Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Deleterious Downtown Delay

Cowles Lane down to areas west of Kendrick Park

Looks like the Planning Board will backtrack on the zoning article tweak designed to increase the density of our downtown with potential customers for our starving small businesses.

 South Prospect Street behind Amherst Cinema building

The main sponsor/architect -- Business Improvement District -- has requested the zoning article be withdrawn for the upcoming Town Meeting, although they were quick to add "We would like an assurance from the Zoning Subcommittee they will continue to work on this important article and keep it a priority for Fall Town Meeting."

Click to enlarge/read

Simply put the article would have allowed in the B-L District (limited business) mixed use buildings on less than 20,000 square feet of property to have residential units, thus increasing potential customers in the heart of the downtown.

 Area north of Triangle Street

Currently three B-L districts all over the downtown would be impacted as well as Amherst College owned property on Dickinson Street and additional property along University Drive.

B-L districts circled in red


Anonymous said...

this town sux

Anonymous said...

I'm glad people are asking the Planning Board to take more time with this, which is needed before it's ready for Town Meeting. I'm hoping that a finished Inclusionary Zoning Bylaw change will go first. My comments to the Planning Board on these issues:

Dear Planning Board,

I am writing to suggest that the Planning Board defer bringing any zoning article with changes to B-L districts until Fall town meeting so as to take the time to notify the neighborhoods that will be affected by these changes, get feedback, make revisions and then send these revisions out again for review. Please include Town Meeting members in this process by using the various Town Meeting listservs. Although this is a longer process than is customary, I think it will lead to more success in getting zoning changes adopted by Town Meeting. It will promote understanding and the Planning Board will get useful questions and comments to guide it's thinking and drafting.

It's great that the Planning Department and Planning Board notified abutters to the B-L district about these proposed changes. Several abutters came with their concerns and questions, and several Planning Board members rightly noted that it would take time to look at them. I'm sure other neighbors and Town Meeting members will have their own questions and concerns.

Listening to the discussion on the B-L district changes, I had questions about what buildings could look like under the zoning change, what would full buildout look like and how many new housing units could be added overall. I also wondered about parking needs, impacts on nearby homes and these homes could be buffered. The Planning Department is good at this analysis and presenting drawings that will help everyone's understanding. Let's take the time to do this.

At this meeting, one member suggested that the current draft be sent to Town Meeting this spring to be worked on the floor of Town Meeting. I can't say strongly enough that this is not a helpful or appropriate use of Town Meeting time. It will lead to prolonged discussions, as questions are raised and revisions are suggested by a hundred and fifty or so people. It is very unlikely to lead to success.

I think that the Planning Board should take up its work, again, on inclusionary zoning before presenting any zoning articles that increase density. The Planning Board should harness new housing to comprehensive affordable housing requirements, so Amherst can get more low income housing. It can be done. However, if an IZ article is passed afterward, it will result in even greater density than anticipated now. Zoning changes increasing density should be looked at and tied together with density increases from an affordable housing requirement.

Taking some more time, involving neighbors and Town Meeting members early on, and using Fall Town Meeting as a time for zoning articles will be more helpful for everyone. Let's work together and take the time to do this.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my comments.

Janet McGowan
Town Meeting Member, Precinct 8

Anonymous said...

Why do you take so much air time?
Are you positioning yourself to run for mayor?

Scrooge McDuck said...


If I was a Planning Board member, there is no way in hell I would ever spend another minute trying to craft a workable IZ bylaw. IZ is a dead horse and you know it. It's never getting passed in any form that would actually create housing. So I have to think that your motive in posting this to this blog and the PB is actually to derail any zoning changes that would allow increased density in any district, under any circumstances. And to try to prevent more success stories like Kendrick from changing hearts and minds.

Never have I seen more blatant "lip service" to the cause of affordable housing than I did at that Town Meeting session. You were there. By proposing rules whereby private developers could actually build affordable units and turn a profit, the PB asked the neighborhoods to put up or shut up: if we really want affordable housing, it needs to be distributed throughout the town. It was made very clear that nobody wants "those people" in their neighborhoods especially if it means multi-family housing like townhouses, apartments, or condos.

Spending any more time discussing IZ is time that could be better spent elsewhere. Even if it succeeeded, any gains would be minimal. Let's talk instead about rezoning major swaths of town to allow more multifamily housing and economic development. And about how our property tax which is nearly DOUBLE the area average makes it impossible for workforce housing to be feasible.

Anonymous said...

Janet McGowan voted against the only Inclusionary Zoning article that has made it to Town Meeting.
And she voted for turning "Strawberry Fields"--which would have included affordable units--into conservation land.

Voting records count.

Everything else is lip service.

Anonymous said...

Why do you choose to live here then? Why don't you just shove off if it bothers you so much?

Anonymous said...

Nice to see that I am gathering followers.

Anyway, I voted against the Inclusionary Zoning article because after it wasn't complete. After several boards, including the Planning Board itself, approved it, the Planning Dept (and Town Counsel I think) realized that it would greatly increase density in General Residence Districts (called RG). So the RG district language was pulled from the warrant article. (The speaks to the complexity of Amherst's zoning bylaw -- and the same problem happened here in the B-L where the actual density turned out to be much greater that originally thought.) The extra look at RG districts came after local residents kept asking the Planning Board how it would affect that district. So the Inclusionary Zoning article that came to Town Meeting was not finished--and that is why I voted against it.

After Town Meeting I suggested to several Planning Board members if we could continue working on it. I guess the time wasn't right but maybe it it now. There is broad support for inclusionary zoning in town meeting and throughout the town. And there is great need for affordable housing.

Janet McGowan