Former industrial site near North Amherst center
On Thursday February 2nd the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals will convene for the 6th and hopefully final time to support the Comprehensive Permit for Beacon Communities North Square mixed use development at the Mill District in North Amherst.
Yes, academic Amherst once had industry. Old timers refer to that area of town as "the dirty hands district" because of those long gone industries. Today industrial land makes up less than 1% of the town tax base.
The Beacon proposal will revive that former industrial site, which currently pays the towns less than $10,000 in property taxes, in a way that will stimulate all of North Amherst via the tenants and businesses it attracts while enhancing our town coffers with over $500,000 in annual property taxes.
In order to offset the losses they will incur from having 26 subsidized housing units in the 130 unit proposal, Beacon will be seeking a temporary ten year property tax break on those units, legislation that was championed by late Town Manager John Musante.
The state requires a town to contribute financially to a Comprehensive Permit project anyway and this method is far less painful since it does not take any money out of the treasury and simply forgoes collecting money over a ten year period.
But how much exactly?
When Beacon Communities came into town four years ago and saved our bacon by buying Rolling Green to keep all 204 units on the Subsidized Housing Index, the town contributed $1.25 million up front.
Forever activist Vince O'Connor, a North Amherst resident, was circulating a sheet at the recent ZBA meeting showing the total tax breaks Beacon is seeking over ten years coming to almost $5 million.
Vince O'Connor low tech tax guestimate
But the spreadsheet presented to the Select Board on January 23rd concludes it will be far less than that (although it is a tad complicated):
Click to enlarge/read
According to Mollye Lockwood, Cowls VP of Real Estate and Community Development:
It is a reasonable request for the town to contribute about $2 million in
tax relief (that is the approximate amount for the total 10 year period
and what I believe Vince was trying to calculate) to have not only the 26
affordable units but all of the other benefits related to economic
development, village center revitalization, smart growth, etc. (The town,
or anyone else, could not build 26 affordable units deed restricted into
perpetuity for very-low and extremely-low income households for $2
This is a great value for the community and the opportunity cost
that will be lost by not doing it would cost the town exponentially more
in the long run.
Amherst continuously pays lip service to the idea of subsidized housing. Now it's time for town officials to put their money where their mouth is.