George Smith (U3), Nancy Buffone and David Ziomek Co-Chairs Steering Committee
The Town Gown Steering Committee heard a brief presentation from their $60,000 consultants this afternoon, appropriately enough at the UMass police station, and heard an earful about student housing and student behavior, which have brought this college town to a tipping point.
Lead consultant George Smith of U3 Advisers said they are still in the "due diligence and research phase" meeting with all the stakeholders from the Chancellor on down, and he is targeting August for release of preliminary findings.
But Ken Rosenthal, the first member of the Steering Committee to speak after the presentation chastised the consultants for not meeting with neighbors living in the battle zones.
UMPD Chief John Horvath, Ken Rosenthal, Tony Maroulis
Amherst Planning Director Jonathan Tucker defended his department saying they are not pursuing any one particular housing plan, but a range of options -- inclusionary zoning, greater density expansion at already existing apartment complexes, student housing (in the right place) -- and that when it comes to housing, the solution is simple: the town just needs MORE.
Of course out of the two dozen or so members of the general public who attended the presentation a good number were activists neighbors who react to students the way vampires react to daylight.
Nancy Buffone did say UMass, which currently houses 62% of its students, is looking at public private partnerships to build taxable student housing on school property but it's "very complex" with a wide variety of political, legal, and financial implications.
Local developers Dave Williams and Kyle Wilson, who are currently constructing Olympia Place, a complex near UMass housing 236 students and Kendrick Place at the edge of town center which will house 102 tenants, were in attendance. They probably would not welcome the competition of a huge new student housing development on or off campus (unless of course they were the chosen developer).
As they say on Facebook under relationships, "It's complicated."