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Should a "Perfect Storm" grant IIHO a reprieve?


A current Amherst Planning Board (PB) member recently wrote a Letter to the Editor in the Amherst Citizen (March 2020, volume 28 issue 7) stating that the PB was struck by a "perfect storm" of events:

  • PB following a new rigorous "formal" process (moving away from their previous informal process),

  • large lots of land coming up for sale, and

  • the state regulations have shortened timelines for Planning Boards to respond to applicants.

The suggestion was made to give the PB another year - with the IIHO in place to sort out the process and bring amended ordinances to the voters in March 2021.


The current PB, minus three alternates, have been in place for several years, some for 20, 30 and 40 years, and all during the creation of the IIHO back in 2014-2015. Furthermore, several IIHO developments have already been approved and are under construction using the IIHO as it is written. The issues with the PB and the IIHO are not just because three new large developments have been presented.


Reviewing minutes from the past year, there is no specific mention during public meetings that a new "rigorous process' was being put in place. In fact, when specifically asked about the PB processes by citizens' legal counsel, a PB member actually said in response to "sit back and watch how it is done in Amherst." This was during an IIHO application review.


Interestingly, in reviewing the IIHO file at Town Hall, PB members with the longest standing on the board were the ones who created the IIHO. In 2014, a subcommittee was formed and the three long term members shockingly met often at one members house to write the IIHO. A review of the IIHO file and meeting minutes when the IIHO was presented to the full board reveals concerning behavior on the part of the IIHO authors. For example, one IIHO author expressed serious displeasure with his fellow board members, and was angry at them for not respecting the time the three members put into the drafting. This resulted in pushing the voting on IIHO acceptance out to a special meeting, prior to acceptance on the ballot by the full PB. Reviewing minutes from the special meeting, it is important to note that there was little discussion minuted and oddly enough, minutes were not approved until ONE YEAR after the meeting. Let's recall, there is much lack of details on the ballot regarding the ordinance: see https://www.amhersttoday.net/post/it-s-2015-would-you-have-voted-for-this.


Please note, in this letter to the editor, it was noted that the ordinance was created with input and help from the community. Funny enough, there is no community input into the drafting of the IIHO, nor at any of the minuted meetings. There is a lot of "we need this, we want this, and this is necessary" by the three creators of the IIHO. Three people, unelected, dictating the future of Amherst.


With the many years' experience of the current PB members, they have been given more than enough time to do their job. As you see now, they singlehandedly created this issue that is plaguing our lovely town.


Finally thoughts:


  • The PB already did have the ability to update the IIHO. They accepted the updates requested by the BOS. They could have had subcommittee meetings as they did when drafting the IIHO to "fix" it. They could have "tweaked" the ordinance like they did last year.

  • Granting them "one more year" to fix it, yet current board members have flatly rejected a temporary fix by limiting density bonuses to 35% (hence article #41).

  • If one more year is allowed under the IIHO (ie, rejection of articles #40 and #41), the large, high density developments causing this "perfect storm" will be the norm.


They don't need another year.


The Perfect Storm is actually, this Planning Board, the IIHO, and the pending update to the Master Plan!


*****Vote YES on Articles #37, #40 and #41*****



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