Showing posts with label NIMBY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NIMBY. Show all posts

Friday, January 27, 2017


Atkins Reservoir Friday, January 27: 100% capacity

Atkins Reservoir, which went back online a couple weeks ago, is currently at full 200 million gallon capacity.

A far cry from early this fall when it was down by two-thirds and had to be shut down early. 

 Atkins Reservoir October 7th, 2016:  34% of capacity

Amherst managed to survive an extended period using only the wells and the return of somewhat normal New England weather has now replenished our surface water supplies in Pelham and Atkins which is located in Shutesbury.

The town lifted the water ban that went into effect on August 19th back on December 19th and the consumption levels since then have remained below 3 million gallons per day.

Amherst is permitted by the DEP to draw 4.44 million gallons per day so in our current system there's still plenty of capacity left for new growth as long as Mother Nature does not throw a hot hissy fit.

NIMBYs have embraced the recent water woes as another weapon in their anti-development war using it to attack the proposed Beacon Communities 130 unit development at the Mill District in North Amherst.

Not the first time the usual knee jerk anti-development arguments  have been all wet.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Just Build It!

Former sawmill property currently pays $10,000 annually in taxes
North Square at Mill District will pay over $500,000 annually in property tases

The good folks from Beacon Communities completed an exhausting trifecta this week with professional presentations to the Select Board on Monday, Planning Board on Wednesday and the second of three appearances before the all important ZBA last night.

And as usual the NIMBYs were out in force.

The North Square development is seeking a Comprehensive Permit to allow the 130 unit project to move forward.  Located on a 5 acre former industrial site with relatively flat terrain and good soil conditions the $45 million project would address two BIG problems in our little college town:

Over half our property is owned by tax exempts -- mainly our institutes of higher education -- so those of us on the tax rolls have to shoulder more of the burden.  And of the 50% of us on the tax rolls 90% is residential and only 10% commercial.

Former sawmill will be demolished 

The Beacon Project is mixed use with commercial on the ground floor or 20% of the entire project, which will of course feed off the other 80% that is residential.

Amherst currently has an 11.3% Subsidized Housing Inventory but the ONLY reason it is still above the 10% threshold (avoiding a Ch40B development) is because Beacon purchased Rolling Green Apartments 2.5 years ago and kept all 204 units on the SHI.

The 26 units of subsidized housing would be a significant contribution to that under served demographic since the 42 unit Olympia Oaks went online 18 months ago.

But because of the state and federal money involved the entire 130 housing units -- not just the 26 affordable ones -- will count towards the town's SHI thus guaranteeing protection from a hostile Ch40B for many, many years to come.

Beacon purchased Rolling Green for $30.25 million ($1.25 million of town CPA $) thus keeping it on our Subsidized Housing Inventory

Unfortunately in this town anti-development sentiment is an ingrained religion which does not differentiate between visionary projects like this one proposed by Beacon Communities and quick-buck cookie cutter projects  targeting our #1 demographic,  college aged youth.

 Zoning Board of Appeals last night

The ZBA should send a positive message to responsible developers state wide and wholeheartedly support North Square at Mill District with a unanimous vote on January 5th.

ZBA presenters (front row) and audience last night

Monday, October 31, 2016

Play Ball!

Potwine Lane Fields Saturday:  No soccer for you!

Saturday was a local sports lovers delight as UMass and Amherst College played home football games and amazingly UMass won while Amherst College lost (probably due to bad karma from "taking a knee" during the national anthem a while back),

Amherst College lost

The premier town soccer fields at Potwine Lane in South Amherst however, were all dressed up with nowhere to go as the Saturday games were rescheduled to other fields because neighbors continue to have problems with traffic on game day.

UMass won (must have been the flag)

Considering the town spent $500,000 in Community Preservation Funds to develop the "soccer fields" ten years ago you have to wonder if the CPA committee might ask for our tax money back if the utilization is cut back to keep the NIMBYs happy.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Circle The Wagons

Once bitterly opposed Butternut Farm (now not a peep)

Vince O'Connor, a North Amherst resident, used the public comment period at Monday night's Select Board meeting to serve notice the NIMBYs would not take a new mixed-use affordable housing project at the Mill District in North Amherst sitting down.

