First created in the 1960's and expanded again in 1986 and 2009, the Municipal Parking District is a zoning overlay district intended "to encourage the dense development and pedestrian spaces in Amherst Town Center".
The Zoning Bylaw describes the Municipal Parking District as:
The Municipal Parking District is an overlay district and shall be superimposed on other districts established by this Bylaw. Restrictions and prohibitions of land use in the underlying district shall remain in full force and shall not be modified by the conditions of the MP District unless superseded by the restrictions and prohibitions of the MP District.
The purpose of this district is to encourage the dense development of mixed-use buildings and pedestrian spaces in Amherst Town Center. Toward that end, provision of off-street parking is not required for selected uses within the MP District.
The following is a map of the current MPD boundaries:
2009 Municipal Parking District Expansion
The area of the Municipal Parking District was expanded in 2009. In part, the Planning Board Report to Town Meeting explains:
This purpose is consistent with the community’s increased emphasis on denser, sustainable development in our centers—the ‘village center’ concept strongly supported in the community planning process and described in the draft Master Plan. Since the late 1950s, the MPD has supported this policy by relieving selected downtown uses from the requirement to provide parking. This frees up some surface area of downtown properties so that those areas can be covered with buildings or pedestrian uses, instead of parking lots.
A complete copy of the Planning Board Report to Town Meeting, maps, and minority report are here:
This amendment changed the name of this section from "Municipal Parking Zone" to "Municipal Parking District" and created the area as an overlay district in the Zoning Bylaw. As described in the report, there were some updates to the names of use categories to match 2008 terminology rather than 1960's terminology. The amendment included minor changes to the boundaries to eliminate areas where the boundary crossed a building, for example.
As noted in the Planning Board Report to Town Meeting:
During development and consideration of this technical correction, several substantial
policy issues were raised:
How much of the downtown General Business (B-G) District should the Municipal Parking District affect?
Should the Municipal Parking District regulations apply to the abutting B-L Districts as well?
Are there ways in which the regulations within this district should be adjusted to include or exclude other uses?
What other changes in downtown zoning parking regulations should be considered?
For the purposes of completing this amendment as a straightforward technical change, the Planning Board has deliberately chosen to not address these issues under Article 27, but instead to add them to the growing list of needed amendments for further development and consideration at a future Town Meeting.
The amendment in 2009 appears to the be the response to these larger policy questions.
1986 Expansion of the Municipal Parking District (Zone)
This change to the Municipal Parking District (Zone) exempted residential uses downtown from requiring on-site parking. It was the culmination of at least two years of study. As described in the Planning Board Report to Town Meeting:
In June 1984, a Town Center Task Force was appointed to review and make recommendations on development issues in the downtown. The Task Force completed its report with its recommendations in late 1984. One of the major issues the Task Force debated was the loss of residential units in the Town Center. Members believed that it was to the Town’s benefit to encourage the retention and/or production of housing. One of the methods to accomplish this would be to reduce obstacles to residential use in the downtown. Both this article (Article 55) and Article 56 are in response to the concerns and recommendations of the Town Center Task Force.
The Downtown Subcommittee of the Planning Board has spent the past six months also discussion downtown issues. The subcommittee has used the Final Report of the Task Force as a starting point in its discussions. The subcommittee and Planning Board expect to continue reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations over the next year and will develop additional Bylaw amendments as appropriate. Therefore, these two Articles are the first steps in addressing downtown issues.