Hadley voters reject zoning change for more senior housing

  • North Hadley Village Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/8/2019 11:37:32 AM

HADLEY — An attempt to expand the senior housing overlay district to an open field between Middle and East streets was decisively rejected by residents Thursday at special Town Meeting.

But in a move that could give new life to the North Hadley Village Hall, voters changed course on a decision at May’s annual Town Meeting, opting to ask the state Legislature to remove the protection under Article 97 of the state Constitution of the nearly 1-acre ballfield next to the building, and transfer this protection to the larger Zatyrka Park.

Hopkins Academy’s cafetorium was at capacity, with many on hand to have a say in whether a 9½-acre field owned by Donald Dion off Middle Street could be sold to Amherst developer Barry Roberts to build 28 homes for people 55 and over that would sell for between $400,000 and $600,000.

Needing a two-thirds majority, the rezoning mustered less than one-third support, with 63 in favor and 148 against.

Jim Wallace of Middle Street told Town Meeting that the senior overlay district already has 388 acres available for such projects and that a national scenic byway would be compromised by the project.

Sticking with the Planning Board’s original scope of the district, created 11 years ago, was reason to vote down the rezoning, said Rolfe Goff of Newton Lane.

“We’re talking about a zoning change for profit,” Goffe said.

Tom Henderson of Szafir Lane, however, said the project could benefit the town because it will provide more senior housing. As it stands, many residents have to move to Northampton or Amherst in their retirement years because few such homes exist.

Thomas Reidy, an attorney with Bacon, Wilson, PC in Amherst, said the open field will become housing.

“This property is going to be developed,” Reidy said, adding that Hadley will receive less tax income and likely face additional costs of servicing residents, including educating students, if senior housing is not put in.

North Hadley Village Hall

Giving North Hadley Village Hall a viable future in the hands of a local developer was supported by a 242-28 count in favor of removing the Article 97 protection from the greenspace.

Peter Heronemus of Mount Warner Road said this change is necessary so he can purchase and convert the building into apartments, a workshop and a performance venue. There was brief applause after he spoke.

“I think this is a great idea,” said Ginger Goldsbury of River Drive.

Goldsbury she had concerns in the spring,but the project proposal had helped change her mind.

David Waskiewicz of Middle Street said it is worth the effort to save the building, along with the open space that connects to Lake Warner.

The vote came even though Planning Board member William Dwyer called it a “horrible idea.” “Giving up that open space is just wrong,” Dwyer said.

In other business, voters approved close to $1 million in purchases, with some of these dependent on subsequent borrowing authorization at a ballot vote. Projects that would increase the tax rate if approved include spending $120,000 for a new school bus; $105,000 for a fire emergency generator at the public safety complex; and $100,000 for information technology equipment at the schools.

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