Although he was sitting when he delivered his warning.

A "friendly 40B" would allow Beacon Communities a little leeway in zoning regulations for a denser development in order for them to be able to afford having 25% of the units be, you know, affordable.

 Beacon Communities project would go on lot between Atkins Farm and Cowls Building Supply

And presumably they would do this all on their own dime rather than relying on town funding.

A few years ago we used $1.25 million in Community Preservation Act money to help Beacon purchase Rolling Green apartments thus keeping 204 units on the Subsidized Housing Inventory and keeping the town above the 10% threshold.

Otherwise we would now be below that state mandated threshold and Beacon could simply do a regular Ch40B development.

 Vira Douangmany Cage (far left)

At the 3rd Hampshire District candidates night on Wednesday Vira Douangmany Cage told the standing room only crowd she lives in Butternut Farm in South Amherst, and her family probably would not be living in Amherst if not for that affordable development, which was the result a "friendly 40B."

As usual that project was bitterly opposed by neighbors, causing a many year delay and $150,000 in additional legal expenses.

But I'm pretty sure Beacon Communities has a pretty good lawyer, or two.


Monday, May 16, 2016

When NIMBYs Attack

Proposed mixed use development would replace closed saw mill (top center)

In Amherst no building project bigger than a dog house is safe from coordinated attack by concerned neighbors worried about the destruction of their neighborhood, even though some of them have not been living there long enough to really know the neighborhood.

In South Amherst, Butternut Farm, a "friendly 40B" 26-unit initiative, was bitterly opposed by neighbors, including a failed lawsuit that only served to delay the project an extra half-dozen years and increase costs to the non-profit developer, HAPHousing.

 Clark House, 100 subsidized units.  About to be sold to a "qualified Preservation buyer"

And the Clark House, the first six story building in town center,  was also fought over almost 40 years ago and would never have happened if not the for Amherst Redevelopment Authority, a quasi state agency with the power of eminent domain.

So I'm hardly shocked the usual suspects in North Amherst are now sharpening their pitchforks and fueling up the turbo charged torches to oppose the badly needed subsidized housing mixed-use proposal to help complete the Mill District vision.

Beacon purchased Rolling Green for $30.25 million ($1.25 million of town CPA $)

Ironically if not for Beacon Communities purchasing the 204 unit Rolling Green Apartments in East Amherst our Subsidized Housing Inventory would have fallen below 10%, so a Chapter 40B in the Mill District -- build whatever you want as long as it's 25% affordable housing -- would now be a slam dunk.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Don't Drink The Water?

Ye old unlined landfill off Old Farm Road.  Amherst Woods top center
Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek (far right) attended Water Supply Protection Committee meeting yesterday

The Amherst Water Supply Protection Committee voted 3-1 yesterday to recommend the town do one extra sampling analysis at Well 4-08, located in a sensitive area for our drinking supply (Zone 2) where a high level of Dioxane was detected in one lone sampling back in July, 2012.

As per DEP regulations the town tests annually at 15 sites for contamination from two closed landfills off Belchertown Road (lined landfill) and Old Farm Road (unlined).

After the alarming test results taken in July, 2012 the town quickly did a resampling in August using a better testing method which turned up nothing.  Zero.  Zip.

And for the past three years annual testing has turned up nothing.  Zero.  Zip.

Dissenting member John Tobiason, who is also a Board of Health member, was sure the unusually high readings on that one test date were simply due to error, or a false positive.  Especially since that lone sample date is so far outside the norm for all the other sampling ever done.

About a half dozen neighbors showed up for the meeting and were adamant the town test four times per year to account for "seasonal variations."

But the Committee pointed out the retest using a better testing method was done in August of 2012 only a month after the alarming sample was taken, and August is in the same "season" as July.

Of course these are the same Amherst Woods neighbors who filed a lawsuit against the town to prevent a solar array from going on ye old landfill.

After the appeased neighbors filed out of the meeting, just before adjournment, the Water Supply Protection Committee confirmed, "We're not concerned."

