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Sean and Rita Burke: Development would destroy Cushman Village way of life

To the editor:

Amherst’s Cushman Village is a good, old-fashioned neighborhood. Many of us have enjoyed living in Cushman for decades. Some were born here; many have worked here, raised their children here, retired here, and hoped to die here.

Occasionally we have pondered leaving Amherst for a town with lower taxes, but have concluded that we could never find a place to live that we would love as much as this village. So we happily pay our taxes — for quality of life.

But now Landmark Properties, a Georgia developer, plans to build houses for 700 students, complete with pool, fitness center, sports arena and movie theaters. Surely this “Retreat” will attract the massive student parties so typical of Amherst. One house on our street has already gone up for sale, and, because of the student housing proposal, a Vermonter I talked to has now changed his mind about moving to North Amherst.

You see, already our property values have been affected. Supply and demand. If the housing project triples the population and traffic in our village, won’t more people want to sell? And who will buy these houses? Will Cushman turn into another Amherst neighborhood of rundown houses owned by absentee landlords? How long before the routes between Cushman and the University of Massachusetts Amherst are similarly affected — not to mention Amherst at large?

Is Amherst going to allow this family-friendly neighborhood to be destroyed for the sake of increasing its tax base? Surely the taxes gained would be exceeded by the added cost for police, fire, ambulance and other town services.

In the initial press coverage, Jason Doornbos of Landmark rationalized that the student housing development “can help alleviate the stress on conventional single-family neighborhoods,” giving students “their own place.” How about “our” good, old-fashioned “conventional single-family neighborhood”?

Sean and Rita Burke

Amherst

Your good old-fashioned neighborhood is designed explicitly to keep outsiders out of town.

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