Efforts being made to be a good neighbor

When a little time has passed, we think – and certainly hope –

that Steven Berube will be happy that the Amherst Land Trust constructed a park and playground next to his home. As members of the trust pointed out in a letter to the editor of The Cabinet last week, Berube could have been facing a new house instead of a park. Some might argue that a single house isn’t a bad thing, but that, of course, depends on the occupants. Even in Amherst, one can get bad neighbors.

Of course, there will be cars, but not at all hours of the day and night. Parks aren’t used hour after hour, and we assume it will be patrolled by Amherst police officers who will be conscientious in ensuring that nothing untoward occurs, that there is no drinking in the dark and that the peace of the Berube family won’t be disturbed.

It is also notable that the land trust has committed to planting hedge rows as a screen between the park and the Berube home. The trust doesn’t have to do this, but we think it is trying hard to be a good neighbor. In order to deal with the issue more promptly, the trust is looking for donations of large trees. That looks to us like an organization that is trying to be a good neighbor. There are a couple of things that do disturb us about this issue:

In their letter to the editor last week, the members of the land trust wrote, "Every one of us has had our integrity impugned by the recent attack." Certainly, abutters, and anyone else, have the absolute right to question the park plans as a whole or to question individual aspects of it, but to question the integrity of this group seems a bit over the line. These are people who have served Amherst in various capacities over the years, and always with great integrity. Disagreeing with a decision one of them, or all of them, made is no reason to question their motives.

We were also concerned about the belief on the part of some residents that it is up to civic groups or town boards to tell them when and how to appeal a decision. That simply isn’t so. Oh, it would be nice if a board member – a member of any board in any town – happened to say after a decision was made, "By the way, folks, you have 30 days to appeal," but the fact is, those board members also have the right to assume that protesting residents will do their homework and determine the appeals process for themselves. If the issue is so important, they should go out of their way to understand the process – each part of it. Blaming the land trust for not announcing how to appeal is abrogating one’s responsibility to one’s point of protest. The land trust went through all of the hoops necessary to get this project approved. If it were a terrible idea, it would have been flagged much earlier in the process. But all of this is secondary to the building of this park in the memory of Joshua Savyon. Joshua’s mother gave the largest donation to the project, $150,000.

This is a good project, and something that will be used by generations of Amherst kids and their families.

We hope, and we believe, that the Berubes will come to see the park as a great neighbor. We know the trust will do what it can to ensure that, as will, we trust, all relevant town departments.