Appeal in offing over apartment complex at Amherst Motel site

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 01, 2018

AMHERST — A Zoning Board of Appeals special permit for a new apartment complex to replace the Amherst Motel on Route 9 is expected to be appealed in early February, according to a Northampton attorney.

Michael Pill, an attorney with Green, Miles, Lipton LLP, said Jan. 24 that he anticipates challenging the November decision by the Amherst board to issue a special permit for the 115-unit Aspen Heights project that would be built at 408 Northampton Road.

“I expect to have it filed by the first week in February,” Pill said.

The special permit, which includes 112 conditions, was filed with the town clerk’s office Jan. 25, beginning the 20-day appeal period.

Pill and his colleagues had earlier provided the Zoning Board a list of legal concerns on which they would base an appeal should the special permit be issued.

These included that the Amherst Motel continued to be licensed as a motel, rather than getting rental permits under Amherst’s rental registration program, and that Amherst zoning doesn’t allow a special permit for such a project that has a non-conforming use, except “if damaged or destroyed by fire or other accidental cause.”

With an appeal likely, it would be the second lawsuit Pill has filed in association with the project.

In December, he filed an appeal in Land Court of the Hadley Planning Board’s September vote to allow a 240-space parking lot to be constructed in Hadley that would serve the tenants living in the Amherst housing project.

Attorneys from Bacon Wilson, PC, of Northampton, representing the developer Breck Group Amherst Massachusetts LP, on Jan. 12 filed a response to this appeal.

Attorney Mark Tanner, who represents Breck Group, denies several points made by Pill, including that Hadley commercial zoning prohibits construction of an apartment building, only allowing accessory apartments, and that the Planning Board had exceeded its legal authority based on the “split-lot doctrine.” That doctrine states that if one town’s zoning doesn’t allow a project, an adjacent property in the other town can’t be used for an active use, such as parking.

Pill represents seven residents who live at Greenleaves Retirement Community and are worried about the impacts of the project, including that many of the apartments will be rented to college students.

After the Amherst Zoning Board approved the special permit Nov. 9 following a series of hearings, the developer said an April start for construction was possible.

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