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Jeremiah Mew: UMass claim to want to “Green’ is empty

To the editor:

The proposed student housing at “The Retreat,” some distance from the UMass campus, will provide housing for hundreds of students and parking for hundreds of vehicles in an area of open space in Chapter 61 above the celebrated salamander crossings. The commonwealth and university continue to promote “Green Massachusetts” and “Smart Growth,” but leaving the matter of providing student housing to the private sector does not reflect positively on the commitment of a “green” UMass when acres of trees will be cut, habitat altered, wildlife corridors disrupted and North Amherst residents, miles from campus, inconvenienced for the foreseeable future.

Nor does it reflect positively on the town and UMass relative to smart growth.

If the university is serious about reducing its carbon footprint, it should be redeveloping areas of the campus or its outlying properties for additional student housing, working with planning and zoning to do it properly and pressing the Legislature for funding. UMass has plenty of its own open space, pavement, concrete and glass, on and off campus, that could be converted to student housing.

For example, much could be done along Tillson Farm Road, close to police and fire departments, in the area that includes the Surplus Properties facility, the Physical Plant facility, site of the mothballed steam generating power plant and the Construction Services facility.

Sewer, water and electric utilities are in place, as is a stormwater management system. UMass has experts in planning and engineering it can call upon to consolidate these facilities for further land use development and help reverse the trend of locating housing that brings public nuisance and safety issues and the unnecessary loss of open space.

The town, legislators and university should have worked out a better arrangement for student housing either by purchasing or zoning land more appropriately. The continued expansion of student housing into residential areas, particularly in a rural area, does little to promote Green Massachusetts and Smart Growth. It lays bare the emptiness of the university’s commitment to going green.

Jeremiah Mew

North Amherst

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