Playing fields in Amherst

To the Editor:

The choice this March for voters is to support the proposed playing fields at Acorn Fields – at no cost to the taxpayers – by voting Yes on Articles 48 and 49, or end any chance of having any new playing fields with Article 50, which is the abutters petition.

Article 48 seeks to reverse the zoning changes that were “pushed through” by the abutters to Acorn Fields, or the old Brewster property. This would allow the Planning Board to once again be able to review applications for playing fields with full authority to restrict or deny. The Planning Board voted to support this 4-3.

Article 49 seeks to create a new zone, which would include Buck Meadow Golf Course, Amherst Country Club and Acorn Fields. These three properties have historically been used for sports recreation. The two golf courses already are grandfathered for these activities but were included to avoid the “spot zoning” restrictions. This would allow for commercial sports, recreation and functions at Acorn Fields, with once again, no cost to taxpayers … participants help pay for maintenance of the fields.

Article 50, or the Stearns Road abutters’ petition, seeks to further restrict and end any chance of playing fields ever being built in Amherst again. The abutters to Acorn Fields – who presented this petition – claim they are “saving Amherst neighborhoods from certain destruction” with Article 50. How many private playing fields have ever been built in Amherst? The answer is … only at Acorn Fields. The abutters and Petition 50 are only focused on stopping the single greatest opportunity to solve our playing field shortage in Amherst. Some very deceptive wording was done on this article that everyone should be aware of.

1. “Shall not be the primary use of the lot.” Even with all our agricultural and family recreation activities, we couldn’t meet this requirement at Acorn Fields. There is no property in town that could satisfy this requirement.

2. “Playing fields shall not exceed 20 percent of the area designated for sports use.” Who could build playing fields when you could only use 20 percent of the resulting area?

3. “This Petition shall take precedence over Article 48 … if both 50 and 48 pass.” So they are hoping that people will make a mistake and vote for 48 and 50 thinking they are supporting playing fields, but actually causing 50 to kill, or override, 48.

These are just three of the “end of game” conditions that 50 will impose on Amherst. The Planning Board voted 7-0 against this Petition 50.

The choice is simple. Vote yes on Petitions 48 and 49 and no on the abutters Petition 50 and solve the playing field shortage via Acorn Fields, or watch 975 kids and 65 teams get cancelled this fall by the Amherst Recreation Department, per the director’s report to the Selectmen in July 2013. Your vote is needed and will decide the future of sports in Amherst this March 11.

BRAD KNIGHT

Owner of Acorn Fields