Why you should be concerned about Footnote M

Attention District 3 residents who live in the RG (General Residence) neighborhood bounded by Amity and UMass; N. Prospect Street and Sunset Avenue

I realize footnotes in the Dimensional Regulations Table are not top of mind for most of us, but lately, the proposed removal of Footnote m has been keeping me awake nights. Unfortunately, if you read further, it may well have the same effect on you.

Although we were able to have it tabled during the current Council session, removing Footnote m from the Dimensional Regulations Table will be on the Council agenda again in 2022. Please bear with me – I realize this is definitely “in the weeds.”

A number of current Town Councilors are determined to “solve” Amherst’s housing problems by maximizing densification in our General Residence (RG) neighborhoods. In order to make it more attractive for developers to purchase residential properties in RG districts – so they can maximize the number of student dwelling units and parking spaces that can be erected on what are now single-family lots – a number of Councilors are eager to get rid of Footnote m.

With Footnote m in place, there must be 4,000 square feet of land for every new dwelling built on a lot, which is bad enough. Without Footnote m, only 2,500 square feet of land will be needed for each additional dwelling. For example, with Footnote m in place (as is now the case), a home on one of the larger lots on Lincoln Avenue could have up to 9.6 units. If Footnote m is lifted, that same property could become home to 15.4 units (and up to 20 parking spaces). Another lot on Sunset (between Amity and Elm Streets) could have up to 16 units if Footnote m is removed.

In the neighborhood between Amity and UMass, multiple dwellings on a single lot will almost certainly translate into student rentals.

The slides below were prepared by the Amherst Planning Dept. to illustrate the number of dwellings that could be built on single-family lots in RG neighborhoods following the removal of Footnote m. (Some of the slides show the potential build-out on properties belonging to you and/or your neighbors.)

It’s not hyperbolic to say that removing Footnote m could destroy the fabric of life as we know it in the neighborhood between Amity and UMass.

Below are selected slides from the February 24, 2021 Footnote “m” Presentation to the Planning Board.