Amherst Planning Board December, 2014
Last night after more than a year of public discussion the Amherst Planning Board voted unanimously to support an Inclusionary Zoning article to replace the current ineffective one by relying on simple math (the 10% solution), offset bonuses (extra market rate units) and some easing of regulatory requirements in the business district for building height, coverage and set backs.
The hope is this will be an incentive for housing developers to pitch projects that will increase overall housing supply with at least 10% of that, "affordable."
The Planning Board had originally produced a draft article for Town Meeting last year but ran into stiff opposition from the Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District over concerns about downtown property, which is more expensive to develop.
In addition to the zoning article, Town Manager John Musante told the PB last night that he is seeking other remedies such as tax breaks to work hand-in-hand with this new Inclusionary Zoning article.
Although Planning Board Chair David Webber expressed disappointment that Musante did not bring along a firm proposal.
Later in the meeting Senior Planner Chris Brestrup did assure the PB that town officials are working diligently to come up with a financial proposal for the upcoming annual Town Meeting to work in tandem with this zoning article.
Amherst, like many college towns, has an across-the-board housing shortage which drives up prices. Absentee landlords buy up single family homes, convert them to 2 family homes, and rent out to 8 unrelated tenants, aka students.
Regulatory hurdles combined with well organized BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) effectively strangles new supply -- especially affordable units.
To be enacted the Inclusionary Zoning article will require a hard to achieve two-thirds vote of Amherst Town Meeting and be approved by the Attorney General.