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Auction scheduled for Amherst land planned for housing

Aaron Posnik and Co. Inc. will be auctioning the nearly 7.5 acres of land at 650 and 652 South East St. Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. on behalf of Shatz, Schwartz & Fentin, the Springfield attorneys representing the mortgagee.

The land was most recently owned by Amherst developer Scott Nielsen, whose company, Levi-Nielsen Co., obtained a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2008 to develop a project known as Strawberry Field, which was to have featured 17 condominiums, including five single-family homes and six duplexes.

Nielsen said his only comment is that people should wait and see what takes place and not speculate on what the auction of the land means.

“It’s not clear to me or anyone else at this time what is going to happen,” Nielsen said. “I don’t think any conclusions should be drawn in advance of events.”

Two years ago Nielsen had intended to begin taking down trees on the property so that he could start marketing it to people 55 and over.

After he got the initial permit, several neighbors, including Carol Gray, Janet McGowan and Lance Davis, argued that the development was not appropriate for the area and didn’t meet objectives of the town’s master plan to develop village centers and promote projects that reduce traffic.

Lawsuits were also filed in Hampshire Superior Court to stop the project. But the Zoning Board concluded that it fit the criteria of the so-called Planned Unit Residential Development overlay area, which allows a mix of single-family homes and duplex units on the same property.

In 2006, Town Meeting decided not to remove the property from this zoning area.

The land has a controversial history.

Nielsen initially filed plans for a larger development as early as 2005, which led to his filing a lawsuit in an effort to build the greater number of units.

He then submitted a smaller plan in December 2007.

Prior to Nielsen’s involvement, other developers had attempted larger projects on the same property, including Jeffrey Flower.

Flower had projects with 132 and 174 townhouse and apartments rejected by the town in 1989 and 1990.

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