When I ran for Council in 2018 for District 1 (Precincts 1 and 3), I pledged to be a strong, independent voice on behalf of our diverse community’s needs and aspirations, as well as on town-wide issues of shared concern.
Thanks to the collective efforts of multiple residents, I was able to secure a new “smart” traffic light at the intersection by the Library and to persuade the State to lower the speed limit on State Route 63/Montague Road.
During the next two years I hope to be able to get the promised study for an East Pleasant Street sidewalk (started with a resident initiative) and to work with our community and Town staff to secure funding support for a longer-term solution to the dangerous intersection by the Church and Library.
There will also be challenges ahead as investors look to North Amherst for opportunities to new developments. And we continue to face challenges as our neighborhoods are home to a large number of students living in multiple apartment complexes who are not well integrated into the broader community. With students returning to on-campus classes, the risk of new outbreaks of COVID add to ongoing concerns living together. The Council and Town Manager will need to work with UMass to enforce and strengthen steps to protect community health in the Fall and during next year.
North Amherst is also one of the lowest income areas of Amherst, qualifying as a Federal Opportunity Zone due to incomes below town and state averages and high rates of poverty. This tax status makes North Amherst and attractive place to invest. Yet, developments that replace open unprotected farm lands with building and parking areas potential threaten surrounding farms due as water is displaced along with natural habitat and open fields.,
For nearly forty years, my family has lived in North Amherst surrounded by farmland, forests, hiking trails, and Puffer’s Pond as well as a vibrant and diverse community of neighbors. District One has a wealth of resources: our own Post Office, the oldest library in Amherst, innovative co-housing communities, numerous farms including the newly opened Simple Gifts farm store, the Amherst Survival Center, the Fisher Hospice, the Renaissance and Holocaust Centers, the Black Walnut Inn, the Harp and other eating establishments, the Mill River Recreation center and the soon-to-open North Square/Mill District.
During numerous neighborhood gatherings I attended in 2018 and conversations over the past three years, community members have emphasized a number of concerns.
- Positive Development: We need to assure that economic development enhances the quality of community life in North Amherst and preserves our natural resource assets. Development in our village center will increase traffic and use of Mill River, Puffer’s Pond and other outdoor resources. This requires action to address long-time concerns about roads, sidewalks, bike trails, and traffic speed.
- Getting Around Safely: We need to fix roads, add and repair sidewalks and cross-walks at key intersections, improve bike lanes, put speed bumps on busy cross streets with children and lower speed limits on Montague Road and East Pleasant to assure safety. We also desperately need a sidewalk on East Pleasant. Traffic concerns intensify when UMass is in session. With the North Square fully open and occupied there will be an increasing need to find a solution to the traffic flow and safety at the intersection by the North Amherst library.
- North Amherst Library: Thanks to a very generous anonymous donation, the North Amherst Library will expand to include bathrooms, a community room and a lift to make it fully accessible. As plans to address the intersection materialize, I pledge to protect the Library. It is and will be an important community center; one that brings persons of all ages together.
- Innovative Farms: Farms provide North Amherst and all of Amherst with a source of fresh local produce and dairy products. Sustaining farms will require understanding the spillover impact of developments in adjacent areas. Many farmers have land committed to preservation in agricultural trusts. Looking forward, policies will need to enable the co-existence of farms and the district’s expanding population.
If elected, I will work with community members to identify actions that will enhance the vibrancy and diversity of District 1 and continue to make it a special, diverse place to live.