Smart Growth Leadership Case Library
reaction to planned development after people faced the reality of what could happen at the corner.
In 2001, the Town hired Dodson Associates, Inc., a landscape architecture and planning firm of Ashfield, Mass., to create a development plan for Atkins Corner, with funding from the Livable Communities Grant Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dodson Associates saw the project as a possible blueprint for development that could be applied not only at Atkins Corner, but elsewhere in Amherst. In its final report, Dodson Associates states a main objective, “to reach a community consensus around a specific plan, so that the community could visualize the choices and work with the developers and designers to produce a superior and more sustainable result.”
According to Brock Cutting of Dodson Associates, the intent was to keep the community in the planning process at all stages. In their experience, there were “a zillion” points of view on how the area should be developed and what uses were acceptable. By the time the Dodson team began work, there was no longer much resistance to development of the area in general, although there were still a few people firmly against it. Most knew development would happen – how much would happen, and what kinds of uses would be permitted became sources of intense discussion.
The limitations of the site, itself, “pushed the envelope of people’s comfort” with respect to density, according to Cutting. For the area to be attractive to a developer, it would have to provide enough building opportunity to afford a fair return on investment. The Town and Dodson Associates had a vision of the site as a southern “gateway” into Amherst, which presumed a certain level of density. According to Cutting, “We wanted something where you knew when you went by, that you had arrived somewhere.”