Master plan would rezone 230 acres along state Route 2
AMHERST — Roughly 230 acres of unused land along state Route 2 could be turned into commercial developments if the architects of the city’s new master plan have their way.
For the last three years, a group of citizens has gathered regularly to map out the city’s future. Details of the plan, which was unveiled during a public meeting Thursday, include rezoning that land along state Route 2 from residential and agricultural to commercial.
“We’re talking about vacant property that has yet to be developed,” Safety Service Director Dennis Clotz said. “The open land we have has to be developed to the best economic use for the city if we are to increase our tax base like is needed.”
The land in question includes a 57-acre farm owned by George and Marge Small, who have sought commercial zoning for the property that they are considering selling to bolster the city’s tax base.
Councilwoman Jennifer Wasilk said the Smalls’ property would be ideal for a planned unit development that allows for a combination of office space, small retail and smaller homes for empty-nesters.
In addition to the proposal for more commercial development, the plan spells out where new homes should be built and where the city should add manufacturing businesses and technology centers.
The plan continues to keep the focus of the city on the downtown, and it seeks to protect its housing stock by calling for a ban on R-2 zoning, which allows homeowners to convert large, older homes into duplexes. The idea behind that push is to stop the conversions that destroy neighborhoods, Wasilk said.
The plan is far from being finalized in that the public, the law director and the Planning Commission must review it before it gets accepted or rejected by the City Council.
During Thursday’s meeting, that first component — public input — looked like it might be hard to come by. The majority of those in attendance were committee members, and even city officials didn’t turn out in the number Wasilk had hoped.
She said she personally sent out nearly three dozen letters inviting every member of the parks commission, design review board, planning commission, zoning board and all elected officials.
Wasilk said the master plan is a working document that can be reshaped based on strong public opinion, but residents have to come forward to express that opinion for anything to be reworked, Wasilk said.
One of the committee members said the plan was worth all the work.
“This is Amherst’s future tool,” said Dr. Lorna Middendork, committee member. “What we have today is not sufficient for what we have in mind for the future of Amherst.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.