Local Historic District Commission grants Certificate of Appropriateness 5-0

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At Monday's Local Historic District Commission meeting (watch full meeting here), Amherst Media passed a threshold in obtaining a building permit to construct a new facility at the corner of Main and Gray Streets when the commission passed a certificate of appropriateness with conditions. 

The conditions listed numerous requests for minor adjustments and restrictions. Gillen Collaborative, architects for the project, were confident that all conditions were obtainable.

Amherst Media will next submit for a meeting date with the Amherst Planning Board to obtain the building permit.

The full story from the Gazette follows: 

By Scott Merzbach

Published: 1/30/2020 12:31:48 PM

AMHERST — It took seven meetings beginning last August, but Amherst Media finally has a favorable decision from the Local Historic District Commission allowing the nonprofit to move forward with building a new headquarters on Main Street.

On Monday, the commission members who participated in each of the sessions voted 5-0 to issue a certificate of appropriateness, with 14 conditions, to Amherst Media. The decision means site plans for the 1 1/2-story building can be submitted for review to the Amherst Planning Board. 

Senior Planner Nathaniel Malloy said Wednesday that after so many meetings, commission members were certain the scale of the building and its design will fit its surroundings.

“The commission did due diligence to make sure it fits with the bylaw,” Malloy said.

The project would be the first new building in the Emily Dickinson Local Historic District since it was created in 2012.

Gillen Collaborative Architects created the plans for the $1.3 million building that would rise on .56 acres owned by Amherst Media, which oversees the public access, educational and government television channels for the town and broadcasts numerous public meetings and local programs,

Prior to the vote, Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Taub said she was pleased with how far the plans have come. 

“I personally think that it really blends in very well with the residences on Gray Street,” Taub said.

Commission member Maurianne Adams said the project was challenging, but commissioners took into account all input received.

Jim Lescault, executive director of Amherst Media, said he was pleased with the vote.

“Their decision and collaboration throughout this process allowed for the abutters desire to have their houses seen as well as our right to build to co-exist,” Lescault said.

Lescault said he hopes to give the Planning Board the site plans sometime in the next two months.

With concerns about the size of the building and its impact on the historic viewscape, specifically the large lawn in front of the Henry Hills House and the Amherst Woman’s Club building on Triangle Street, Malloy said the commission spent considerable time to make sure the building will meet the spirit of the bylaw. The review included mandating the building be positioned on the southeast corner of the parcels, closest to Gray Street, and asking that the parking lot be limited to eight spaces, with any lighting for it coming from the building, rather than light poles.

Among the other conditions are that a retaining wall match the look of one at a neighboring property, and that permanent evergreen screening is planted on the west end of the property. 

A written decision will be filed with the town clerk’s office within the next two weeks, Malloy said. Once filed, that will begin a 20-day appeals period.

Should neighbors or any others choose to challenge the decision, Malloy said the appeal would begin with arbitration overseen by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. If this is unable to resolve the matter, then legal action would happen in Hampshire Superior Court.

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

News

The Local Historic District Commission
Jan 30, 2020

At Monday's Local Historic District Commission meeting (watch full meeting here), Amherst Media passed a threshold in obtaining a building permit to construct a new facility at the corner of Main and Gray Streets when the commission passed a certificate of appropriateness with conditions. 

Oct 18, 2019

AMHERST — Amherst Media officials are still awaiting a decision on whether they will be granted a certificate of appropriateness allowing them to proceed with plans to build a new headquarters in the Emily Dickinson Local Historical District.