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Amherst panel stays neutral on measure related to Retreat

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said Friday that following a robust discussion this week, members of the commission opted against making a recommendation for or against the petition article coming before Town Meeting Tuesday.

“The Conservation Commission voted to take no position on Article 43,” Ziomek said.

The Retreat is proposed by Athens, Ga.-based Landmark Properties, which would buy the land from W.D. Cowls Inc. for $6.5 million and construct 170 units that would be rented to college students.

Save Historic Cushman is a group of residents aiming to prevent development on the land bordered by Henry Street and Flat Hills Road.

The petition article asks for $1.2 million, with 70 percent of this coming from grants, gifts, bequests and other sources.

The Select Board in April voted 4-1 against the petition article, with the majority arguing that the project should be allowed to proceed through the usual permitting process.

The commission’s decision comes after Cinda Jones, president of W.D. Cowls. Inc., submitted a memo asking it to oppose the petition article.

The land has been in active timber management by W.D. Cowls. Jones argues that the property is the least worthy conservation site of 600 acres it owns in North Amherst and that the project is needed to provide more housing options.

The town will still have the ability to exercise the right of first refusal based on the land being in the state’s Chapter 61 program.

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