Saturday, April 22, 2006

Amherst by bus

Went on the bus tour this afternoon. Attendance was around 25-30, I would say – I should have counted. We checked out six sites related to warrant articles: Cherry Hill Golf Course (Article 39); Keet House (Article 32); Cushman Market (Article 11); the corner of College & South East Streets (Article 21); South East Street east of Mill Lane (Article 22); and the Larkspur Drive – Research Drive area (Article 23.) We also paused at two locations from recent past TM warrants – the North Amherst Community Farm on Pine Street, and the Kimball House on North East Street.

Overall, the tour was interesting and informative. Mary Wentworth did a good job of describing the article relevant to each site, without being partisan. When folks had questions, there were plenty of knowledgeable people on board to fill in details.

I was impressed by the neutrality of the information – until we got to the South East Street location for Article 22. This is where Scott Nielsen is looking to develop condos, and the neighbors are trying to change the land’s zoning to prevent that from happening. Here our bus was met by a group of those neighbors. There was some attempt to keep things neutral – people would chime in “No advocating!” – but it didn’t feel right.

Similarly, at the final location – the edge of the Amherst Woods area, an example of where Article 23 is seeking to fix the Professional Research Park zoning details to actually allow businesses to function there – the situation was introduced and described to us by one of the opposing neighbors (a TM member, who was on the bus, as was one of the neighbors from Article 22.) Again, it just didn’t feel right. The tour was an introduction to the locations. It wasn’t a public hearing on the issues. If it were a public hearing, all sides would be represented.

So I could have done without that part, but otherwise I thought it was a great idea and a worthwhile trip.