Red oval location Crotty Hall, Phillips Street red underline, Gordon Hall above oval
After surprising setbacks at earlier municipal meetings the new Crotty Hall, somewhat a twin to Gordon Hall at the Gateway to UMass/Amherst, received unanimous Site Plan Approval at the 2/18 Planning Board public hearing.
Rendering from North Pleasant Street
Building Commissioner Rob Morra had determined the 10' side setback bordering Phillips Street was not in compliance (should be 20') with one of the few zoning regulations that can apply to tax-exempt educational institutes protected by the Dover Amendment.
That order was appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals and at their 1/29 meeting a two-hour discussion ensued with neighbors complaining about noise from the current Gordon Hall and the new building possibly stealing a sliver of land from #23 Phillips Street.
Phillips Street is the most notorious street in all of Amherst mainly because it's almost entirely non-owner occupied. Jim Turner, #23 Phillips Street, and main complainant to this new building is the only owner occupied unit on Phillips Street which directly abuts the proposed Crotty Hall.
Mr. Turner also pointed out that Crotty Hall will be tax-exempt and perhaps the Planning Board could work out a deal for Payment In Lieu Of Taxes that could go toward the forever talked about new fire station in South Amherst.
At the ZBA meeting last month some critics pointed out the building was not directly under the control of UMass and portrayed it as almost a rogue development. My usually reliable UMass sources could provide little information at the time because Political Economy Research Institute is a tad hands-off from UMass proper.
But at the follow up ZBA meeting 2/12 the three member board unanimously overturned the decision of the Building Commissioner on the side setback issue.
And this time with the Planning Board they took no chances and had rookie Deputy Chancellor Robert Feldman show up to tell the PB UMass was "extremely excited" and that the "innovative building fits into their long range plans."
The Planning Board then voted unanimously (5-0 with 2 absent) to approve the Site Plan for Crotty Hall. To the celebration of the UMass crowd in attendance.
Baptist Church (rt), Gordon Hall (center) Phillips Street (left)