Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Cost Of Delay

The Mill District

After innumerable public meetings before a bevy of boards and committees leading up to the all important Zoning Board of Appeals Comprehensive Permit hearings, Beacon Communities representatives must feel like one of those purported abductees taken aboard an alien vessel for a close up examination including pokes and prods of every pore.

At the outset the ZBA scheduled three dates for examining the mixed use $45 million proposal, with January 5th being the final one at which they would vote on the measure which requires a two thirds vote to pass.

But at last week's Select Board meeting Town Manager Paul Bockelman told the SB an additional meeting would be required and the next one on the ZBA calender was January 19.

Chair Alisa Brewer somewhat bristled at the news wondering why the extra meeting was necessary and why it was scheduled two weeks from the 3rd one rather than only one week which is the way the Select Board handles important hearings.

Turns out the ZBA has not yet posted the date for that final meeting as they are trying to come up with a night that works for all concerned but it would be sooner than January 19.

Since the 130 unit development is providing 26 units of desperately needed subsidized housing Beacon is seeking tax credits and financing from the state to make the project work and need to have all approvals in place by mid February.

Beacon will also be seeking Select Board approval for a property tax reduction on those 26 below market rate units under the "Affordable Housing Property Tax Incentive" passed by Town Meeting two years ago, an important legacy legislation championed by the late Town Manager, John Musante.

Click to enlarge/read

The usual NIMBYs have attacked the project with the usual complaints about being too big and leading to the destruction of the historic character of their neighborhood like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo.

More ominously they brought in a hired gun attorney to the last ZBA hearing, which of course brings up the prospects of a nuisance lawsuit hoping to delay the project, causing Beacon Communities untenable financial losses.

The same desperate strategy unsuccessfully used against One East Pleasant Street 18 months ago.

But NIMBYs never learn -- especially in Amherst. 


Anonymous said...

NIMBY's never learn? How's The Retreat doing?

Larry Kelley said...

No comparison. None whatsoever.

Max Hartshorne said...

Amherst town meeting please stop shooting down great ideas like this!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, putting a building on and old abandoned saw mill site that will generate taxes is a real blight on the character and charm of North Amherst. Get real nimbys.....

Anonymous said...

When is this town going to say "enough" of the shenanigans of the serial lawsuit, landlord association, and NIMBY funding hypocritical slumlords Hilda and Louis Greenbaum?

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, this is legitimate for reasons you may not realize.

They want exemption from town density regs and the property tax as well -- ought that not be discussed at least?

What do you think would happen if Donald Trump were making these two requests?

Larry, answer that question honestly....

Hence I won't cry when the Greenbaums win a major settlement against the Town of Amherst. As painful as it is for me to say, they're in the right here.

Dr. Ed said...

I'm going to say one more thing: While this is not why the Greenbaums are filing serial lawsuits, they need to be recognized for keeping the student rents down with these lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

Get a clue Ed. More supply = lower rents. Suing the town every year = tax dollars down the toilet.

Anonymous said...

The project is in a good location but it IS also TOO BIG! Too much ground coverage. Too many stories. Too many people (and their cars) in too small an area. And if the developers now want a huge tax waiver, who's supposed to foot the bill for the police (and fire?) presence at the inevitable huge parties and big bonfires?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't we address most NIMBY issues and attempts to control other peoples' property by doing away with the ZBA, zoning and most building codes? Seems these tools do more harm than good. This would gut NIMBY influence and then they can protest as desired, make their points and try to convince property owners (aka deciders) to change the way they want, but have to accept when they fail.

Sure a few more people may get hurt, but this is likely small in comparison to the opportunity lost and the lack of development when it is needed.

We did not get to this point in society with zoning and codes - and if implemented during the dark ages, we would still be in the dark ages with no progress. We got to this point and then folks decided to layer this stuff on top as a tax of sorts. Now we make minimal progress, perhaps it is time to go back to owning property individually (deed) vs. collectively (zoning and codes).

This could also be addressed by only allowing landowners to vote. My sense is that the voice of renters adds quite a bit to the lack of progress and rights. They are transients by definition and like folks usually say about Ed, are not actually part of the town as they are not invested significantly in it, like landowners. Renters' votes should not carry the same weight as landowners as they do not face the consequence and are less bound to it. Even if we don't do this on a state or national level, it makes sense on the local level. In CO - landowners who are not residents can vote on tax issues - a right not given in the Commonwealth.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, building codes don't accomplish any purpose, except saving us from dying in the kind of fires that were common in the 1800s.

