Amherst planning group says bury Village power lines

AMHERST – Bocce ball at Buchanan Park, a ban on truck-engine brake use, and a bike route connecting the center of town with the high school and middle school.

Those are some of the recommendations from a strategic planning project for the Amherst Village that was offered to selectmen June 8.

Led by former Selectman Mike Akillian and aided by the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, the project looked at the potential for improving several aspects of what the report called “a unique and highly-regarded asset.”

Recommendations were labeled as to their costs and benefits. For example architectural lighting of town buildings was considered to be a moderate cost with moderate benefit improvement, while a walking map of the Village is low cost-moderate benefit.

And although burial of utilities lines was initially perceived to be prohibitively expensive – a high cost-high benefit project, the working group that focused on utilities decided that a burial project can be done with a modest budget and recommends that selectmen pursue conduit burial on current road reconstruction.

Other traffic and safety recommendations include a through-trucking ban and elimination of unneeded traffic signs and the resumption of two-way traffic on Courthouse Road.

It also says to connect the two Village greens by removing a section of Middle Street.

Its low cost projects recommendations included promoting greater use of school buses to relieve traffic congestion, more traffic enforcement and adult driving education and banning truck engine brake use,

The recreation group recommends creating a trail network branching out of the village, a virtual tour app for historical areas and expanding events to reach a larger population and add something for everyone.

It also says to place Adirondack chairs in circles around boulders at Buchanan park for picnicking.

Among the community development group’s recommendations are a zoning amendment to allow existing business to be conforming uses said to be . “as a significant concern to business owners.

Study the implementation of a Village Business District Overlay Zone that would allow businesses as permitted uses in appropriate areas.

A majority, but not all group members supported those zoning recommendation.

In 2013 selectmen decided to begin a strategic planning initiative to help guide planning and budgeting and focused on the Village.

The groups used a visual preference survey that 554 residents completed and the recommendations were presented at public forums and house meetings.

The point of strategic planning is to guide cost-effective annual planning and budgeting, and in Amherst it has been put to use in the police, fire and other town departments.

Akillian has a professional background in strategic planning. Last year, when road construction and the anticipated re-opening of the Manchester Road bridge brought lots of complaints to selectmen, he suggested it would good idea to step back and look at traffic in the context of planning for the Village as a whole.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or
kcleveland@cabinet.com.