The Gazette Reports: PVPC supports Amherst Media HQ decision

By Scott Merzbach

AMHERST — A town committee’s decision in favor of allowing the headquarters for Amherst Media to be built on two Main Street parcels is being upheld by a Pioneer Valley Planning Commission representative.

In a review completed by Shannon Walsh, historic preservation planner for the PVPC, the Local Historic District Commission’s approval of a certificate of appropriateness for the project in January is deemed to not to be in error.

“Based on my review, I find that the commission acted lawfully in approving a conditional certificate of appropriateness for the heavily revised proposed construction by Amherst Media toward the southeastern corner of the parcel at the corner of Main and Gray streets,” Walsh wrote in the response issued Wednesday.

Walsh’s 12-page memo was delivered following a March 11 appeal by Harmsway LLC, whose principals are Robert Speiser and Anthony Brackett, and eight other parties, objecting to the 4,225-square-foot, 1½-story building to be constructed for Amherst Media. 

The concerns in the appeal focused on the historic landscape in front of the Henry F. Hills House and the possibility it will be damaged by the building for Amherst Media, the organization that oversees public access, educational and government television channels for the town and broadcasts numerous public meetings and local programs.

For Amherst Media Executive Director Jim Lescault, the decision is good news, and means that a site plan review can be submitted to the Planning Board.

Walsh based the finding on several factors, including that the 1976 nomination for the historic house and the neighboring properties having changed significantly in recent years. “Their historic character, function and integrity were diminished when the property was subdivided in 2006 into five separate parcels along Gray and Main streets,” she wrote.

In addition, the parcels on which Amherst Media would build, Walsh writes, are not currently listed in the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System, “which would note their stand-alone significance as cultural resources as undeveloped landscapes.”

The PVPC is the first review of the matter. If the situation remains unresolved, legal action could follow in Hampshire Superior Court.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

Original story here.