Review of Amherst Media’s new building plans slated for July

  • An artist’s rendering of Amherst Media’s proposed headquarters for Main Street.  AMHERST MEDIA

Staff Writer
Friday, June 07, 2019

AMHERST — Plans for a new building that would house Amherst Media’s production facility and technology center will not return to the town’s Planning Board until July.

Although the board had continued a hearing from March 20 to Wednesday evening so that the concepts for the $1.3 million building could be revised, Amherst Media Executive Director Jim Lescault said the changes are not yet ready for a presentation.

“We have pushed the hearing back due to our redesign needing additional time,” Lescault said.

Amherst Media oversees the public access, educational and government television channels for Amherst and broadcasts numerous public meetings and locally originated programs.

Before any work can begin at the two parcels on Main Street, situated between Triangle and Gray streets, the project needs to get site plan approval from planners. It also must have a certificate of appropriateness from the Local Historic District Commission, because the site is in the Emily Dickinson Local Historic District.

The commission voted 4-0 in March against issuing a certificate for the 4,080-square-foot, 32-foot-tall building, which would be built on 0.56 acres of open land.

Amherst Media has been contemplating building a new headquarters for several years as it expects to lose its College Street building, which it leases from Eversource.

Meanwhile, lawsuits between Amherst Media and its former Main Street neighbor, developer Jerry Guidera, continue.

Earlier in May, seven counterclaims filed by Guidera, who had renovated the abutting Henry Hills House, were dismissed by John A. Agostini, associate justice of Hampshire Superior Court. Agostini wrote in his decision that Amherst Media’s original claims, which centered on illegal encroachments by abutting properties onto the Amherst Media site that included plantings, a shed, a wall and fence, and a driveway, as well as water drainage, were “viable and reasonable.”

Under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, Guidera sought to compel Amherst Media to pay damages, costs and attorney’s fees related to the ongoing lawsuit, claiming an abuse of process, malicious prosecution, tortious interference with advantageous contractual relations and civil conspiracy.

Guidera contended that Amherst Media was trying to get him to pay $50,000 as a “shakedown” rather than a legitimate settlement related to issues central to the original lawsuit.

But Agostini wrote that Guidera “has not shown that (Amherst Media’s) petitioning activities lacked any factual or legal merit.”

Michael Pill, an attorney with Green, Miles, Lipton LLP who represents Amherst Media, said he is pleased with Agostini’s decision and that it means the litigation is moving toward a final resolution.

“At this point, we’d be happy to stipulate dismissal of everything,” Pill said.

Guidera, though, said he is appealing the action on his counterclaim.

“As far as the lawsuit is concerned, we’re continuing to pursue our claims aggressively,” Guidera said.

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