Amherst business leaders counter petition seeking building moratorium

  • A view of Main Street in downtown Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2021 9:38:31 AM

AMHERST — Amherst business leaders are countering a petition seeking a six-month moratorium on the town issuing building permits for construction of residential buildings with three or more dwelling units.

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce recently put out a call to community members, including residents, workers and business owners, to sign on to a statement expressing the harm it contends would be caused by the moratorium, stating that “as proposed, (it) would be detrimental to economic growth in the town of Amherst and send the wrong message.”

“Amidst the economic and ongoing housing crisis our town and region are facing, Amherst must position itself to emerge more resilient and poised to be an economic engine of the region. Redevelopment and housing production are an important part of the recovery and our long-term economic development goals as a town,” the statement reads. 

The Planning Board and Community Resources Committee of the Town Council are scheduled to have a joint hearing on the moratorium on May 19. Such a moratorium, which would be considered a zoning change, could pause two mixed-use projects, the 11 East Pleasant building by Archipelago Investments that will be reviewed May 5, and an unnamed project that would be constructed by Amherst developer Barry Roberts between North Pleasant Street and the Boltwood parking garage.

Advocates for the moratorium want to put a pause on these buildings, in part, because they don’t offer affordable housing and the town has no design standards related to their appearance.

John Page, marketing and membership manager for the chamber, said the competing petition cites that a moratorium will hurt builders and tradespeople, be fiscally irresponsible for the town, and send a message to people starting business or investing in Amherst that they are not welcome.

The Amherst Business Improvement District’s board of directors is also supporting the business-oriented petition, which is online. 

“We believe that providing more housing as well as space for more business in the town center creates vitality and a year-round boost to our small business community,” the board stated. “We believe that new prospective business owners will be encouraged by more year-round occupancy right in the heart of town and recognize the great potential to make the investment right here and now.”

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


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