Elizabeth Vierling: Consistency needed when vetting development 

Published: 01-16-2023 10:44 AM

I would like to compliment the Amherst Planning Board and staff on their discussion at the Jan. 4, 2023 meeting of the development by ServiceNet of transitional housing on Belchertown Road. The staff and board engaged in consideration of landscaping and parking as would impact not only the requirements and convenience of residents, but also the overall aesthetics and improvement of the property. Landscaping that would enhance the neighborhood, and questions about shade trees and renewable energy were discussed. I appreciated the multiple perspectives, as well as the requirements that the developers readily addressed. But now I must complain.

Why was there so little similar questioning or discussion regarding the building rising at 11 East Pleasant St.? Landscaping was addressed minimally, and shade trees not at all. Trees were cut down by the cemetery, labeled as “past their prime.” I don’t remember much discussion of renewables. Adding street trees was dismissed; one board member commented that there is a park across the street, so who needs much landscaping on the other side? Parking was not required — ironic, given the parking at the ServiceNet site where the developer said residents are not likely to have cars.

Are we so convinced that asking for-profit developers for human scale streetscapes and parking will drive them away? We are a prime market. Demand more for our town! I hope that when Amherst finally develops design standards that we are not left with a cavern of four- or five-story buildings up against the sidewalk where shade trees can’t grow and plantings are limited to planters squished against the building (see 1 East Pleasant).

Every tree we cut down needs to be replaced. We deserve a town streetscape filled with greenery. Doesn’t this make sense as we reach towards carbon neutrality? My taxes are almost $12,000 per year, so I appreciate developing our tax base, but not at the expense of a town I want to walk in, or live in. I hope our town government judges all new projects, for profit or not, as they have this Belchertown Road development.

Elizabeth Vierling