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Robin Morris: ‘Mountaintop removal’ underway beside Puffer’s Pond in Amherst

Blueprint, Ruler, Compass, & Toy House

Blueprint, Ruler, Compass, & Toy House

Back in February, residents of the Puffer’s Pond neighborhood received an abutter’s notice, informing us of a meeting to approve renovations by new owners to the old house beside the pond.

The meeting, however, took place on a snowy night in February, so no one went. The next notice informed residents that the requests had been approved. It’s reasonable to improve an old house, and no one desires excessive regulation of private land, but this one “renovation” has taken the neighborhood by storm.

Those of us in our homes during business hours (the home being where many now conduct business) are now subject to a barrage of jackhammers, which we are told will continue for a month — the time it takes to demolish the boulders alongside Puffer’s Dam.

Considering that the dam itself is a popular enough landmark to be featured on the town’s website video, it is shocking that such a drastic change to the landscape was approved with so little due diligence.

The fact that the neighborhood would be subject to the processes of a mountaintop removal operation was apparently not worth mentioning. Now the weather is finally getting warm, but no one in the neighborhood can open windows due to noise and dust. We can’t work in our yards. We can’t hear ourselves think and some are reporting headaches. Town officials say that since the permits were issued, nothing can be done.

I invite all interested residents to come by Puffer’s during a weekday, anytime in the next few weeks, to see and hear for themselves what is happening and question how such major changes to our landscape and quality of life can be approved with so little public input.

Robin Morris lives in Amherst.

Legacy Comments6

The problem is that the meeting was rescheduled twice without notice being given to the residents. In addition, the notification said "modifications to existing structures" and the construction of a "deatched garage". There was no mention of weeks of drilling to accommodate the garage and the pool and the hot-tub.

In my experience, the zoning board trips over itself to agree with whatever a property owner wants, regardless of the impact to other people in the neighborhood. I think this should change.

There are a few things left out of Robin's letter that are of note: - The meeting was originally scheduled in February and the neighborhood was notified via certified letter. However, the meeting was cancelled due to bad weather. The neighbors were not notified of the cancellation, the next cancellation, or the rescheduled hearing dates. - The letter noted that there would be modifications to existing structures and the construction of a detached garage. The letter did not have any information about the extensive modifications to the property that are currently underway, which are being done in order to accommodate an in-ground pool and hot-tub. - When drilling started, most people in the neighborhood agreed that while annoying, it would probably be short, since the notice said the plans only accounted for modifications to existing structures on private property. When we found out drilling would occur for at least a month, THIS was the point where people became concerned. - Although many people work 9-5 jobs outside of their home, there is a significant number of people who are self-employed or retired who live in the neighborhood and conduct business from home. The noise has a disproportionate effect on the quality of life and quality of business for those people. What happened was an unfortunate confluence of poor weather, rescheduling, a lack of notification, and a lack of due diligence on the part of the town, which is due in no small part to the vague and weak town noise bylaws (which, of course, contain numerous mentions of loud noises that occur due to parties, but none for construction on private property where noise levels routinely exceed 90 decibels for hours on end.) The neighbors don't necessarily fault the owner or the construction company. What this situation has brought to light is the incredibly poor methods currently in place to notify residents of construction at this scale. It also draws attention to the weak and ineffectual noise bylaws the town has in place. It also makes one consider how or whether the zoning board considers the effects of construction on small businesses or residents. Given the age we live in, it would seem reasonable that the town would be able to directly notify abutters when meetings are postponed or cancelled due to weather, rather than relying on the passive method of the town website. The internet makes this possible. I do, however, encourage commenters to take a drive by Puffer's to hear it for themselves, and then decide if they could work and conduct their daily lives with 8 hours of 65-95 decibels of noise, and to consider for themselves if the construction taking place is within the guidelines of "modifications to existing structures and construction of a detached garage," or if it's more extensive than that. Pine Street isn't under construction today, so getting here should be easy!

I agree. Attend the meeting, or live with the consequences. Can you prove the weather was bad enough to cancel the meeting? If so, do it.

Hi Tom, If you look on the town website, you will see that there were a series of cancelled zoning board meeting in February and March.

Sorry, Robin, but you and your upset neighbors should have read the legal notice and gone to the meeting. That's why the applicant had to spend money and send you all letters.

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