Amherst Select Board OKs policy to sell, transfer town property

  • Amherst Town Hall.

Staff Writer
Thursday, March 08, 2018

AMHERST — A policy that establishes a process for selling or transferring town property, including buildings and land, from municipal ownership is in place.

The Select Board on Monday approved the four-page policy, which Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said will create rules by which the town can put properties in private hands or turn them over to municipal boards.

The policy includes creating what will be called the Real Property Advisory Group, conducting an inventory of all real property and establishing criteria by which properties can be deemed surplus and ready for disposition.

“I’m anxious to embark on this process, and I think staff is ready to get going on the inventory,” Ziomek said.

While having the policy in place is not timed to any particular project, it could help in the reuse of the vacant East Street School, and its more than 2-acre site, into affordable housing,

The Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust envisions a location in the East Amherst village center that could provide 20 to 25 units. A warrant article may come to annual Town Meeting to allow the trust to assume control of the property.

Trust Chairman John Hornik said the intent is to begin a study.

“We do hope, if the property is developable, to be able to facilitate the building of likely family housing units on that property,” Hornik said.

But there are obstacles, including that the property is wet and it’s unclear if the building is usable or would have to be torn down.

The site had been examined by a long-range planning committee for the Council on Aging as a possible location for a new senior center, but wasn’t considered ideal because of its odd configuration. The existing former school building is on one portion and linked to a playing field by a narrow slice of land that is only about 25-feet wide.

“The shape of the land is not appropriate for what we need,” Council on Aging member Jack Wollensak said.

Wollensak told the Council on Aging that the previous site for the Hitchcock Center on South Pleasant Street might be preferable, being on a bus route and close enough to town center.

But since it’s conservation land, the town would have to replace this land on a two-for-one basis.

Ziomek said he will put together a map for all possibilities for sites for a senior center, the first step in getting a project onto the town’s capital plan.