The southern end of Gull Pond has tested positive for contamination, but it's not like anybody would drink that water (or swim in it)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Build, Baby, Build

Amherst Carriage Shops, AKA One East Pleasant Street, coming soon!

The August 12 Summary Judgement slapdown to the lawsuit against One East Pleasant filed by abutter/competitor Joel Greenbaum and paid for by dozens of fellow NIMBYs has NOT been appealed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, where a panel of three judges would review the trial Court's decision; therefor the lawsuit is dead, Dead, DEAD.
Developer Kyle Wilson said yesterday the first order of business will be hazardous waste abatement in the former downtown hotel turned commercial strip mall, as any building constructed over fifty years ago has asbestos.  Then comes the demolition.

The Carriage Inn was very successful in the early years but fell victim to increased competition for the lucrative academic market from the University Lodge just down the road and the tax exempt Campus Center Hotel.
Amherst Carriage Inn circa 1960 

Meanwhile Archipelago's other nearby five-story, mixed-used building, Kendrick Place, is now over 75% occupied and thus far no major problems to report with either rowdy late night partying or a parking Armageddon.

 Kendrick Place 1st weekend of occupancy

At last week's Public Works Committee meeting DPW Chief Guilford Mooring presented up to date plans for the roundabout in front of Kendrick Place.

The curbline immediately in front of Kendrick leading onto Triangle Street will be pushed further north into the intersection to improve traffic flow and all allow better streetscape infrastructure (grass,lighting, benches, trees, etc)  if the town goes with a roundabout.

 Curbline (circled) will move northward a few feet

During the public comment period the PWC heard John Fox request an underground tunnel for the intersection whether it becomes a roundabout or not, citing safety concerns over students commuting to UMass.

 DPW Chief Guilford Mooring assuring Jeff Brown none of his commercial property is needed for roundabout

This of course would probably double the cost of the intersection, and the PWC has already gone on record at their 7/10/14 meeting saying they unanimously support a roundabout -- but only if it is constructed without any town funds.

 Most up to date intersection plan (roundabout)

Although Public Works Committee Chair Christine Gray-Mullen did say the previous recommendation was made over a year ago when the town was in a far different financial situation with road repairs.

Her Committee will continue discussion of the roundabout at their October 15 meeting and will take another vote on a intersection recommendation at that meeting or the following one.

The town is trying to incorporate some of the intersection work using the $1.5 million MassWorks project money already in hand.  The relocation of those ugly above-ground utility poles to an underground location is expected to start soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Let The Sunshine, Let The Sunshine In

Newer 56 acre closed line-landfill Belchertown Road

Yes Amherst is having yet another public meeting on locating solar power within the confines of our 27.7 square miles of altered reality.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night at the Amherst Regional Middle School auditorium, ironically enough the scene of a major defeat for NIMBY/BANANAs when Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to support solar on ye old landfill.

Ye old closed 53 acre unlined-landfill also on Belchertown Road just across the street

As usual the NIMBY/BANANAs will probably be out in force with lots of ideas where not to locate a solar array (anywhere within their sight line or territory for walking the dog).

 Downtown has a tiny bit of solar

And considering their victory over the Town Manger on the old landfill proposed site -- after the town spent $60,000 creating a legal contract with a provider -- it's safe to assume residents anywhere near newly proposed sites will use the same obstructionist strategy.

 One woman lobby picketing Town Meeting 5/11/15

The newer closed landfill will not necessarily be immune from immediate neighbors:  Back in 2002 residents of Logtown Road successfully torpedoed the town's attempt to increase the height of the landfill by 10 feet to keep it open longer (and generate tons of revenue).

The Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the idea by a 2 (yes)-1 (no) vote.  The Special Permit required a unanimous vote.

Solar array among the fertile fields of Hadley just over the town line

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Judge: Go Ahead & Build It

Kendrick Place (left) proposed One East Pleasant site circled in red

Hampshire Superior Court Justice Richard Carey allowed the town of Amherst and Archipelago Investments LLC "Motion for Summary Judgment," ending a lawsuit filed by abutter/competitor Joel Greenbaum over the proposed construction of a five-story mixed use (mostly residential) building on the site of the former Carriage Shops, in the north end of the downtown business district.

