Amherst Media’s headquarters project hits another bump in road

Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2020 1:07:51 PM

AMHERST — Before Amherst Media officials continue pursuing the construction of a new headquarters on Main Street, they are asking that a revised certificate approving the project be issued by the Local Historic District Commission.

The nonprofit’s attorney filed a response Friday in Hampshire Superior Court to an appeal by neighbors of a recent decision by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, which upheld the certificate of appropriateness the Local Historic District Commission issued for the building.

The lawsuit challenging the PVPC decision argues that it was flawed because that certificate of appropriateness was invalid.

In Friday’s response in the lawsuit, Michael Pill, a lawyer with Greens Miles Lipton LLP in Northampton, states that “plaintiff Amherst Media prays that the court order defendant Amherst Local Historic District Commission to issue a certificate of hardship in place of the invalid certificate of appropriateness.”

Amherst Media Executive Director Jim Lescault explained that the court filing was necessary because the appeal by neighbors indicates that a provision of the Local Historic District bylaw required that the nonprofit seek extensions to its application before the commission in writing, if going beyond 60 days for a decision. It had not done this when in January, after several months of discussions, the commission approved plans for the 4,225-square-foot Greek Revival building.

“Our lawyer has advised us in the strongest possible terms, that we must pursue the legal path our opponents have shown us,” Lescault said.

The PVPC decision came earlier in April following a March 11 appeal by Harmsway LLC, whose principals are Robert Speiser and Anthony Brackett, and eight other parties, objecting to the size of the new building and how it would impact the views of the Henry Hills House.

Lescault said the new headquarters aims to blend in with the residential and commercial structures in the vicinity and that an effort has been made to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.

Even if the certificate of hardship is issued, Lescault said his intent is to present the Planning Board the same project design that was approved by the Local Historic Commission.

Amherst Media oversees public access, educational and government television channels for the town and broadcasts numerous public meetings and local programs.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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