Hearing on building moratorium slated for Wednesday in Amherst

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/17/2021 11:38:19 AM

AMHERST — A six-month prohibition on issuing building permits for projects containing at least three dwelling units will be discussed at a joint public hearing by the Planning Board and Community Resources Committee this week.

On Wednesday at 8 p.m., the panels will hold a virtual hearing on the moratorium being sought via a petition that has more than 830 signatures.

In an email, Elizabeth Vierling of Cottage Street said the goal of the petition, which shows discontent with the continued development of five-story, mixed-use buildings downtown, is not to block business development but to take time to consider how Amherst is developed and whether guidelines set in the town’s master plan are being followed.

Among the objectives outlined in the moratorium are to have design standards created for the town’s streetscape, sidewalk widths and greenspace when multi-unit developments are proposed, and adjusting building height and setback requirements. In addition, supporters of the moratorium would like to see changes to the municipal parking overlay in the general business district that currently allows for no parking spaces at new residential buildings, as well as the removal of existing parking spaces without contribution to a public parking fund, yet allows tenants at these projects to get town parking permits for use of town parking spaces.

This issue with parking is also addressed in a letter recently sent to constituents by District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, who argues that downtown homeowners are being affected by the plethora of permits being issued for people living at sites like One East Pleasant and Kendrick Place.

“Then we find out that the majority of their UMass tenants do not use the more expensive parking lots available to them on campus, but get inexpensive permits from the town of Amherst to park on streets in residential neighborhoods, causing parking problems there,” the letter reads. 

Before the moratorium hearing, at 7 p.m., the panels will get feedback on the idea of amending the town’s inclusionary zoning bylaw so that almost all projects with at least 10 new residences, whether townhouses, apartments, mixed-use or cluster subdivisions, will require some affordable housing.

While Vierling said that supporters of the moratorium appreciate inclusionary zoning, “the other bullet points noted here are woefully behind in consideration and critical to making Amherst a model small New England town, as opposed to a pseudo-urbanized cluster of five-story apartments lacking streetscape, burying retail and with insufficient parking.”

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


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