Friday, September 12, 2014

Affordable Housing Hand Grenade?

 Boltwood Place, 12 apartments all market rate

Over 100 residents signed a citizen zoning petition that was handed in late this Friday morning before the high noon deadline for placement on the November 5 Amherst Special Town Meeting.

 Click to enlarge/read

The petition article would simply add 16 words to the current Inclusionary Zoning bylaw which would make it harder to develop irregular shaped commercial property for housing, especially in high rent districts like town center.

Currently a developer who owns property with a "by right" development capability can simply ask the Planning Board for minor concessions via a Special Permit (relaxed height limits or setback requirements, increased lot coverage, or waiving of traffic study requirments) and still be exempt from the inclusionary zoning requirements placed on developments of 10 units and up.

The problem with closing this "loophole" is the development cost of the project can exceed the profit potential and the devleloper simply walks away.

 Kendrick Place, 36 units all market rate

A project with nothing but market rate (or even above market rate) units still helps lessen the demand for housing in an overall sense thereby making it less likely for greedy speculators to buy up and convert old single family units to packed in student units.

And a market rate project would have a higher value assessment, paying the town more in property taxes and Community Preservation Tax Funds.

Had this wording been in effect three years ago it would have impacted Boltwood Place and the current project, Kendrick Place, now under construction. 

Carriage Shops proposed redevelopment, 78 apartments all market rate

Or, neither of them would have broken ground.  Which is quite possibly what some of the signers of the petition article have in mind.  The article will require a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting to pass.

The really interesting question is will this petition article impact the King Kong sized redevelopment of the Carriage Shops right up the street from Kendrick Place?


Anonymous said...

The ultimate objective of all public policy activity in Amherst, especially in Town Meeting: "the developer walks away".

Anonymous said...

So this story is the real public policy bombshell this week

And it only gets one comment?

Larry Kelley said...

Well I broke it on a Friday, at the end of a news cycle.

Anonymous said...


I don't think this is a bombshell if it need the 2/3 majority to pass. A standard that for both sides of any argument has been a crazy high hurdle.

Anonymous said...

In Town Meeting? Check the membership and tell me that 2/3'd's is too high a hurdle for something like this.

At some point, residents are going to realize that Town Meeting is too important to sleep through.

Anonymous said...

Amherst has to stop living in the past and realize that it needs the tax revenue from such progressive developments as the new carriage shop and the triangle development. If anything it will give Amherst a new and fresh face of a modern little town.