Hit the Pause Button on Additional Buildings

I’ve been getting a lot of interest from constituents, mostly enthusiastic, about my proposal for a pause in new building approvals until zoning issues are addressed by the new Council. I’ve also heard criticism that I address in this letter to the Gazette. I am looking for solutions to the real concerns of constituents. If you have any ideas or questions, please contact me at [email protected]

Hit the pause button on additional buildings, Letter published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette, 9/27/18

I’d like to thank Johanna Neumann for highlighting a major new plank of my campaign platform for Amherst Town Council — a temporary moratorium on new downtown development — in her recent column (“Building resilient communities,” Sept. 20).

More than “some in our town” take issue with the downtown buildings. What many residents take issue with is the scale and the style of the development in relation to the existing architecture and streetscape. Throw in the lack of inviting sidewalks, lack of affordable units and/or lack of any provision for parking, and we have the vast majority of Amherst residents who are unhappy with the direction and pace of downtown development.

I strongly support the concept of developing energy-efficient buildings and creating vibrant walkable, bikeable community hubs while protecting the surrounding open spaces. (In fact, I have dedicated the last six years to advancing initiatives that reduce carbon emissions.) However, town records show that the occupants of the new apartment buildings own cars. As of Sept. 11, 2018, 83 parking permits have been sold to residents of Kendrick Place and One East Pleasant.

Designating “no car buildings” is a sustainable solution I heartily endorse. But if we are not going to deny parking permits to residents of the new buildings, it is time to look at the exemption the Municipal Parking District grants developers from providing parking for their tenants. With this exemption, the town is left to provide parking and to pick up the tab.

Regardless of how we amend the zoning bylaw, new buildings are coming — and they will bring in new annual revenue for the town. Whether that amount will make much of a dent in paying for proposed capital projects, as Ms. Neumann suggests, or whether that revenue will be offset by unintended costs such as for a new garage, new sewer and water, police protection, etc., is yet to be discovered.

My moratorium suggestion is a direct response to the outcry I’m hearing from residents in South Amherst. It is a suggestion to hit the pause button on additional buildings until the new Council can revisit the zoning bylaw dimensional table for the downtown business district, which outlines what can be built “By Right.” Now is the time to make those changes — to better align with public opinion, fit with the historical downtown architecture, and bring in that needed tax revenue.

Darcy DuMont
Town Council Candidate, District 5

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