Wanted: Affordable senior housing
AMHERST – Be creative and flexible, the Amherst Planning Board told developers who want to build houses on nearly 127 acres off Brook Road.
The engineering firm representing land owner Chesterton Capital went before the board Oct. 7 with a conceptual discussion for a 39-unit residential development.
A plan was approved in 2006 and expired in 2010, but board Vice Chairwoman Sally Wilkins told T.F.Moran’s engineers to think about making radical changes so it allows for a more diverse population – mixing senior housing with affordable housing, for example.
There is a "huge, huge need" for affordable senior housing, Wilkins said.
"I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get from people telling me, ‘If I sell my five-bedroom house in Amherst, there isn’t a unit in the over-55 housing that I can afford,’ " she said. "We are not talking about taking hobos off the street. We are talking about a real need for real people who live here now."
A zoning amendment that the board had worked on for two years and approved by voters in March allows for alternatives to standard zoning.
Called "integrated innovative housing," it permits increases in density based on amenities, such sidewalks and parks, and allows mixing of housing types, such as afforable, senior and regular single-family housing, giving a density bonus as a reward to developers who meet community needs or save open space.
Wilkins told the engineers to forget about having 39 units, and she also suggested bringing the project down the hill and closer to Brook Road to cut the expense of building a long road.
The engineers said the discussion was enlightening.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.