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Jim Brissette: Amherst Town Meeting to blame for Retreat

To the editor:

Thank you Select Board for not wasting $6.5 million of town funds in a quixotic effort to stop the Retreat. This money is critical for so many other town needs (schools and roads, to name just two). It’s getting tiresome to read the letters complaining about the proposed Retreat development in “historic” North Amherst — as if other parts of our old town are not also historic.

The blame for this location lies squarely with Amherst’s antiquated form of government, the “representative” town meeting. For it is Amherst’s Town Meeting that turned down two previous re-zoning proposals (the Gateway Project and North Amherst) that were much better suited for student housing, both proposals of which also would have included other housing options and retail space. Not to mention sidewalks and trees — all at no expense to the town. Amherst property taxes show no sign of slowing down. As a result, more and more homeowners as they near retirement age are selling out and moving out. And student rental companies are buying many of these homes. The lack of student housing also means that affordable units are being taken off the market, which will lead to more student housing farther away from the university, add to traffic and noise, and do nothing to help control the property tax rate. Clearly there’s a need for additional housing in town, and few people think the Retreat location is ideal. Yet, it is zoned for such development, so it should surprise no one that the Retreat is moving forward and well it should at this point. UMass is not to blame; we should be celebrating its development into a world-class institution. Instead, blame Amherst Town Meeting for failing to re-zone other more suited areas for much needed development.

Jim Brissette


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