Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Inclusionary Zoning Zapped

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


Anonymous said...

Discussion in Amherst is, by definition, "contentious" just as developers are, by definition, "evil" in Amherst.

No need to use extra words.

Anonymous, so I don't matter said...

Zoning is exclusionary by definition, you know like racism, which also cannot be inclusionary.

Zoming: you bought the property, but they make the decisions.

Ownership: definition under debate, please check back after the community votes. Word may actually be outlawed.

Anonymous said...

This article was a straight example of the older anti-development / anti-student minority in Town Meeting trying to keep Amherst from being developed. It’s only intent was to stop a BY-RIGHT building in our town center. Unfortunately, this attempt tried to use the very important topic of Affordable Housing as a pawn to stop a much needed building that clearly falls into our Master Plan. Affordable Housing is important and has been worked on by many parts of our town government, including Town Meeting and I personally believe that it should not be used as a shield to mask an anti-development / anti-student agenda.

Town Meeting articles, land court law suites, public protests and continues vocal public out cry when ever a project is proposed that is, or perceived as, student oriented has got to stop. We live in a collage town. No matter when you moved here (or where born here) it was a collage town. No amount of open aggression toward students or developments will change that.

So maybe it’s time for this group to sit at the table with an open mind and help integrate the large student body into our committee thoughtfully instead of haphazardly which is all that has happened because of their current strategy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:21 pm

You can't stop people from expressing themselves. Nothing will change until town residents grasp the importance of what goes on in Town Meeting, and then either running themselves or urging others that they respect to run. You have to take the political reins in your hand and drive the carriage. You can't delegate political power to just anybody.

This reckless article got a majority in the room last night. That's not good.

Wake up and pay attention, Amherst.

Anonymous said...

My concern is that the level of distrust of Town Government has reached delusionary proportions. That fact was never more evident than during the comment period for the Planning Board's "housekeeping" article that sought to bring language up to date with current statute (replacing the titles Planning or Zoning Board with the more accurate, Permit Granting Board or Special Permit Granting Authority, for example, given that either --depending on circumstance--can serve those roles). It also removed the Lawrence Swamp from being mentioned under the Watershed Protection District BECAUSE IT IS NOT IN THAT DISTRICT. Its mention under that section was erroneous, because its wellbeing is protected under The Aquifer Protection District, WHERE SUCH PROTECTION WILL REMAIN. No matter how many times this fact was explained, angry "protectors of our community" rose in opposition to the "fact" that the article was putting the Lawrence Swamp at greater risk. REALLY PEOPLE??? Do you read the warrant and board reports? Watch the warrant review? Attend precinct meetings? Listen to the explanations given by town boards? I'm guessing, not. What your continued antagonistic (not to mention ill informed) attitude is at risk of accomplishing is the abolishment of Town Meeting altogether.

Dr. Ed said...

"Ownership: definition under debate, please check back after the community votes. Word may actually be outlawed."

Agreed. This is a real problem in all of Taxachusetts, not just Amherst....

Anonymous said...

If you watch the part of the meeting referred to by Anon 5:32 p.m., it looks like some kind of group mental health breakdown led by the inimitable Ms. Gray.

When we experience this kind of hysterical distrust in Amherst Town Meeting, which seems to happen at least once each spring and fall nowadays, suddenly something as bizarre from history as the Salem Witch Trials becomes far more conceivable.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this where you comment that Article 5 had majority support and would have passed if there wasn't a 2/3rds vote rule. And than rail against the the 2/3rds rule?

Larry Kelley said...

It's all included in my close.

Karma is a bitch.

Anonymous said...

These folks are low enough to take vengeance on the Planning Board's inclusionary zoning proposal next spring.

Larry Kelley said...

And it only takes one-third (plus one) of the esteemed body to kill it.

Call Their Bluff said...

I would like to see the Planning Board put forth the most outrageously progressive inclusionary zoning possible. Give HUGE bonuses (size, height, extra units, and tax breaks) to developers to include HUGE amounts of affordable housing. You know, something that will actually draw in investment despite the inclusionary requirements, and actually have a chance of getting some new affordable units built on the developers' dime. Let's see these NIMBYS who purport to support affordable housing creation put their money where their mouth is. And let's see if its the same people that have fought to prevent affordable housing in S. Amherst in recent years.

Anonymous said...

I think we all would like to see the Planning Board put inclusionary zoning, after years and years of waiting. Definitely make it progressive and make it quick. This wheel has been invented.

Anonymous said...

Call Their Bluff proposes an interesting idea because the truth is only part of this group means what it says.

The other part is simply riding this inclusionary zoning problem as far as it goes in order to achieve their eternal objective for Amherst: build absolutely nothing anywhere. Some of us remember how nasty it got in Precinct 7 before the HAP Project went up.

Anyone want to take early bets on the Planning Board getting its inclusionary zoning proposal passed by two-thirds next May? The perfect is always available to be the enemy of the good. No one could complain if the entire Board simply vacated their seats at that point.

But would even that cause the town's voters to come out of their trance about the joys of Town Meeting?