Elizabeth Vierling: Thanks to the Amherst ZBA

Amherst Town Hall

Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 02-23-2024 9:51 PM

I would like to thank the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals for their thoughtful discussion on Feb 8th and for declining the request by Archipelago Investments Inc. for a variance that would have allowed a mixed-use building near Atkins Corner to have only 10% commercial space. The board and members of the public cited many important reasons why declining the variance was the right decision and absolutely in line with goals for Amherst development.

Importantly, commercial space is critical to creating true “village centers,” as noted by many, and is not limited to retail, but can include personal care services, doctor’s offices, day care, etc. In addition, neighborhood commercial space reduces transportation mileage required to access essential services, consistent with climate goals. Packing the area adjacent to Atkin’s Country Market with more housing, without considering other needs of residents is against all logical goals of smart development. Thirty percent commercial space is a bare minimum; it is too bad it has dropped that low, and it would be unconscionable for it to go lower.

Approving 10% would have set a dangerous precedent for future development. It would be lovely to see a proposal from a developer who views housing as part of a whole community, and who makes a proposal that gives back more to the community than (though not-to-be-discounted) increased tax base. It is critical that new housing is integrated into the whole ecosystem of human needs and climate goals. Housing alone is guaranteed to lead to significant problems in the near future.

Elizabeth Vierling

Amherst

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