Amherst developer appeals affordable housing violation fines

  • Presidential Apartments in Amherst GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Thursday, October 19, 2017

AMHERST — The developer of Presidential Apartments, where six affordable units were supposed to be available to individuals and families Sept. 1, is appealing a notice of violation from the town’s building commissioner that will impose $600 a day in fines.

The penalties were to begin Wednesday, Oct. 18, a month after Building Commissioner Robert Morra issued the notice that the property owner was violating a special permit.

The permit requires six apartments to be rented to people who earn at or below 80 percent of the area median income. For one person, the income limit is $44,800; for two people, $51,200; for three people, $57,600, and for four people, $64,000.

Attorney Thomas Reidy of Bacon and Wilson in Amherst filed the appeal on behalf of Allen Cohn and asked for an extension until Feb. 18 to have the six apartments ready.

“While the notice of violation is correct in stating that our office confirmed in April of 2017 that our client understood the timeline was shifting and units would be required no earlier than Sept. 1, 2017, it seems to ignore and was issued in spite of other pertinent details,” Reidy wrote.

Presidential contracted with the Amherst Housing Authority to run a lottery to identify the six individuals or families who would be able to rent the affordable units.

In the appeal, Reidy wrote that the pertinent details the violation notice ignored included the facts that his client left several apartments vacant for the first year after opening new units at Presidential, beginning in September 2015, and was caught off guard by the speed of the lottery process, which required the affordable units to be available by Sept. 1, 2017.

The developer is trying to encourage tenants of six units to voluntarily leave.

Reidy noted the effort undertaken by property manager Patrick Kamins, who sent letters to all tenants, phoned each tenant and initiated discussions, including offering compensation to those who would be asked to leave.

Kamins also wrote a letter to Morra.

“This is obviously a lot to ask tenants to relocate, but we are well under way,” Kamins wrote.

Morra said he will have to review the appeal before offering comments.

The situation remains frustrating for those who put names into the lottery, including Jennifer Goldman, who says she is disabled and that she is at risk of losing her current home.

“This is a civil rights matter,” Goldman said.

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