Residents appeal Hadley Planning Board decision to OK parking lot for Amherst apartment complex

  • Hadley Town Hall Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Thursday, December 28, 2017

HADLEY — A group of Amherst residents are appealing the Hadley Planning Board’s decision to OK construction of a parking lot in Hadley for tenants of a planned apartment complex off Route 9 at the Amherst-Hadley town line.

Northampton attorney Michael Pill, of Green, Miles, Lipton LLP, on Dec. 20 filed a lawsuit contending that the Hadley Planning Board’s September vote in favor of site plans for the parking lot for the Aspen Heights project is illegal.

Pill said in a phone interview Dec. 21 that the new apartment building, to be built at 408 Northampton Road (Route 9) in Amherst, is creating a “split-lot issue.”

“The project you’re building must be allowed in both zoning districts or both municipalities,” Pill said.

In this case, Hadley zoning prohibits multiple dwellings on a lot in the commercial district. The 240 parking spaces for the apartments will be in Hadley.

This wouldn’t be an issue if the Hadley land were used passively, such as for additional open space to meet Amherst zoning’s bylaw. But Pill explains that parking lots and driveways have not been ruled to be passive uses.

“That’s called an active use,” Pill said.

Pill represents seven residents who live at Greenleaves Retirement Community and are worried about the project to replace the aging Amherst Motel property with a three-story, 115-unit apartment building. The residents are concerned that many of the apartments will be rented to college students.

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

Thomas Reidy, an attorney with Bacon Wilson, P.C. of Amherst who represents Aspen Heights residential development company, didn’t immediately respond to Gazette requests for comment.

The hearings brought out numerous residents from both Greenleaves and Windfield Estates in Hadley.

Pill said he anticipates additional challenges to the Amherst Zoning Board special permit, observing that he provided the board a list of legal concerns.

These include that Amherst Motel continues to be licensed as a motel, rather than getting rental permits under Amherst’s rental registration program, and that town 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.”

“My clients have advised me to appeal both decisions,” Pill said.

Pill said he is unsure when he can filed an appeal of the Amherst decision, noting that town planners have 90 days to draft and then file the Zoning Board’s decision.

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