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Jack Hirsch: Applauds when Amherst zoning ordinances work

To the editor:

Sometimes citizens can see development planned successfully as directed by zoning ordinances, and when that occurs it deserves to be mentioned and celebrated.

This occurred recently when the Amherst Planning Board approved Archipelago’s proposal for the town’s first private student housing development in a district zoned expressly for that purpose. It is an example of the intersection of public and private planning meeting the general needs of the town. Our town’s zoning bylaw prohibits the development of “fraternity or sorority building, social dormitory or similar use related to Amherst College, Hampshire College or the University of Massachusetts” in rural outlying zones such as the Cushman Forest Preserve just east of Henry Street.

Long ago, starting in the 1940s, our town recognized that family neighborhoods and concentrated student housing developments did not mix, and created residential fraternity districts (where student housing development is permitted) to address that problem. These are close to campuses where the housing connects the hundreds of students living there with their educational institution, concert halls and all the amenities of our state’s flagship university campus or private colleges.

Save Historic Cushman has been opposing a 700-bedroom student housing project on 154 wooded acres that are part of what our town refers to as the Cushman Forest Preserve. We are glad to observe that Amherst’s first purposely built privately owned and managed student housing will not be a resort-style Retreat. It will be locally developed and managed apartment-style student housing within the appropriate zone on Olympia Drive. This is exactly the point abutters of the proposed Retreat have made by petitioning Land Court.

We applaud the work of our town Planning Board and staff as they explored the uncharted ground of approving the plan for our town’s first private student housing development.

Jack Hirsch

Amherst

The writer is a member of Save Historic Cushman.

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