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Dick Stein: Some ideas on dealing with Retreat issues

To the editor:

I note that the Amherst Select Board will be voting whether the town will purchase the land proposed for the Retreat project in North Amherst. There is rightful concern about the cost in view of the town’s economic difficulties. However, I think the price is a reflection of “the playing field not being level” and action is needed to approach this problem.

If the Retreat project proceeds, there will be additional cost to the town in dealing with the problems it creates. Thus the buyer is getting a “free ride” in that he is passing this burden onto the town and many of its residents. In addition, there is the cost, difficult to financially evaluate, of the rightful displeasure of the nearby residents whose environment will suffer, whose house values will drop and who will face the problems of traffic on inadequate roads caused by the project. These factors represent a “real cost” to the town that need be considered.

I have the following suggestion: Assuming the town decides not to buy the land, I understand that the project must then obtain approval from zoning and planning groups. Would it be legally possible for such approval be granted permission to proceed only if he agrees to pay to the town an agreed amount to compensate it for the burden created by the project? This would relieve the town of this burden. The cost to the developer would effectively increase the purchase price and may discourage him from proceeding.

It does not make sense for the town and its residents to assume a burden leading to the profitable venture of a private developer. If this happens, my guess is that Amherst will be faced with additional such projects in the future, and the result will be a decrease in the attractiveness of a very pleasant town. This is an example of the failure of considering profitability of the few over the burden to many. It will lead to an increasing gap between the rich and the poor and a decline in the quality of life.

Dick Stein


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