Amherst Carriage Inn circa 1960

The Amherst Planning Board, after five public meetings, gave Site Plan approval with two Special Permits allowing the building 5' extra height and 10% extra lot coverage.

Greenbaum filed suit claiming the proposed structure was a student dormitory, had too little parking and would cast an evil shadow on his property.

Essentially Judge Carey found that Mr. Greenbaum, with two nearby private parking lots, did not prove the new building -- which does provide 36 parking spaces where none are required -- is not a an injury "special and different from the concerns of the rest of the community."

And Judge Carey was not at all impressed with the testimony of Rolf Karlstrom, finding he's "not an expert authority on parking."

The Judge goes on to declare, "Karlstrom, as a biology professor and town resident, does not possess the knowledge necessary to evaluate city parking.  As such, any opinion in Karlstrom's affidavit will be stricken from the record."  Ouch!

Kyle Wilson (standing), Dave Williams (seated) aka Archipelago Investments LLC

While Mr. Greenbaum can appeal the decision it's unlikely that a panel of three judges would overrule such a strait forward finding from Judge Carey, who is known and respected for his thorough grasp of land use law.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Misty Lightning Rod

Kendrick Place Saturday morning just before the mist rolled in

Normally I post to this blog first, created a tiny url, come up with a snappy one sentence teaser, and then post to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which combined drive about 33% of my traffic.

These days I also post a fair amount to those three social media sites photos or slice-of-life incidents that don't quite rise to the level of a full-story blog post.

But this is the first time I'm doing a blog post based on a simple Facebook item, which as of now has attracted more feedback than any Facebook post in my short history (beating out I'm sad to say a picture of my darling daughters from a couple years back.)

Obviously Kendrick Place is a lightning rod guaranteed to attract attention.  Kind of like cute kitty videos on YouTube.

Some people see it as an ugly monster dominating the skyline in the northern end of dowtown, while others see it as a tax generating symbol of progress that helps to fill the number one need in the town today:  housing.

Interestingly enough as of this writing the simple Facebook photo op has drawn 32 comments, but only seven outright negative.  More interestingly it also has 37 "likes," and I assume my friends would not hit the like button unless they kind of liked the idea of the building.

 Kendrick Place in the mist (some would like it do disappear altogether)

Or maybe it was just the artsy photo.  Oddly enough the mist rolled in 5 or 6 minutes after my drone went airborne and had already snapped a few photos.  When looking at my iPad Mini monitor I at first thought it was just condensation on the lens but a glance up quickly proved otherwise.

 Carriage Shops: future site of One East Pleasant Street

Whatever the case, with all this attention generated by a five-story mixed-use building with only 36 residential units you have to wonder what's going to happen when One East Pleasant street goes up pretty much next door -- with over twice that capacity.

I hope the developers plan to install extra heavy duty lightning rods.

UPDATE 8:30 PM So I'm pleased to report I have a new winner for all time high likes on Facebook (yeah, that was quick):

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Build It! Just Not Anywhere Near Me

UMass Southwest = 5,5000 beds.  Originally a 6th tower was planned, but never built

Couldn't agree more with Fearing Street resident John Fox's column in today's Gazette:  Indeed UMass could do more with housing students within their confines even though they are already top three in the nation for sheltering students on campus (around 60%).

 Click to enlarge/read

I just find it interesting he highlights two private town center projects he vehemently opposed -- Kendrick Place and One East Pleasant Street -- declaring them not nearly big enough to satisfy demand and then points out Public Private Partnerships constructing housing on public (UMass) land is the best way to go.

Kendrick Place, with104 beds, opening next month

Ironically, when the Amherst Redevelopment Authority partnered with UMass to develop the former Frat Row into a glorious Gateway Project that would have provided ample student housing and commercial space in a tax-paying mixed-use project, Mr. Fox lead the charge to successfully scuttle it.

John Fox (rt) on the attack at ARA meeting December, 2010

But at least he will now support circumventing the Pacheco Law to allow a Public Private Partnership to build a substantial project somewhere on campus.

