Editorial: Valley CDC’s next goal

Last modified: Sunday, December 02, 2012

In September, after more than two years of debate, Easthampton approved a 38-unit affordable housing project slated for a 4.3-acre parcel on Parsons Street. Proposed by Valley Community Development Corp., a nonprofit organization based in Northampton, the $12 million project was strongly opposed by some residents.

They maintained the development would have a negative impact because it was too dense, did not fit in with the character of the existing neighborhood, would increase traffic and water runoff and lower the value of surrounding homes.

Opponents expressed disappointment and frustration after the Zoning Board of Appeals gave a thumbs-up to the project Sept. 24, saying the board failed to consider public input. We disagree. Since the project was proposed in 2010, many public hearings have been held, giving residents ample opportunity to speak for and against the development.

After the Planning Board voted in 2011 to deny a special permit for the project based on its density, the CDC applied to the ZBA for a comprehensive permit under Chapter 40B, a state law that allows developers to bypass zoning laws for affordable housing projects in communities, like Easthampton, that have less than 10 percent affordable housing stock.

The zoning board held six months of hearings and, addressing many of the issues people brought before the board, set 37 conditions on the project. These include stipulations on the CDC’s performance guarantee, the need to ensure the property is maintained “in perpetuity,” installing a system for managing storm water runoff and specifying what kind of lawn care products can be used.

Change, especially to a well-established neighborhood, is difficult. But opponents of the project and neighbors of the future Parsons Village must recognize that their voices were heard and contributed to defining the ultimate shape of the future apartment complex.

It’s time now to accept the project and consider how it can change the neighborhood for the better.

An arts mecca

Western Massachusetts serves as home to many fine artists, including those whose work is known across the region or around the globe. An array of the Valley’s artistic talent is now on view at venues around Amherst as part of the town’s second annual biennial, “Art in Expected & Unexpected Places,” which opened Oct. 6.

With art on display at locations including Amherst College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Emily Dickinson Museum, the exhibit seeks to showcase the best art created in the area over the last two years. The work of 44 Valley artists is on view.

A joint effort by curators from Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum and UMass’ University Museum and Terry Rooney, chair of the Amherst Public Arts Commission, the show features a variety of artistic media, from graphic monoprints that incorporate sand-blasted glass to a performance piece as part of the biennial’s Grand Opening Sunday.

We applaud this ambitious and well-executed event. It puts spotlight on one of the area’s valuable resources — its art. And it provides, as its title suggests, new and unexpected places for the public to view art. Perhaps most importantly, it seeks to change how artists’ work is presented to the public. Visitors to Amherst can enjoy the show through Nov. 30. We look forward to future biennials in Amherst, as well as to the art that becomes a permanent part of the town’s public spaces.


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