Friday, December 07, 2007

The Comprehensive Plan (no, not THAT one...)

I visited the Jones Library Special Collections for the first time on Wednesday, where the librarians helped me find Amherst's last Comprehensive (aka "Master") Plan.

It was published in 1969, and then promptly ignored. I'm told that it was considered 'dead on arrival.' I'm not sure why it didn't fly-- I was two years old and living in Melbourne, Australia at the time-- was it too "consultant-driven"? Too radical? Too many pages? (If you know, please leave a comment!)

Reading the old Plan makes me wonder what Amherst would be like today if it hadn't been ignored. It would certainly be easier to get around; University Drive would extend all the way from the North side of UMass to join up with Route 9 out by Amherst Woods. Imagine that, being able to get to UMass from Belchertown or the Notch WITHOUT going through downtown!

If I read the newspaper article correctly, Town Meeting rejected that idea by three votes back in 1970...

This piece of advice was ignored, also:
Because of the expanded research facilities at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst has the potential to attract research-oriented industries. These would have a definite need of being close to the academic environment where both college and industry would be of mutual benefit to each other. Such development would add a new dimension to the Town's economy.

The old Plan wasn't all about traffic and business development; it talked about the need for Open Space and historic preservation, too:
a large segment of the Town, approximately 4,863 acres, has been proposed for open space use.
Amherst currently has about 4,000 acres of protected open space (we only had 500 in 1970), so we're well on our way to meeting that goal.


Stephanie O'Keeffe said...

That map is fascinating -- thanks for posting it! How interesting to be able to look back on the goals and maybes of almost 40 years ago, and think about how things might have been different. Maybe the most interesting part was the major re-routing of Route 9. Hard to say whether or not that would have been a good idea, but it certainly would have required agreement from Hadley and Belchertown, which probably contributed to the Comprehensive Plan being DOA.

Anonymous said...

Gavin -

This is very cool - thanks for doing the legwork to dig this up, and for sharing it.

Even more interesting is to be able to compare the changes proposed in the plan with the current view of the town. I prepared a Google Earth overlay to superimpose the circulation map on top of the Google Earth imagery. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Gavin!

I think this is the so-called SCOPE Plan. It happened long before I started paying attention. But this was one of the documents of past plans presented, at least in executive summary, to the original Comprehensive Planning Committee in 1996 (as well as, supposedly, to subsequently appointed members) and has been part of the basis for the work done by consultants hired to prepare the various phases of the current Master Plan.

Interestingly, even though it was rejected in its entirety, quite a number of its components have apparently been implemented, piecemeal, over the years nevertheless. Jonathan Tucker could probably list them from memory.

If I remember correctly, a partial bypass idea (along Strong and East Pleasant Streets) was the subject of a lot of controversy somewhat later. It was eventually rejected as well, after a number of unsuccessful attempts to gain approval from Town Meeting.

As for the open-space acreage: Most of what is now protected has been secured SINCE 1970, not just 500 acres. The 4800 acres you cite were apparently a projected plan; and you're right: we seem to have reached most of that goal, which is great.


Gavin Andresen said...

Stephanie: That Route 9 realignment was a State plan; I'm not sure why it was never done (but I'd bet you're right, that it was impossible to get all the towns along the way to agree).

Jonathan: Cool!

Eva: According to Jonathan Tucker, Amherst has actually been following the 1973-1974 "Select Committee On Goals (SCOG)" plan. This is the "1969 Charles Downe" plan. I haven't read the SCOG plan yet...

Anonymous said...


Oops, do I ever stand corrected!