stephanie's not even on the select board anymore

So? The damage of her hypocrisy lingers. I don't see a reason to give her a pass on it.

Anonymous said...

Ed, do you even live in Amherst?

Anonymous said...

Route 9 thru Hadley made the tax base go to ....
None of this is gonna change that now.

These student housing projects make sense, but only when they comply with the established by-laws.
A board which waives those by-laws willy-nilly is acting in contempt of both the law and the democratic process which established them.

Anonymous said...

Times change and the needs of the town change with it.

Adhering to bylaws written in another time and for an outdated set of needs is foolhardy.

And, there is nothing willy-nilly about the way the Planning Board proposes and Town Meeting approves changes to our bylaws. Planning Board proposals are put through an extensive public process and Town Meeting votes pertaining to zoning require a 2/3 majority to pass. These are high hurdles.

This town can sit back passively and hope that the State or University will step in to solve our housing crisis, while watching our neighborhoods continue to deteriorate, or we can work to take sensible actions ourselves. Both the Kendrick and Olympia place projects are filling a necessary and sensibly located housing void that will offer the additional advantage of adding to our tax base.

Sounds like progress to me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was great public process. All town meeting members, homeowners and residents knew about this proposed article well before it went on the warrant. So many meetings and mailings and emails. So much discussion. No wonder no one made a public comment at the Planning Board hearing.

Anonymous said...

I thought the purpose of the warrant was to let town meeting members know, before the session begins, what will be discussed and the exact language proposed for any zoning amendments etc. Does anyone know if town members have a legal duty to read the warrant before town meeting? From what I've seen, too few members take the time to READ THE WARRANT and try to understand the issues. Instead, they make hasty decisions based on fear and ignorance. Can these people somehow be removed from office for failure to fulfill their duties?

Anonymous said...

The zoning articles are the most confusing, densely written and least understood. The planning board does little to reach out to the public and town meeting members and get them involved in their decision-making process. It doesn't help when zoning many articles are put on the warrant, some are dismissed as not ready or are revised during town meeting then changed again. Zoning articles involve the most lasting changes to the town so more time, info, collaboration and simplicity would help. People are really interested.