Anonymous said...

Guess which town official stated at a public meeting that she approved of the project but then it was not in her back yard?
Then guess who invested in a N. Amherst property in 2009 on the basis of the the Master Plan and the Local Zoning Bylaw which at that time would not allow ANY residences on Commercial property.
Guess who with other NIMBYs lobbied for a fresh food market on W.D.Cowls property in an area designated an ADHD Food Desert and who supported special permits for a commercial entrance across R-N property and commercial signage to promote the project in R-N zoning.
Guess which abutters volunteer at the Survival Center, pick up trash in the Conservation area and plant trees throughout town.
Guess who will make the most money on this project and who have been unable to sell their homes at market rate.
Guess how much traffic this development will generate in an area that has waited five years for a bridge to be repaired (but for traffic in one direction only!), and that has unsafe pedestrian crossings and intersections .
Guess who supported Article 15 that was 'reinterpreted' to allow 3 apartment blocks to go up in town without any affordable units and guess who supports the affordable housing unitsi n the Beacon project.
Imagine the effect of 130 more rental apartment units on just 5 acres in an area with an already destabilizing 83% rentals according to the 2010 census. .
Imagine the new affordable housing tenants finding a way to integrate into a transient community without job opportunity or local health services.
Guess who wants a GOOD, right sized affordable housing project not one that is also designed primarily as a rental business for the landowner.
Guess who cannot change the zoning on her-age-in-place investment to suit her financial goals.

Larry Kelley said...

That's a lot of guessing.

Are we talking about one individual or all the usual suspects?

Anonymous said...

Someone forgot about electricity, fire trucks with engines, education, fire department training, running water and how there are many places in New England and the US with no building codes and no measurable change in fires or safety. These are some actual differences between the 1800s and today.

Codes increase the cost of a home by only 25%, according to those that support them.

So that could be around $100k in Amherst. By the way, that is the real value of most homes or what they cost in places without codes.

If a family had $100k more and the parents did not have to work as much (that is 2-3 years less of work needed), do you think the reduced time at work and on our dangerous roads could make up for the codes in terms of the family's safety? I certainly think time spent in a home with a stairway that was 1/8" off (would fail an inspection) is safer than time spent on a well maintained road or on a roof making a money....which are the trade offs.

We know driving and work are dangerous. A home built without codes is not dangerous by default and certainly not more dangerous than a home built under codes with corrupt officials. There are also folks in the private sector that can inspect homes for those that are not educated or experienced enough to do it themselves - no town service needed, the private sector provides. In GA, you can hire an engineer, who is far more qualified than a building inspector, to make the inspection for you. They will have liability and can give quality advice. In Maine you can build your barn in a weekend, they have not outlawed the Amish and traditional American ways as we have in Amherst.

Codes are about money, not safety. Ask anyone involved in the NH inspection programs that popped up in the last 20 years whether it is about money or safety? They brought them on for funds and freely admitted it at the time (as they know that homeowners will allow the shake down), and we could at least pretend it was about safety if they actually inspected regularly. NH also builds extra exits on highways to make jobs...so...

Ask any electrician with local experience to describe how the 1000s of connections, each one of which could kill a family if done wrong, are inspected. Ask them how the inspector does it in 10 minutes. Same with framing inspections. They don't look, but if they did, they spend about 1/10 to 3 seconds per connection, but in reality only look at a few. If they know you, as the inspectors knew me, they would often tell me to just keep on building over the phone.

Codes are revenue generators, not safety tools.

Anonymous said...

On May 22, 1989, the 1989 Annual Town Meeting voted to allow residential uses in mixed-use buildings in the COM District. The dimensional regulations at that time were the same as they are now.

So Amherst has allowed residential units in mixed-use buildings in the COM District for the past 27 years, under the same dimensional rules.

Dr. Ed said...

"Get a clue Ed. More supply = lower rents."

In a free market.

But the affordable units are segregated --- they aren't offered to everyone, and hence the affordable units serve to increase the rents of the rest.

Because competition is eliminated, because the college students are excluded from the cheaper affordable units and thus the more expensive units are protected from competition.

Anonymous said...

What is an ADHD Food Desert?