Monday, May 04, 2009

Town Meeting Tonight

Amherst's Annual Town Meeting begins tonight. Assuming we take the warrant articles in order, I predict we'll zoom through the first six and then spend over an hour debating and dividing Article 7, the proposal to extend the Municipal Parking District. We'll spend lots of time arguing over whether or not a couple of residential properties should be included or not.

Personally, I'd like to extend the Municipal Parking District (MPD) to all of Amherst, because I don't think it's a good idea to MANDATE parking (and the MPD frees developers from the "you must provide at least XYZ parking spaces" zoning requirements).

I suppose people are worried that a developer will create a big-old apartment complex next door and expect their tenants to park on the street (in front of THEIR house!) instead of putting in adequate parking. That Amherst will end up like Hoboken New Jersey, with cars circling the streets for hours looking for parking spots...

I suppose there's a very small chance that could happen (I don't see Amherst ever getting as dense as Hoboken), but even if it did wouldn't that be a good thing? All of the Master Plans I've read, going all the way back to the late '60s, say that one of the goals for Amherst is to encourage walking, bicycling and public transit and discourage car ownership.

Either people like to talk about alternative transportation but don't actually want to take concrete actions to promote it.

Or maybe a majority like alternative transportation (so it gets into the planning documents) but a large enough minority secretly like their cars enough to block any zoning amendments that might inconvenience them (it only takes 33% of Town Meeting to defeat a zoning change).

I bet it's a combination of both.


Anonymous said...

Uhmmm, no, it would not be a good thing if Amherst became like Hoboken NJ, thank you.

And I don't need a partking tag to park in my remote Amerst neighborhood, thanx again!

Gavin Andresen said...

It's been many years since I've visited Hoboken, but I remember it having a pretty vibrant downtown, with lots of shops and restaurants; I actually DO think that it would be OK for center, downtown Amherst to get that dense. Not all of Amherst, certainly-- and that's not what the Master Plans call for (they all sketch out dense downtown/village centers, surrounded by much less dense open space).

I'm curious: What's your vision for what downtown Amherst should look like in 20 or 50 years? Or is it perfect just the way it is?

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to think that the vast majority of Amherst residents like the town just the way it is, and, now that we have a working movie theater right in town, they wouldn't change a thing.

And this is why they approve of their government, and especially Town Meeting, existing in a parallel universe from their daily lives, largely out of sight and out of mind. Nothing resists change quite like Town Meeting.

Do residents really want substantial economic development in town? I think not.

Let's face it: the culture of the entire region is based on a "let's not worry about the Joneses" approach to personal wealth. We view almost any economic development as a threat to our way of life, and we really like living in a perpetual recession. We like the retail blight of Hadley right where it is, within a safe driving distance, but not in our own community. The educational institutions, especially the University, keep us in a state of relatively contented but economically suspended animation.

Who needs a vision of the future? We have almost all of what we want NOW.

Rich Morse

p.s. Any resemblance to the placid voice of Gavin Andresen in this post is purely coincidental.