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Patty O’Donnell: Backs solar project in Amherst Woods area

To the editor:

I want to make it clear to the broader community that the opinions expressed in a May 24 letter do not reflect the attitudes of all the residents of Amherst Woods. I live in Amherst Woods, and am embarrassed to admit it!

To attempt to piggy-back on the proposed Cushman student housing development — referred to as The Retreat — to gain support for resistance to the installation of solar panels on an old landfill appears opportunistic and disingenuous.

These are vastly different issues. The Retreat development proposal could clearly have a deleterious impact — both culturally and environmentally — on a historic village center in our town (Cushman), and addresses the ongoing discussion between the town of Amherst and the University of Massachusetts regarding concentrated off-campus student housing. This is a local issue.

The proposed solar facility is representative of a much broader issue, with global implications. We all need to participate in efforts to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, including the installation of regional, small-scale renewable energy projects. While a solar array may be considered an eyesore to some neighbors, attempts to resurrect concerns of potential disruptive repercussions is, in my opinion, an obvious case of NIMBY.

I have enjoyed exploring the open space provided by the old landfill for years. My children spent many winters sledding down the western slope. I’ve walked and gone cross-country skiing there with my dog. I will continue to do so when the solar arrays are installed, and feel proud that my neighborhood is demonstrating on a local level what can and must be done to ameliorate the impact of human activity on climate change.

So when considering “the Amherst Woods project in light of its greater impact and environmental concerns,” perhaps we should change the lens through which we evaluate this proposal.

Rather than resisting development because of parochial concerns, we should see this as an opportunity to model sustainable energy projects, and continue to be a beacon of progress and innovation.

Patty O’Donnell

Amherst

Like Ms. O'Donnell, I can't use fancy words like deleterious, ameliorate, and parochial, but I agree with her on one issue. I believe that it would be a parochial concern to keep the solar project out of Amherst Woods. But I also believe it would be a parochial issue for Cushman residents and others to keep the housing project out of Cushman. Much of Cushman will stay the way it is, two, I feel many people are opposing the project only for the sake of opposing development, and three, I don't believe we can get too involved in keeping all areas of town unchanged. To my knowledge anyway, am unsure now, Amherst residents are interested in social issues, and some could call it a stretch, but allowing development to proceed in an organic manner may be good for ALL residents of the town. Students will have a place to live. The NIMBY acronym has been thrown around a lot, and with good reason, but I believe there are people, whether they know it or not, that are saying, "not in my town". They're saying, Amherst for Amherst residents only, and nobody else. That is a social issue. This speaks to the larger issue of why we seem to quash any kind of development.

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