Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Damn Developers!

Kendrick Place, north town center (before the snowstorm)

The backlash over Planning Board approval of Kendrick Place, a 5-story "mixed use" commercial building with 36 units of rental apartments, and the much l-a-r-g-e-r One East Pleasant Street (80 rental units), which is already delayed by a nuisance lawsuit filed by a disgruntled competitor, has now taken a more ominous form:

Two poison pill zoning articles filed yesterday by Mary Wentworth designed to prevent any such projects from being approved in the future.

 Proposed One East Pleasant Street (also north town center)

Since both projects are located in the downtown "Municipal Parking District" they are not required to provide any parking, although the proposed One East Pleasant will have 36 onsite spaces available.

 Article #1 strike "residential" from parking exemptions in downtown

Under Ms. Wentworth's zoning article #1 developers would be required to provide parking for every single resident, and zoning article #2 gives a higher threshold of commercial space required (thus dramatically reducing rental housing units) for a "mixed use" designation and would require a harder to get "Special Permit".

 Article #2: increase % of commercial, require Special Permit from ZBA

Since these two Archipelago Investments, LLC projects are already approved, they would of course be grandfathered. 

A zoning article requires a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting, so the chances of these articles passing this coming spring are not all that good.

Most of the rational pro-development zoning measures that have come before Town Meeting have failed because of the high hurdle of a two-thirds super majority, but they almost always attracted a majority vote.

Now at least, the shoe is on the other foot. 

Party Place of the Weekend

Salem Place apartment complex Main Street, Amherst

Griffin Veldran, Jesse Korzen stand before Judge Payne Monday morning

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Monday in Courtroom #1 two college aged youth took the plea deal offered by the Commonwealth to dispose of their "noise" arrest by Amherst police late Friday into early Saturday morning.

Click to enlarge/read

Pay the $300 Amherst Town Bylaw fine and stay out of trouble for the next four months. 

Meanwhile over in Courtroom #2, three other "college aged youth" (Zachary Calderwood, Jonathan Spencer, Joshua Young) who had appealed their Noise TBL violation last November almost went to a jury trial, but copped a plea at the last minute ... as folks so often do.  

One of them (Jonathan Spenser) did not actually live in the apartment, therefor should not have been issued a ticket, so the Commonwealth dropped the charges against him.  And the other two pled guilty to a civil infraction and had their case put "on file" for the next 60 days.

So yes, by burdening the system via an appeal they avoided the $300 fine, but taxpayers still won by avoiding a jury trial.  And if they get into any trouble over the next two months, the original charges come back into play.

Therefore they better behave themselves on Superbowl Sunday.

Blizzard of 2015: Another Bust?

Town Hall 7:45 AM

Thus far the storm of the century has not lived up to the hype, which is of course a good thing. The scanner was so quiet last night I had to double check to make sure it was on. Which is of course a good thing.

Carry on.

 Miss Emily to Mr. Frost: "Don't believe the hype."

But the wind is still whipping

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bring It On!

DPW supply teepee is one of the busier locations in town this morning

Assuming the venerable Amherst Select Board is hardy enough to meet this evening they will hear a half-year budget update that shows good news and bad news from the DPW budget line:
Original budget, Amount spent, Encumbered, % of budget spent

Good news is of course the ambitious LED lighting retrofit of all the street lights in town is paying off handsomely in electricity savings (only consuming 15% of the budget at the half-way point).

And, almost as important, the new LED lighting in the Amherst Town Room (where the SB meets) makes photos look a lot better as well.

The snow and ice budget is not really 29.4%  in the red, as Guilford Mooring points out the amount shown as "encumbered" reflects a full season's worth of supplies. But he does verify that tomorrow's Snowmageddon will most likely bust the budget:

Click to enlarge/read

Even that, however, should be mitigated by Federal Emergency Mgt Agency reimbursement if things turn out as bad as universally predicted.

The DPW are the unsung heroes at times like tonight, tomorrow and maybe even into Wednesday.

Public safety personnel simply could not do their potentially lifesaving jobs if not for those big yellow trucks keeping the streets passable.  Another good reason to stay off the roads once the snow starts to fly: 

Let the police, fire and DPW do their vital work.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rusty Public Art

Northampton, Old Courthouse lawn, city center

Amherst Kendrick Park

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Amherst College professorial snowman

Snowman corner of Mass & Commonwealth Ave, UMass

An hour later these young ladies were building a mate
Playing field off Commonwealth Ave

Boys will be boys

Friday, January 23, 2015

If You Can't Beat 'Em ...

Mission Cantina 485 West Street, South Amherst

One of the gripes you hear about food carts is that they have an "unfair" advantage over traditional bricks-and-mortar restaurants since they pretty much pay the town only a $100 annual fee to operate.

Restaurants of course either  pay a hefty downtown commercial rent to their landlord, or if they own the building, pay the whopping Amherst property tax that is twice that of neighboring Hadley.  And recently became even more oppressive with the doubling of the Community Preservation Act tax.

But because the lunch cart system, unlike liquor licenses, is not overly regulated it really is an equal opportunity, two-way street.

For instance, Mission Cantina, one of the more wildly successful restaurants located in the heart of South Amherst's microscopic business district will go before the venerable Amherst Select Board Monday night for a lunch cart license to bring their Mexican fare downtown this coming nice weather season.

Currently the town has two active lunch carts, Sun Kim Bop and New York Halal Food but this will be a first for an established restaurant entering the market.

Viva la competition!

Coming soon to a street near you