Jack Hirsch: Why has town of Amherst retreated from Master Plan?
To the editor:
We in Amherst are very sensitive to the accusation of being “unfriendly” to business, and thus anti-development. It seems that we are finally at the point at which we accept any development, and questioning it “proves” we are against development and against expanding the tax base.
Can we have an honest discussion about the merits of a development and whether it improves Amherst, or if in fact it creates more problems than it solves?
Of course I am referring to Cinda Jones’ proposal to sell Cushman acreage to Landmark Properties so they can build “the Retreat,” an upscale cottage-style student housing project with 170 units “and all the amenities like a gym and theater.” Does anyone think this will solve a single problem that now exists due to student rentals?
Downtown housing will always be in demand due to its proximity to the university. Now there will be increased parking demand in central Amherst as students from the Retreat will leave their cars in town and take busses to class. Outdoor parties will migrate from Hobart Lane and Meadow Street eastward on Pine Street to the “wooded” Retreat in Cushman and create a “party artery” between these student enclaves.
Traffic at the Pine Street-North Pleasant Street intersection will routinely back up in all directions and the dangerous East Pleasant Street-Pine Street-Sand Hill Road intersection will become significantly more so.
None of these critical considerations speaks to the loss of passive recreation land and open space, both emphasized by our master plan.
Wasn’t this plan created by the citizens of Amherst to direct our town boards in their planning and actions?
Without this public discussion, Amherst is left to the dealings of private enterprise who maximize their profits but do not have Amherst’s long term best interests in mind!