Ken (and Bonnie) Hargreaves: Questions Amherst’s transparency regarding “Retreat”
To the editor:
I attended my first Amherst Planning Board meeting July 17. Throughout the meeting, I was impressed by the thoroughness and thoughtfulness in the way the board and their chairperson handled their business. I was there to share my thoughts about the removal of the land for the proposed student housing project called “The Retreat.” The town has the option to purchase the land for 120 days from the time a valid sales contract is submitted to it.
What shocked me was the way the town and its staff handled the process leading up to the meeting and then at the meeting. There was a total lack of transparency to its residents. At the meeting, the seller’s representative, Cinda Jones, confirmed that a sales contract had been submitted to the town on April 23 and no changes have been made to it since then.
Since that date we have asked the town repeatedly if the contract was valid, and if so, to please send us a copy of it. Each time the town staff has said they are still reviewing and negotiating the contract with the seller to make it valid. All of a sudden the removal of this land from Chapter 61 shows up on the agenda for the next planning board meeting.
Then on Monday the town tells us the contract is now valid.
It doesn’t take 90 days to review a sales contract for the purchase of real estate. So either the counsel the town uses is grossly inefficient and should be replaced, or the town did not think the contract was valid and resisted until the seller and her lawyers applied enough pressure so the town had to give in.
For a town that states on its website, “Amherst take open govenment to the MAX!”, it has failed miserably in being transparent. One has to wonder how it will do as “The Retreat” goes through its planning and approval process.
The question Amherst residents are still waiting for the town to answer is simply, what did happen in this failed process?