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Amherst residents organize to stop Cushman college housing project

— Residents who live in the Cushman section of Amherst are organizing with the aim if preventing a large student housing development on woodlands owned by W.D. Cowls, Inc.

Save Historic Cushman is the group that recently formed to provide information about the 170-unit project proposed by Landmark Properties of Athens, Ga. The Retreat, as it would be called, would be built on 154 acres that has been in the state’s Chapter 61 forestry program.

The group’s objective is to protect the character of the historic village center, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. On its website, www.savehistoriccushman.com, the group describes Cushman as “a traditional New England village threatened by incongruous development.”

Jack Hirsch, president of the group, said in a statement that the project will have traffic burdens and impacts on other limited resources, including police, fire and ambulances.

“Do we want to adhere to our master plan after our exhaustive planning process, or bend to the will of a Georgia-based developer that has no ties to our community and that typically sells its properties to rental management companies within five years of building them?” Hirsch said. “Do we want to adhere to the seven-year action plan for Conservation and Recreation priorities or succumb to the pressures for developing student housing, bringing with it enormous traffic burdens to a historically distinctive part of town?”

Cinda Jones, who owns the land on which the project would be built, said she understands these worries.

“I respect the concerns of the people who’ve formed the Save Cushman group,” Jones said. “It’s reasonable and rational to feel protective when you live next to someone else’s land that’s use is proposed to change. Change can be scary.”

The creation of the group comes after a warrant article was submitted by petition that will come before Town Meeting in May. That seeks to either purchase the land or a conservation restriction so that it can’t be developed.

The Save Cushman Group, whose treasurer is Norm Ford and secretary is Karen Merrill, has subcommittees working on traffic, conservation, preservation, town and university concerns, permitting procedures and legal remedies.

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