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Quick Take on Long Amendments

To the editor:      

      People have asked me, based on my years on the Planning Board, what I think about this year’s zoning amendments. Simplified for length, here are my thoughts:

#39, Signs. A much-needed update.

#40, Reduced Frontage. Likely to result in the construction of more roads with resulting increased impacts. It takes away owners’ property rights based on lot shape.

#41 & 52, Lot dimensions on Scenic Roads. Will break land up rather than protect habitat, encourage construction of new roads, and take away owners’ property rights on selected roads.

#42, Outdoor Lighting. An excellent proposal.

#43 and 51, Industrial zone requirements and building size limitations. We desperately need to encourage development of the Industrial zone to offset residential property taxes. Site and use-specific mitigations should be addressed in Non-Residential Site Review regulations, not Zoning.

#44, Off-site improvements. No opinion.

#45, 46 & 47, Changing ZBA deadline and adjusting Town Building Codes. These simply align town regulations with State requirements.

#48, Adding water quality requirements. This will make the Town’s requirements more stringent than the State’s, a good thing in this case.

#49 & 50, definitions. No opinion. 


Sally Wilkins


Mega-Distribution Centers Pose Risk to Public Safety Personnel  

To the editor:      

      There are several zoning warrant articles up for a vote on the March 14th ballot. Articles #49 and #50 simply define ‘warehouse’ and ‘distribution center’.  Currently there are no definitions in our industrial zone list of these permitted uses. Adding these definitions seems to me to be an effort to help keep our zoning articles up to date.  

      Article #51 limits the size of a distribution center to a maximum of 200,000 sq ft (and does not place any limit on the size of a warehouse.) At first, I tended to think about impact of traffic, pollution, and environmental impacts which are very real.  However, at the January 4th, 2023 Planning Board meeting, a resident brought up several examples of devastating fires at large mega-distribution centers in other parts of the U.S.  Quite frankly, the impact to local towns and specifically to fire and public safety departments was scary.  After looking into this further, I was convinced of the need to limit the size of distribution centers (warrant article #51.)

      As one example, in December 2021, a large distribution center (1.2M square feet) fire was deemed to be the largest structure fire ever in the state of North Carolina. Fire crews spent 10 days and over 722 hours battling the fire.  Ten days!!! The fire department said aid came from more than 74 fire departments across 20 counties, as well as state and federal agencies.   How in the world would Amherst and our surrounding towns (in NH and Mass) ever be able to safely battle a fire like this? This is just one example of many.

      It only makes sense to limit the size of the distribution center, limiting the risk to our public safety teams and surrounding areas, while still allowing industrial growth in the town of Amherst. 

      Please vote YES for articles 49, 50 and 51.


Barbara Staffiere


Tom Quinn - Planning Board For a 3 Year Term

To the editor:            

      My name is Tom Quinn and I am an incumbent member of the Board and I am running for a new three year term.  I grew up in Amherst and am now raising a family here.  There is a reason I have lived in town for a good portion of my life.  Amherst is a beautiful place to live.  The town is beautiful and the people that live here are wonderful too.

      I am glad we are talking about Planning Board elections.  A few short years ago, this was an appointed board and there was no easy way for citizens to change the makeup of the PB.  I worked on and supported the initiative a few years back to make this an elected board and I am proud of that.  They said “nobody would run” when our citizen petition came out and I am still waiting on my first uncontested race!

      One reason I ran in the first Planning Board election and one reason I am running again is to give citizens a seat at the table, along with developers and landowners, such that neither side has unequal say.  In my opinion, just a few short years ago, this balance did not exist.

      Another reason I am running is to continue to be a voice for what citizens want to see in Amherst and what is most important to them.  A recent effort to revise the Master Plan started with a town wide survey with well over 1000 responses.  Of those that rated development concerns a highest priority or a high priority:

·         82% agreed it was important to maintain rural character and feeling

·         71% agreed it is important to limit residential density

·         85% agreed it is important to secure and preserve water resources

      I thought it was great to see so many citizen driven petitions this year that involved these and other issues.  I supported most petitions at the board level even though I may not agree with the details of all of them.  I do not believe I know better than the citizens at the ballot box and that the work and efforts of the citizens to make changes in their community should not be discouraged by me in any way.  Time will tell what everyone thinks of the citizen’s petitions at the ballot box.  In any case, I applaud the efforts of all the citizens involved.  

      Going forward I would look to do the following:

  1. Continue to weigh and balance citizen’s rights, interests and concerns along with the rights of landowners and developers to the best of my ability and in line with current legal realities.

  2. I will not vote for excess housing density over what is “by right” or legally allowed in zoning.

  3. I believe it is important to keep a sharp eye out for development impacts on the schools (especially the lower grades) where large class sizes and sub standard facilities are a current problem.  (There is a large bond on the ballot in March to address these issues.)

  4.  I believe it is equally important to thoughtfully consider the various other impacts of development including general environmental impacts to habitats and sensitive areas, water quality, aquifer protection, traffic, noise and the other impacts directly related to the project location that may affect abutters, neighbors, the neighborhood or the town as a whole.  

  5. Lastly, I think it is important to keep the master plan in mind when reviewing applications and when thinking about zoning or regulatory changes.  While this document is not controlling or binding in any way, it is a guide.   

      I hope you will consider me for a vote on March 14, 2023.  It has been a pleasure to serve with a thoughtful and professional board over the past few years and I look forward to doing it again with your support. 


Tom Quinn


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