No deal on sale of lots eyed by Amherst Media

  • Jim Lescault stands outside the building that has housed Amherst Media, of which he is executive director, since 1991. The organization is trying to raise funds to construct a new building on Main Street in Amherst. FILE PHOTO/SARAH GANZHORN

Staff Writer
Friday, April 12, 2019

AMHERST — Two Main Street lots on which Amherst Media intends to build its new headquarters will not be sold to a neighboring property owner.

At the Amherst Media’s board meeting March 29, members by consensus opted against accepting a $260,000 offer made by Robert Speiser and Anthony Brackett, the owners of the Henry Hills House at 38 Gray St., to buy the .56 acres.

Michael Pill, an attorney with Green, Miles, Lipton LLP in Northampton who represents Amherst Media, sent an email to Matthieu Massengill, the Amherst attorney for Speiser and Brackett, that their offer was “respectfully declined” and notes that “their offer was based on the mistaken belief that this is residential land (it is zoned commercial).”

But Speiser disputes that the price put on the land, which would have been preserved as open space, was based on a number of factors, not the zoning.

“Regardless of the zoning, our offer was based on Amherst Media's assertions about the value of the property,” Speiser said.

In fact, he points to the In Amherst Community Television v. Guidera lawsuit in which Amherst Media claimed that the property, which they purchased for $340,000 several years ago, is actually worth $50,000 less than that. 

Amherst Media is scheduled to return to the Planning Board with revised plans for its $1.3 million production facility and technology center May 29. Before any work can begin, it needs to get site plan approval, as well as a certificate of appropriateness from the Local Historic District Commission because it will be in the Emily Dickinson Local Historic District.

Amherst Media Executive Director Jim Lescault said in an email that Amherst Media was appreciative of the Planning Board’s questions and its recommendations.

“We will be meeting soon to set forth new goals and objectives to address the concerns raised in time meet the established May 29 scheduled meeting,”  Lescault said.

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