AMHERST — Developers hoping to construct 46 new residential buildings on a large plot of land off Brook Road have received the green light to move forward, but with fewer buildings allowed on site for a maximum yield of 38 residential units on the property.

Amherst could see 46 new homes off Brook Road

The planning board recently approved a conditional use permit for the project at 24 Brook Road, with a vote of 5-1.

A formal site plan must still be submitted in order for the development to move forward.

Some planning board members expressed concerns about the density of the housing complex, which would occupy about 20 acres of the entire 127-acre parcel, as well as the vague configuration of the homes.

“To me, it is impossible to make a determination ... it is too theoretical for me,” Arnold Rosenblatt, planning board member, said of the project.

The development is being constructed under the town’s integrated innovative housing ordinance; John Walsh is the new owner of the land.

“We are trying to consolidate the development,” said Chad Branon of Fieldstone Land Consultants. He said more than 100 acres of land will be preserved.

Branon noted the need for a variety of housing to encourage a diverse population and demographics.

The housing will include single family homes, duplexes and rental units — some with one, two or three-bedroom layouts, according to Branon.

“We are trying to be sensitive to the abutting properties,” said Branon.

Planning board member Brian Coogan said he appreciates a design where the homes are as far away from neighbors as possible. However, Coogan said he struggles with the fact that current zoning allows for 21 units on the site, while the request is for more than that.

“It may be stretching the boundaries of the integrated innovative housing ordinance,” said Coogan.

Concerns about how the addition of new homes might impact the local school system were also raised.

Board member Marilyn Peterman said that among the 42 homes built in 2018 in Amherst, just nine students were added to the schools as a result.

“We need rental. We need elderly. We need smaller,” said Peterman, maintaining this development is more in line with the town’s master plan as opposed to newly constructed large colonial homes with three, four or five bedrooms.

“Zero development is not the choice,” echoed planning board member Sally Wilkins.


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