Of course should they choose the best location, the shovel-ready former Frat Row, he will once again fire up his war machine. 

Gateway Area.  Fearing & Phillips Streets on left with former Frat Row on right.  
Maybe it's time to build that 6th Southwest Tower?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

NIMBY Secret Weapon?

130 Fearing Street

If the Lincoln Sunset Local Historic District had been approved by Town Meeting a couple years ago and was now functioning the way the Dickinson Local Historic District Commission does, this family owned house could never have seen the light of day.

Not so much that LHD's have the power to stop new construction, but they have an inordinate amount of power when it comes to demolishing old structures to make way for new development.

 Lincoln Sunset Local Historic District Study Committee meeting 6/2/15

In this case a barn that was claimed to be "historic" because a real estate agent once advertised that Robert Frost may have used it as a lonely writers garret. The Amherst Historical Commission was not convinced and rejected using their powers to enact a one-year demolition delay.

The next day owner You-Pan Tzeng demolished the structure and later flipped the vacant property to the current owners, who built the house that now fits snugly into the neighborhood.

At most the Amherst Historical Commission could only have delayed things one year.  But a Local Historic District Commission could have delayed demolition permanently.

And it can be hard to build a new house or five-story mixed use building if you can't clear an old building sitting on that spot.

For instance the Amherst Historical Commission hit North Amherst developer Cinda Jones with a one-year demo delay on her big red barn at the entryway to the Mill District.

Without a change in zoning or Special Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals the barn cannot be used for commercial activities related to the Mill District (like Atkins North) and is way too expensive to rehabilitate simply for storage.

 Currently the barn screens the Mill District from viewers on Montague Road
Atkins North is reusing a barn that was in commercial zone

Thus it will probably be demolished next month when the one-year delay expires.  But a North Amherst Local Historic District Commission (which is being talked about) could have simply said, "you can't tear down this barn.  Ever!" 

Which is easy to say when the preservation money is not coming out of your pocket.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Solar Sabotage?

Solar array on E. Hadley Road, Hadley (just over Amherst border)

Perhaps emboldened by their Amherst NIMBY counterparts who successfully torpedoed a 4-Megawatt solar project at the most perfection location on God's green earth -- an old landfill -- Shutesbury residents are now taking up pitchforks and torches over a proposed 6-Megawatt installation out in the middle of nowhere.

 30 acres out of a total of 830

While the 30 acres the array will require may sound like a lot, it is located on a 830 acre site known as the "Wheelock lot" owned by the state's largest private landowner W.D. Cowls Inc.  The property will be leased for 20 years by a big time Chicago firm, Lake Street Development Partners LLC. 

Since Shutesbury, like Amherst, is a "green community" the permitting of a commercial solar array shows the quaint hilltown can walk the walk rather than just lip-servicing sustainable energy.

In addition the economic benefits from a facility that requires no town services is alone more than enough reason to support the project.

The current offer on the table for Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) is $8,000 per megawatt or $48,000 total, which over the 20 year lease comes to pretty much $1 million dollars.

The entire parcel is currently in the forest conservation program (Ch 61) so total payments to the town in 2015 come to only $891.

The opposition seems to be led by Michael DeChiara which comes as no surprise.  He orchestrated the ill fated M.N. Spear Library expansion Override yes campaign that bitterly divided the town.  And lost. 

And Mr. DeChiara has spent the past three years as the Shutesbury representative to the 4-town Regional Agreement Working Group, which overwhelmingly voted to support the expansion of the current 7-12 Regional School District all the way down to Kindergarten & grades 1 thru 6.  DeChiara voted No. 

The obligatory new website dedicated to opposing the solar project Alliance for Appropriate Development, seems to be drawing plenty of time and attention from Mr. DeChiara:

 Click to enlarge/read
(UPDATE: Friday morning: Since this was first published the website removed the Recent site activity" button at the bottom of the page.  Hmm ...)

Which is fine I suppose.  After all Mr. DeChiara does live there.  But he's also a recently elected member of the Shutesbury Select Board, so you have to wonder when Conflict of Interest law applies.