Amherst planners consider zoning revisions for apartment buildings

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Posted: 9/8/2021 08:51:17 AM

AMHERST – Zoning by-law revisions are being considered that would make the development of purely residential buildings – as opposed to mixed-use buildings such as Kendrick Place, at the corner of Triangle and East Pleasant streets, and One East Pleasant – less likely in the commercial heart of the city.

Under the amendment, street-facing apartment buildings would not be allowed within 500 feet of another street-facing apartment building in the General Commercial Zone, or BG Zone, including streets East Pleasant, North Pleasant, South Pleasant, Main and Amity.

City planner Maureen Pollock said the idea is to make the streets pedestrian-friendly and prevent a proliferation of apartments in the wrong places.

“We think a mix of different uses will help support a population of businesses,” Pollock said.

Under the current downtown zoning, apartment buildings are permitted through site plan reviews, but are capped at 24 units per building.

The revised zoning would continue to encourage mixed-use buildings and would not further impede the streetscape with apartment buildings. The five-story mixed-use Kendrick Place and One East Pleasant – as well as another such building at 11 East Pleasant – have encountered objections from residents fearing it would ruin the character of the downtown area and clutter sidewalks.

Already, developers can put more apartments in such mixed-use buildings, which have commercial space available at street level, than they can by only continuing to build apartments.

Pollock’s presentation reads: “The revised proposal… encourages more residential infill in the BG area while creating a guarantee to promote and enhance the vibrancy of active streetscapes with mixed-use buildings along the street main ”.

Pollock said, based on the current definition, that there is only one apartment building in the city center, a three-unit building on Main Street just east of the hotel city.

Planning board member Andrew MacDougall said the proposal made sense, although he wants planners to ensure apartment buildings are not built downtown so rugged streets can be preserved.

Planning council member Janet McGowan said her concern was that the proposal could push apartment buildings onto other streets and wondered if loosening regulations for such buildings could diminish the benefits seen in mixed-use buildings. The proposal is part of a package of zoning changes. encourage greater housing stock development in Amherst, as supported by a city council vote earlier this year.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at [email protected]


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