Former Amherst billiards hall may serve as transitional housing for ServiceNet

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 01-02-2023 11:29 AM

AMHERST — An East Amherst village center building that once housed the long-running Michael’s Billiards could be converted into 12 efficiency apartments for ServiceNet clients.

The Planning Board is in the midst of doing a site plan review for an application from the Northampton social service agency for converting 12-20 Belchertown Road into the housing and office space for staff members.

Site improvements proposed by the agency include repaving and restriping the existing parking lot, removing a building entrance and installing new pedestrian walkways. Inside, the space used as a restaurant and fitness studio will be turned into the apartments and office.

Planning Director Christine Brestrup said the project is exempt from many zoning regulations since the proposal is for a nonprofit use allowed under state law. The town can only place modest restrictions on what takes place at the property.

“There is a limited number of things you can do to restrict this project,” Brestrup said.

Though no decision was made at the board’s Dec. 7 meeting, with the hearing continuing on Jan. 4 pending Conservation Commission review due to proximity to a stream, planners appeared to be largely favorable to the project.

Board member Janet McGowan wrote in her comments prior to the meeting that the proposal “looks like a strong project to fill in a missing need,” though that it appropriate to let those living at the neighboring property, College Inn Apartments, 10 Belchertown Road, know about the new use.

Some of the discussion centered on whether the project will need as much parking as its commercial tenants have and if more green space could be created.

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ServiceNet will be buying the property from the company that owns it, A Nelson LLC, which is managed by Annie and Cari Lo of Hadley.

Cari Lo was the last owner of Michael’s Billiards, which closed in 2018. That business opened in 1986 at the former site of the Poor Richard’s bar. Annie Lo ran Route 9 Pizza out of the same site until her retirement.

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