Monday, February 10, 2020
Some advice for Planning Board candidates in Amherst

As Amherst selects members of its Planning Board, I suggest that all residents read the New York Times editorial on June 16, 2019, titled “Americans Need More Neighbors.”

The article looks at a development in Minneapolis, in which single-family zoning is being re-examined. Like Amherst, Minneapolis sees itself as progressive, environmentalist and egalitarian and its new political leaders have decided that single-family zoning works in opposition to those goals.

Single-family homes are spread out and require more cars and driving. It caters to those who can afford the land and taxes. The editorial sees this zoning as subsidizing those who could not afford the land if apartment buildings were put there; “it is a huge entitlement program for the benefit of the most entitled residents,” the editorial states.

The argument is that since government cannot and is not supporting sufficient affordable housing, building larger units eventually does this, as market rates decrease and units become more affordable. It notes that in California, cities are considering “fourplexes,” or four-unit apartments where single homes had been.

In Amherst, we should not disparage the large units being built downtown. I also don’t like them, but if they make more efficient use of the land, cut pollution from travel (given our limited bus system) and eventually result in more affordable housing, I think we need not try to maintain single-family dwellings, especially in and near downtown.

Candidates for our Planning Board and those selecting them might want to read this article before they proceed.

Marilyn Denny