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.