Three apartment buildings, restaurant planned for Amherst site

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

AMHERST — Three apartment buildings and a sit-down restaurant are planned for a University Drive parcel that has been used for agricultural purposes for more than 15 years.

With Town Meeting last spring allowing the Select Board to grant a new access point to the site, situated between Newmarket Center and the 100 University Drive office building, developer Barry Roberts went before the Conservation Commission Wednesday to get permits for the project. He will appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals in November.

Roberts said he would like to break ground on the mixed-use development next spring, though the timing depends on how soon hearings are held and completed.

“There’s a tremendous amount of site work to do,” Roberts said.

On the 4.21-acre southerly portion of the nearly 6-acre parcel, which is zoned for limited business, three, three-story buildings will have a mix of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments, Roberts said. He will manage the 26 units with 59 bedrooms, which will have a range of tenants, from college students and senior citizens to families and young professionals.

Roberts said he doesn’t yet know who will be interested in renting, but anticipates that proximity to the University of Massachusetts should make the development appealing for people affiliated with the campus.

“To say students will not be there is foolish,” Roberts said.

Roberts said a 6-foot chain-link fence and arborvitae will be positioned against the neighboring parking lot for the office building at 100 University Drive to prevent residents from using that as visitor parking or a place to congregate.

For the 1.57-acre section to the north, next to the Newmarket Center plaza, a 4,400-square-foot restaurant called Savannah’s will be operated by Jerry Jolly, whose family has run Rafter’s Sports Bar and Restaurant and The Pub.

The restaurant will have its own parking and two entrances off the existing access road to Newmarket.

Because Roberts is adding a new curb cut from University Drive, he intends to address the impact on the Swift Way bicycle spur that connects the UMass campus to the Norwottuck Rail Trail. Roberts said he is committed to rebuilding a long stretch of the bike path to 9-feet wide, with the intent to raise the surface of the asphalt so the work won’t impact the trees.

The Planning Board has endorsed the entire project as consistent with uses on University Drive.

Senior Planner Brandon Toponce said no waivers are being sought for the project and the special permit is needed because Roberts is seeking a modification of the setbacks from neighboring properties.

Still, Toponce anticipates that the biggest issue will be the extensive wetlands on the site, which have been part of the challenge in developing the property.

The wetlands were delineated last year, said Wetlands Coordinator Beth Willson.

Willson said the Conservation Commission will be interested in how stormwater is handled from the parking lots and the roofs of the buildings.

Plans show the use of both infiltration basins and bio-retention basins.

In addition, Willson said there will be a need to have a replication area where the developer provides double the amount of wetlands impacted by the project, based on the town’s wetlands bylaw. The restaurant’s parking, for instance, is within the buffer zone of bordering vegetated wetlands.

The project does meet the 50-foot setback for structures, but will be going into the 30-foot “no touch” setback, she said.

Plans also indicate the need to revegetate parts of the farm and doing significant landscaping, Willson said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com