222-224 Belchertown Road
The Zoning Board of Appeals decided last month that up to 9 individuals living in a single family home (normally restricted to no more than four) was not too many, as long as building and safety codes are strictly enforced. Fair enough.
Since Many Hands Farm Cooperative were all farm workers -- a much respected/protected group in Amherst -- and they are a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization using the property for an "education use," they were exempt from local zoning ordinances like the one restricting no more than four unrelated tenants per single family unit.
So it will be interesting to see what the Planning Board decides with the two family house at 222-224 Belchertown Road (which should have no more than 8 unrelated tenants).
Hwei-Ling Greeney, founder of Amherst Community Connections, a 5-year-old safety net organization that shelters the homeless, is requesting permission to run a charitable living facility for up to 24 unrelated individuals.
Jerry Gates and Hwei-Ling Greeney appear before Amherst Planning Board
Major long-time developer Jerry Gates, who is also President of the Board of Directors overseeing Craig's Doors homeless shelter at the First Baptist Church, is also heavily involved.
At the November 19 Public Hearing, which has now been continued to January 7, neighbors unanimously spoke against the project citing safety concerns -- both for their property and the safety of the large number of tenants who will occupy the house located on a very busy street (Rt 9).
Back side of the building
The original 10/29 hearing had to be postponed because the legal ad mistakenly said the operation would house 12 residents, which even then neighbors thought too many. But the planning department had misunderstood Ms. Greeney, as she meant 12 per unit or 24 total, so it had to be readvertised.
Neighbor John Kinchla
The neighbors found that far too many.
Senior Planner Christine Brestrup told the board that town staff is also concerned about the high number of residents proposed to live there, with their particular concerned being overall management.
She suggested the petitioners come back to the Planning Board next time (January 7) with examples of other similar programs in the area, and Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone will also be asked to weigh in.