Voters will decide whether or not they want to purchase a plot of land that can be developed for replacement recreational fields.
The Board of Selectmen encouraged residents at Wednesday's deliebrative session to support purchasing the 6.5 acre plot of land between Merrimack Road at the Route 101 overpass on the east side of 101 and the south side of Merrimack Road.
The intent of the board is to purchase the $180,000 plot of land from the state this year before it gets snatched up by another buyer, and then
Amherst will lose recreation space on Cemetery Fields in 2014, when the land goes back into the hands of the cemetery trustees.
William J. Seymour, director of civil engineering at Gale Associates, Inc., told residents that their study showed that the fields in town are already overused. They found that 5,700 scheduled events happen each year, which averages to about 328 uses between the 17 fields in town.
Additional strain will be put onto the current fields after the loss of Cemetery Fields, which could be helped with the purchase and development of the land.
Seymour said that the property is perfect for development and can fit two multi-purpose fields, a baseball diamond, two playgrounds, a walking path and 70+ parking spaces.
It also has a limited number of residential abutters and no environmental restraints.
Chair Bruce Bowler said that they are still looking at estimates for the cost of developing the land into recreational space, with the intention of putting that before voters next year.
The ways and means committee, along with many members of the audience, expressed support for the land purchase.
“This town is lacking in the amount of field space to accommodate all the programs we have,” said Marilyn Peterman of Amherst.
Ted Landon of Amherst was one of the few voices in opposition to the land purchase, saying that there are other plots of land that are cheaper. He added that the town can use the Brewster fields that was voted down by Amherst voters and bought by contractor Brad Knight.
His amendment to effectively cripple the land purchase was shot down by a most of the voters present.
Supporters of the land purchase pointed out that abutters to Bewster fields were heavily against using the land for athletic fields and that the proposed land purchase provides the perfect replacement to Cemetery Fields.
“That piece of land is absolutely perfect to build ball fields on,” said homebuilder Steve Desmarais. “I know all the land for sale, there is nothing that compares to this.”
Selectman George Infanti added that if they fail to purchase the land in March, then other buyers will be quick to pounce on the property.