Thursday, March 3, 2016

Build Baby Build

5.79 acre property currently used as farmland and pays almost nothing in annual taxes
Concept plan for 29 townhouses, 58 parking spaces on 5.79 acres (2.3 acres of it non buildable wetlands)

The Planning Board was in an agreeable mood last night for construction as they unanimously supported three projects all involving residential housing.

Although the major one involving, gasp, student housing still has to meander through the minefield of Town Meeting which previously voted down the idea.

Rezoning the 5.79 acre property on University Drive from Office Park to Business Limited would allow the construction of 29 townhouse apartments and increase tax revenues to the town from the current under $100 to upwards of $150,000 -- or more than enough to hire a few more Public Safety personnel.

 Unhappy crowd -- mostly neighbors -- spoke against the rezoning

The business neighbors to the south (an office park and The Arbors assisted living community) were adamantly opposed to the project, as was the owner of 55 University Drive directly across the street, which was recently approved for a medical marijuana facility.

The Planning Board also discussed amending the current medical marijuana bylaw to say no such facility can be within 300 feet of existing residential.

That way it would allow a residential project to be constructed after a medical marijuana facility has opened.  Or in this particular case, if 55 University Drive does become a medical marijuana dispensary the 29 townhouses could still be built across the street.

Current wetlands have been delineated to the satisfaction of Conservation Commission

Critics all cited the problems with water runoff, which the applicants said they would address by installing a larger pipe for drainage.

And the Planning Board pointed out no matter what goes on that property -- even with current Office Park zoning -- there would be conditions set to ensure the drainage problem is mitigated.

 Attorney Tom Reidy presents to a receptive Planning Board last night

The (required) public hearing lasted only 45 minutes and the Planning Board simultaneously closed the hearing and voted on whether to recommend this article to Town Meeting.  That vote was unanimously affirmative.

Building Commissioner Rob Morra feels because of all the requirements University Drive is only place in town for a medical marijuana dispensary

Meanwhile (this morning):

Security fencing is being erected all around the Carriage Shops in preparation for demolition.  One East Pleasant Street is finally going to commence.

Asbestos abatement will happen first


Anonymous said...

On-site water recharge, not drainage, is necessary - as it now is designed, the UDrive proposal is DoA.

Larry Kelley said...

I'm going to pitch a new sitcom: "Anons know best."

Anonymous said...

You're sophisticated enough to know that truth can be effectively communicated with humor.

And even Homer (the ancient one, not my late friend from S. Amherst) made his hero Anonymous (Nemo).

Larry Kelley said...

Well my heros all have names.

jmchatton said...

Wow, that's so much parking. I assume it's because of zoning regulations, but is it all really necessary?

jmchatton said...

Also, hurrah for the start of the One East Pleasant project!

Larry Kelley said...

Yes I believe it's two parking spots per unit times 29 units. In town center however (Municipal Parking District) it's zero.

Scrooge McDuck said...

The strange parking requirements in both places actually say a lot about how town meeting has had a detrimental effect. Zoning proposals are debated and often amended on the floor of town meeting, when at least 1/2 of the members have never even read the proposal before the warrant article is called. This is very inefficient and results in a crazy-quilt of zoning regulations. The best solution to this would be a complete rewrite - which could be done in maybe 2 years by a dedicated group. HOWEVER:

A complete rewrite would never get through town meeting because more than 130 people would have to learn every detail of it and be convinced it's better than what we have. This will never happen - there will always be enough folks who just show up to vote "no" or simply want to keep things exactly the way they are. I believe Larry calls them "Bananas".

In contrast, a town council of 5 or 7 full time, paid members could actually spend enough time with it to pass it as a whole.

Anonymous said...

yeah dumb ass Amherst, have fun eating buildings and parking lots when you use up all the land.

Anonymous said...

Hi Scrooge:
I'm with you.

An alternate is to give the Planning Board the authority to change the zoning bylaw, by 2/3 vote. That's how it works in all Connecticut towns.

This would, of course, mean that the Planning Board would have to be elected.

And it also means that Amherst would have to annex itself to Connecticut.

Larry Kelley said...

If they would have us.

Anonymous said...

How do you plan to recharge into a water table that I do not believe exists there.
Ever notice how many of the brooks run straight? They were hand-dug to drain the land, the water won't ever soak into some parts of town.

Larry Kelley said...

Drones with flamethrowers.

Anonymous said...

My recollection is the applicant on University Drive is proposing a larger drain pipe, not to recharge the water table. Which in Amherst is not really a problem.

Polly said...

What do you mean by recharge? I don't want this student housing, any advice?

Polly said...

Student housing is not appropriate there. High water table and nowhere for drainage to go, all that paving and housing will created huge water back up no matter how big drain pipe is. This is not appropriate use. Zone change should not be allowed. What do you mean about recharge? For sounds great, how?

Dr. Ed said...

Polly, why are you living in a college town?

Do you realize how asinine your "no matter how big drain pipe is" actually is?

What do you think happens when you flush your toilet?

Anonymous said...

Ed, and Larry (cf. my last not yet posted comment):

Wastewater (like toilet flushes) and stormwater (like roof, roadway and parking lot runoff) are no longer commingled - and if they are, it's a HUGE and ILLEGAL mistake, in violation of the Clean Water Act (and just stupid since untreated waste in the drinking water supply of a downstream municipality is… nasty… and very, very costly to mitigate).

Furthermore, it is not legal to discharge storm water through a "big pipe" to some mythical "somewhere else" - it must be recharged into the ground on-site, usually in a retention basin (a man-made wetland adjacent to, but typically separated from existing wetlands, and certainly not overlapping them).

Even if the ConCom approved the mapping of those wetlands, that doesn't mean the project can be built as proposed in that
preliminary sketch, which does not show any sign of a detention basin large enough to deal with the inevitable pervious surface runoff.

Ignoring this reality is wishful thinking; and if the proponents are trying to get an investor to fund such a project without disclosing such considerations, it's fraud.

Anonymous said...


Additional runoff, caused by new buildings and parking lots, must be retained on site. But not all runoff. Otherwise we would never have downtown buildings.
The "big pipe" to a mythical "somewhere else" is there to handle existing conditions, and it is undersized.

Anonymous said...

8:31, it definitely applies to new downtown buildings. Kendrick was just a vacant lot, almost all pervious. They had to install enormous (8-foot-diameter) detention tanks/pipes under it to put the runoff bank into the ground.

Whatever is build on University drive can't increase the runoff beyond where it is now. 11:05 is right, it all has to go back into the ground.