Amherst rec field’s future uncertain

AMHERST – The future is uncertain for Brad Knight’s plan to provide recreational playing fields for town use on his Stearns Road property. At the April 30 Zoning Board meeting, the public hearing that began weeks ago moved to deliberations on his application for five variances, but he failed to win the exception for commercial recreation in a residential rural zone.

Douglas Kirkwood, ZBA chairman, reminded board members of the five tests to be weighed for each variance that the proposal: 1) would not be contrary to public interest; 2) is consistent with the spirit and intent of the ordinance; 3) does substantial justice; 4) would not diminish the surrounding property values; and 5) denial would present a hardship.

Although Knight scaled back his original proposal to limit the scope and hours of activities, abutters still voiced opposition to having this project in their quiet neighborhood. ZBA members Bob Rowe and Jim Quinn upheld those concerns in their voting, with each saying this proposal would adversely affect the character of the neighborhood.

The board was split 3-2 on the first two tests, 2-3 on the third test, and 1-4 on the fourth and fifth test, and the residential rural zone variance was denied.

Deliberation on the remaining four variances was less contentious, and Knight’s applications passed all five tests. He was granted variances for Flood Plain Conservation District, Wetland Conservation District, Watershed Protection District, and Aquifer Conservation District. All five variances would have to be granted before his proposal could be submitted to the Planning Board. When asked whether he plans to appeal the one denial, Knight declined to comment.

– IRENE LABOMBARDE