Attorney Tom Reidy and Cliff Laraway appear before ZBA last night, Chair Mark Parent (ctr)
Sometimes the difference between life and death is measured in mere seconds -- especially when dealing with The Beast otherwise known as fire.
A cluttered escape route, narrow stairway, or -- God forbid -- a door locked from the outside that doesn't allow opening from within, could quickly spell death of a most unimaginable kind.
Would you trust your life to this fire escape?
At last night's Special Permit hearing for 382 North Pleasant Street, which most people probably think of as a fraternity (which apparently it still is), Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Mark Parent clearly stated, "My concern is about safety, that's what is driving this. Some kids do crazy stuff and we need to protect them from themselves."
A September 29 Site Visit turned up "living rooms" with doors on them, and at least ten rooms with external locks on them (which as a joke someone could lock the person in), as well as a bevy of extra mattresses in storage.
Mr. Parent told the petitioner and his attorney, "It is very clear to me this site is occupied by at least 10 people consistently. No question it's more than the 8 allowed. We need to come up with conditions that rectify that."
The town of Amherst has a zoning bylaw that restricts occupancy to no more than four unrelated housemates per one family unit.
Owner Cliff Laraway is requesting a Special Permit to allow the structure to be a two family, non owner occupied structure (for up to 8 unrelated tenants). But the layout of the former fraternity, with so many rooms, makes it hard to enforce only eight of them be bedrooms.
Building Commissioner Rob Morra stated, "There have to be significant structural changes, like taking out a wall vs simply removing a door".
The Amherst Fire Department, having done car counts over the month of September, considers it a "rooming house" with 10 or more tenants, thus requiring an expensive ($39,000) sprinkler system.
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The Special Permit hearing was continued to November 5th so the ZBA could request an AFD representative attend.
The petitioner was sternly instructed to come back with floor plans that show eight and only eight bedrooms as well as physical changes in place to keep the other numerous available rooms from conveniently be used as additional bedrooms.
Building Commissioner Rob Morra did not waste any time taking enforcement steps to ensure the current population of the building goes down to only eight: