Council subcommittee advises against building moratorium in Amherst

  • Amherst Town Hall FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2021 7:45:05 PM

AMHERST — A need to provide more housing options and promote a pro-business sensibility are the reasons a subcommittee of the Town Council is advising against adopting a six-month moratorium on large-scale residential development in the town center.

The Community Resources Committee recently voted 4-1 against recommending approval of the citizen petition brought by nearly 900 residents that calls for a pause on issuing building permits for residential buildings with three or more units in and around downtown. The committee’s vote follows a 6-0 vote by the Planning Board against the moratorium.

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, a member of the council subcommittee, was the lone councilor to support the moratorium.

The memo from the committee chaired by At-Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke cites the negative consequences of a moratorium: “Adoption of the proposal would impact the economic well-being of the town, potentially decreasing business development and employment in the building trades.”

Hanneke was joined in the majority vote by District 5 Councilor Shalini Bahl-Milne and District 4 Councilors Evan Ross and Steve Schreiber. The full Town Council will vote on the measure June 28.

The councilors also noted that approving the moratorium might “negatively impact the town’s reputation for being anti-business, a reputation that the town is actively trying to counter, and would do so at the exact time we are trying to emerge from the economic impacts of COVID.”

Those supporting the moratorium, including Pam, District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen and District 5 Councilor Darcy DuMont, say that delaying new projects, such as the proposed 11 East Pleasant mixed-use building, would give the Planning Department time to make a series of zoning changes related to streetscapes, sidewalk widths and green space, as well as addressing building heights and setbacks required in the zoning bylaw.

The report acknowledges those changes could improve projects, but there is likely not enough time to do all the work necessary “to ensure that Amherst’s cultural and historical assets in the town center are preserved, as well as ensure revisions to the bylaws to encourage outdoor dining, protect the west side of Kendrick Park, and keep the ‘funky’ side of Amherst.”

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


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