Thursday, January 21, 2016

Zoning Battle Looms

University Drive parcel is located near UMass

The Planning Board voted unanimously (6-0) last night to sponsor two pro-development zoning articles for the annual Town Meeting that in all likelihood would have made the warrant as citizens petitions and Planning Board Chair David Webber pointed out they would have to do the same amount of work anyway, whether they are sponsoring them or not.

The hoped for outcome is by having the Planning Board sponsor the articles they will have more weight and be better received on the floor of Town Meeting.

Although anti-development NIMBY Town Meeting members have often portrayed the Planning Board as being cheerleaders for developers, so it could also be the kiss of death.

And a change in zoning requires a two-thirds vote, thus a stubborn minority can hold up vitally needed developments until the cows come home (which in Amherst is seldom to never).

Changing the zoning from Office Park to Business Limited for the 5.79 acre parcel that sits between a busy office park to the south and a shopping center to the north would allow a developer to build 32 units of student rental townhouses.

 Currently the property generates less than $100 per year in taxes

In 2010 Town Meeting voted down the identical zoning request mainly due to concerns about wetlands and drainage.  Attorney Tom Reidy told the Planning Board last night the developer has already completed a wetlands delineation study and consulted with the DPW about the drainage problem which may be solved by installing a larger pipe.

The Business Improvement District requested the other zoning tweak which would allow for residential construction in Business Limited Districts along three B-L locations around the downtown.

The article would exempt mixed use projects (commercial/residential) from the 20,000 square foot basic minimum lot area requirement known "Footnote B."

 Three B-L districts in downtown (circled in red).  Click to enlarge

This article, however, would have no impact on the University Drive property should it be successfully rezoned to B-L because the number of housing units already proposed are limited by wetlands.

The Planning Board will hold public hearings on February 17 and March 2nd for the proposals.  Town Meeting starts May 2nd.


Anonymous said...

What is the highest and best use for wetland and farmland?

Growing food and processing storm water?


Enabling the state to grow UMASS at an exponentially increasing rate?

Anonymous said...

Loning Battle Zooms!

Anonymous said...

I never saw Avatar in the theater and now I don't think I'l ever get a chance to see it i 3D. That really bums me out.


Anonymous said...

A larger pipe?! A pipe to where, exactly?

The storm water needs to recharge the aquifer which lies in the soil ... right there, and not somewhere else.

Larry, it has nothing to do with NIMBY (unless we're broad-minded and view the entire community as our "Back Yard."

In fact, the current use is, as 2:57PM astutely observes, the best use for this property.

- Not Vince

Anonymous said...

A pipe to the Connecticut River, and/or one of the hand-dug brooks that empty into it. Much of Amherst has no water table, I forget why but there isn't an aquifer below the surface.

Anonymous said...

2:57 and 9:51

Please take out your driver's licenses. If your address says "Amherst", then you live on a:
a. Former farm,
b. Former woodland,
c. Former wetland, -or-
d. All of the above

So, that's OK... but it's not OK for someone else to develop dry land (not wetland) on trashy University Drive on a bus route, across the street from a grocery story, and walking distance to UMass. The farm there is a hobby farm, not highest and best use of the land, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Larry, thanks for your role as Town Crier. You get the word out to the public better than any committee, town website or newspaper.

Larry Kelley said...

You're welcome.

I love shining a big flashlight (although the batteries are wearing down).

Anonymous said...

If the zoning change goes through downtown, how many more rental units can be built?

Can they be like Kendick Place, as big and with virtually no parking?

Larry Kelley said...

No, because the 3 floor height limit would still apply. (Kendrick Place is 5 floors)

Anonymous said...

8:46, the limiting factor for this property is the available buildable land. Because of the wetland (recently delineated by the CC) they wouldn't be able to build out to the max parcel density for the proposed BL zone. So, the answer to your quesiton is, currently NO residential is allowed there, so any rental units would be more than now allowed. The proposed zoning change would allow a new use - residential - where it is currently prohibited by the "Office Park" zoning.

Anonymous said...

Also, unlike downtown, this parcel is not in the Town-Meeting approved Municipal Parking District so will require parking for each unit.