Who you vote for may change Amherst forever!
Does everyone remember about year ago from now how many of us became aware of plans for large developments in Amherst? We all researched what the Innovative Integrated Housing Ordinance (IIHO) was and how our Planning Board was using it as a tool to force large, dense developments on the town. Many of us got together to raise awareness and try to stop these developments from negatively impacting our neighborhoods, the Village and at some level, our way of life in Amherst. We joined with our neighbors and attended Planning Board Meetings, many of us publicly spoke for the first time, we were introduced to new people and formed new friendships. Many of us were exposed to town governance for the first time. We signed citizen's petitions to make changes and voters unanimously approved those measures in the March 2020 election. Now the IIHO is gone, many long-time Planning Board members resigned and we now will have an elected Planning Board.
As a result, many of the developments have been voted down including the most controversial one on the old Jacobson property, right outside Amherst Village. Yes there is still a lawsuit regarding this with a court date coming soon, but overall it was very positive movement by the residents of Amherst to preserve the town.
Did you know, we are teetering on the edge of making a huge mistake for our town?
Let's go back in time to find out how and where the IIHO came from. Yes we all know it was concocted by old Planning Board members over coffee and misleadingly presented to voters, but where did the idea come from? It all started in 2008 when the state of NH passed the Workforce Housing Law (RSA674:58-61) whose intent is to ensure communities in NH have zoning ordinance permitting affordable housing. It even goes further up in government and further back to the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Back in 2015, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) implemented the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). This addition to the 1968 Fair Housing Act, actually tied federal funding to a town's compliance to ensuring equitable housing opportunities. Progress must be tracked every 5 years.
Unbeknownst to most, there has been a multi-decade push to get rid of the suburbs. That's right, remove the entire essence of suburban living. A lot of this activity is pushed by PACs or similar organizations such as the NH Housing Finance Authority, Vital Communities, Housing Action NH and Plan NH. Since the Workforce Housing law passed, these PACs hosted seminars for local Planning Board members and lobbied local and state representatives and officials. They basically were pushing their way of thinking onto towns and municipalities without transparency to the citizens. So this really was not just a few Planning Board members, this was an overall push by BIG government to control local municipal zoning and development.
The good news is in July of 2020, the AFFH was repealed!
So how are we going to bring the IIHO back to Amherst?
We have a young candidate for State Representative who is supported by Peoplesaction.org which is supported by Homes Guarantee. These organization further promote the elimination of the suburbs through forced housing and densification. Supporting this candidate at the state level means more directives like Workforce Housing being passed into state law, effectively undoing the repeal of the IIHO and AFFH.
This is taken right from a presidential candidates website (https://joebiden.com/housing/#):
Eliminate local and state housing regulations that limit affordable housing options and contribute to urban sprawl. Housing policy can be used as a tool to battle climate change. Many lower- and middle-income Americans are forced to live far away from job centers due to high housing costs, leading not only to workers being overburdened by long commutes and transportation costs, but also to higher greenhouse gas emissions. Biden will tie new federal investments in housing to a requirement that states and localities eliminate regulations that reduce the availability of affordable housing and contribute to sprawl. He will direct his Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation to identify existing federal grant programs that can be amended by adding zoning reform as a requirement. And, Biden will expand investments in Local Housing Policy Grants to give states and localities the technical assistance and planning support they need to modernize housing regulations.
Furthermore, we have heard that the "zoning reform" proposed includes the elimination of single family zoning (https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/stacey-lennox/2020/07/01/hey-suburban-voters-joe-bidens-housing-policies-will-ruin-your-communities-n595905; https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/18/upshot/cities-across-america-question-single-family-zoning.html). Again, any Federal grants to towns not complying with these rules will be stopped.
This is basically an IIHO on steroids.
When you vote on November 3rd, are you going to vote for candidates who support policies for Amherst that are far worse than the IIHO?
Throughout the whole Planning Board change and elimination of the IIHO process, many of us were called NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard). If you supported the elimination of the IIHO, spoke out about the Transfarmations fiasco at Jacobson, the disgusting developments on "Condo Alley", Clearview and Brook Road developments; if you are worried about what is going to be built on the County Rd/Hazen property; and you vote for a Democrat candidate, then you really are a NIMBY because you are voting for someone whose goal is to eliminate all that we say we love about small-town America. I guess that is okay as long as it doesn't happen to your Amherst, but its okay for the rest of the country!