Aspen Heights project moves forward in Amherst

  • This architect’s rendering shows images of an apartment building proposed for the Route 9 site of the Amherst Motel near the Amherst-Hadley line. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, August 24, 2017

AMHERST — A large apartment complex proposed for Route 9 at the Amherst-Hadley town line continues to move through the permitting processes in both communities, even as some residents express worry about the size of the project and how it could impact their neighborhood.

Amherst Planning Director Christine Brestrup said people have raised several issues with the 131-apartment Aspen Heights residential community in both written comments and orally at a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing earlier this month.

One of the most prominent concerns, Brestrup said, is whether people who live at the proposed complex, to be built at 408 Northampton Road, will drive through the Greenleaves Retirement Community and Windfield Family and Senior Estates.

Because Northampton Road is a divided highway, those living at Aspen Heights will have to exit the complex by taking a right, heading east, Brestrup said. To travel west toward the shopping malls, the roads through Greenleaves and Windfield might be used to access the traffic signal next to the Marriott Courtyard hotel in Hadley.

Other concerns that have been raised are whether tenants at Aspen Heights could park in the parking lots at Greenleaves and Windfield to access the Norwottuck Rail Trail, and the possible noise that could be generated from apartments rented to college students.

Breck Group Amherst Massachusetts LP is the developer that would demolish the 42-unit Amherst Motel, which opened in the early 1960s, to make way for the new building.

In its application, the Breck Group writes: “Increasing the number of bedrooms, size of the building and lot coverage is not any more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing use.”

The project is planned for building on 8.8 acres, of which 4.1 acres is in Amherst, the remainder in Hadley. There would also be 273 parking spaces, about half in each town.

Aspen Heights needs two special permits from the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals. Brestrup said these special permits must be approved by all three members of the Zoning Board.

The Conservation Commission in Amherst on Aug. 14 voted 5-0 to approve the apartment building project, with minor conditions, said Beth Willson, the town’s wetland administrator.

“The approval was granted after thorough review including hiring a consultant to conduct a third party review of the wetland delineation, and requiring the applicant to provide additional soil data needed for the stormwater system review,” Willson said.

The Hadley Planning Board is taking up both the site plan approval and erosion and sediment control so that 40,000-square-foot parking lot can be built.

Hadley bylaws prohibit multiple dwellings on one parcel, which means the residential units will all be located in Amherst.

Plans from Grant Architects/GSX Solutions of Annapolis, Maryland, show a building with both brick and clapboard siding, courtyards where residents can enjoy the outdoors and wrought-iron fences surrounding the perimeter.

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