Hike funding

CPA committee recommends funding renovations to private historic homes in Amherst

AMHERST — Directing some of the Community Preservation Act money toward renovating private historic buildings is raising concerns among some members of the finance committee.

While the CPA committee is recommending $2.88 million in new spending, including $359,000 for improvements to two private homes, the finance committee will decide on Tuesday whether to approve the same list of projects.

At a recent meeting, District 1 Councilman Cathy Schoen said her concern was whether $240,000 earmarked for the Conkey-Stevens House, a private condominium building at 664 Main Street in the historic district of East Amherst, were appropriate. The money is to be used to repair the slate roof, porch and chimneys of the 1840 brick building.

“I question the use of CPA funds when there’s really no public benefit here other than being able to watch it as we drive down the street,” Schoen said.

Schoen said she fears it will set a precedent where other landlords seek financial assistance. Instead, the city council could create a stricter policy on who can apply for such funding.

Another $135,000 is for painting and repairing the Amherst Woman’s Club at 35 Triangle St., also known as Alice Maud Hills House. The building is owned by a non-profit association.

Bernie Kubiak, a member of the committee, said imposing preservation restrictions on the two properties could be one way to solve the problem.

But Council Speaker Lynn Griesemer said she believes a precedent was set years ago when the town assembly approved APC money to save the Kimball Farm from demolition on North East Street.

District 5 Councilwoman Ana Devlin Gauthier, who once served on the CPA committee, said the historical commission strongly recommends spending on the Conkey-Stevens building because its appearance is important to the surrounding neighborhood.

Many cities are investing CPA money in important historic structures, Deputy City Manager David Ziomek said.

A forum on CPA spending will take place before the final vote by city council this spring.

The $2.88 million in various housing, recreation and historic initiatives recommended by the CPS Committee is down from the $3.56 million in projects that were submitted.

The most expensive project is $500,000 for the acquisition and development of transitional housing which will also use $1 million in federal funds from the American Recovery Program Act. The idea is to provide housing and services to people who have not been able to live independently.

Ziomek said staff were exploring a number of options for a site, both for transitional housing and permanent overnight shelter which has been short of churches since 2009.

Another $250,000 will go towards affordable housing development, such as construction projects on Belchertown Road and the former East Street school site, where the city is reviewing concepts from bidders who responded to the city’s request. . Ziomek told the committee that the review process is ongoing.

“We are very excited about the project,” said Ziomek. “We think that’s going to translate into a very significant number of affordable units for the city.”

Other projects in line for CPA funds include $150,000 for Hickory Ridge trail improvements and $120,000 for pickleball courts, which could be built in the Mill River Recreation Area, or may -be near the War Memorial Pool.

The sum of $800,000 has not yet been allocated to the new secondary stream of the Amherst-Pelham regional schools.

An application for a proposed pavilion for North Amherst Farm has been withdrawn and the PCA committee has determined that any upgrades to the North Amherst Cemetery fence are not eligible because the fence is not original to the site. site.