Amherst Planning Board
After an hour and a half of somewhat contentious discussion, including a failed motion made by the Planning Board to refer the inclusionary zoning/affordable housing article back to them, Article #5, a citizens petition signed by 150 residents failed to garner the required two-thirds vote.
Although it did gain a clear majority 111 yes to 79 no. The previous motion to refer, which would have only required a majority to pass, failed by a tally vote of 83 yes to 107 no.
Supporters described it as an "interim" measure just to cover the next six months while the Planning Board works feverishly to craft their own long promised inclusionary zoning bylaw. Opponents swore their allegiance to affordable housing but warned about "unintended consequences" whereby developers take a walk and no housing gets built.
Select Board and Town Manager unanimously endorsed referral back to Planning Board
Article #5 would have had an immediate impact on the proposed One East Pleasant Street mixed-use project in the north end of the downtown. That 84 unit project is still before the Planning Board and they are seeking two Special Permits, one for extra height and the other for increased lot coverage.
Had article #5 passed any Special Permit, even for minor concessions, would trip the affordability clause, requiring them to provide 10 affordable units.
The Town Attorney suggested such a requirement could be considered an eminent domain "taking" thus exposing the town to liability. Retired attorney and proponent of the measure John Fox told Town Meeting there's "always the risk of a lawsuit."
Amherst Town Meeting, via a dedicated minority, has turned down a bevy of zoning measures over the past ten years out of fear and mistrust over development -- especially if it involves student housing. Which is why Amherst housing market is so overpriced and exceedingly understocked.
This time the high hurdle for passing a zoning article worked against the anti-development folks.
Carriage Shops: Proposed site for One East Pleasant Street project