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Joseph Polino: North Amherst development ‘irresponsible idea’

To the editor:

When I saw the proposal for the 170-unit student housing development for 154 acres of wooded land on Henry Street in North Amherst, I thought it was a bad joke. I was wrong. Here we go again.

The so-called “environmental stewards” at Cowls are looking to sell a huge swath of open space, this time 154 acres of pristine forest, for student rental housing in a rural, residential part of North Amherst. It is being sold as a way of alleviating the stress for more off-campus student housing and, by placing it in a village center, it satisfies Amherst’s master plan of denser development in town centers while conserving open space in the more peripheral rural areas.

One only needs to take a look at the overhead view of the land, or walk along Flat Hills Road, Henry Street and the adjacent Robert Frost Trail, to realize that, unless you are delusional, this land is not in a village center and the proposal violates the master plan. This is an environmentally sensitive area, home to endangered salamanders, deer, bear, fox, turkey, bobcat and coyote. The owners and developers will try to whitewash the project using terms like these: “low-density,” “minimize the development footprint,” “reduced impact on traditional neighborhoods” and “sound and vegetative buffers.” It’s similar language to what oil and gas companies use to try to lessen the blow before they exploit the land. Let’s see this proposal for what it is: an irresponsible idea.

Joseph Polino

Amherst

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