Ira Bryck: Moratorium article misconstrued points

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The article “Petition targets large buildings,” (Bulletin, March 26) misconstrued these points, and I clarify:

■The term “slum-like” referred to the possible consequences of allowing many apartment buildings and triplexes in neighborhoods around downtown. Planning Board and Town Council members have derided “character of the neighborhood” as a “dog whistle” and we’re noting that “multifamily housing” has also been euphemistic for deliberately overcrowding inner cities. Neighborhood character that is diverse and inclusive must be preserved.

■There is a widespread discontent with five-story apartments, aimed at students. And many more, on the way! A moratorium would pause a moving train, to make urgent course corrections.

■Developers state that it’s difficult to attract stores and restaurants; and that dense residential is a more achievable target, so that’s what’s being designed. That’s not good enough. Densified residents want nice things too. Everyone needs reasons to spend time and money in downtown Amherst.

■People opposing “unlocking” neighborhoods for densification aren’t against development; they want it to be in scale for Amherst.

■The new projects have displaced businesses. That’s why the new project would replace empty buildings and a parking lot. Several businesses were displaced for that.

■Hundreds of “new beds” have been added since our aging Housing Production Plan was created. Also, UMass is building dorms. Also, college age demographics, plus remote learning trends, predict a drop in college populations. Do we have a housing shortage? Where is the data?

■As zoning changes are simultaneously “explored” and “promoted,” those opposed and skeptical would love more community participation (a mainstay of Smart Growth and our Master Plan).

■Various underutilized methods to add dwelling units are allowed, even during a moratorium. Might better education, of what’s already possible, clarify how owners can make a duplex, or add a tiny house, to densify modestly?

Supporters of this moratorium proposal would love to move on, after the town officializes how affordability, design standard, diversity, setback, height, character, attracting appealing businesses will happen.

Ira Bryck