Amherst TM approves directional signs for downtown

Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

AMHERST — New signs will soon help direct visitors to locations in Amherst center, with the first elements of what is known as a wayfinding system to be placed in the center of the roundabout at Triangle and East Pleasant streets.

Even though Town Meeting members expressed concern at a recent session at the expense of $90,000, both this year and next, the spending narrowly passed 65-62, with three abstentions. Opponents argued the money was excessive for signs, interpretive kiosks and directional panels.

Planning Director Christine Brestrup said the effort to create the new signs started in 2015 with a $10,000 state grant through the Downtown Initiative Program in which Favermann Design of Boston developed a family of signs and offered technical assistance.

Though Amherst officials didn’t move forward with what that company created, they have since worked with the Amherst Business Improvement District and Seth Gregory Design of Northampton to come up with designs.

Brestrup said having people be able to navigate their way around Amherst is vital to the success of the business community.

“We’ve had a lot of complaints from parents of students who don’t even know about downtown,” Brestrup said.

But Jennifer Page of Precinct 8 said that most people, when they want to get someplace, will look at their smartphone, and made an amendment to cut $90,000 from the town’s capital budget for the signs.

She argued that it is more important money be spent on after-school vouchers for low-income families or to save the preschool program at the high school.

Jim Oldham of Precinct 5 said there are children who can’t attend preschool, which demonstrates misplaced priorities.

“We have a situation where children can’t afford to go to preschool in our town,” Oldham said.

But he also noted that the town is spending as much on signs as fixing sidewalks, which means “you can know where you’re going and you can crash when you get there.”