The Town of Amherst is the new owner of a 150-acre parcel of land on West Pomeroy Lane in South Amherst, formerly home to the Hickory Ridge Golf Course. After almost four years of planning, the Town recently paid $520,000 for the land, a bargain sale negotiated with the owner, Fort River Solar 2, LLC. The land has been appraised at $5,025,000. The seller will retain the option of leasing 26 acres of parcel from the Town for 20 years to install a solar array that will produce 6.44 megawatts of electricity annually. The solar array will include a 3,500-kilowatt battery storage system.
Town Manager Paul Bockelman said, “These 150 acres with over a mile of frontage on the Fort River provide a unique opportunity for the Town. Securing this very special land will reap benefits for generations to come. I credit Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek and his team for bringing this complicated transaction across the finish line. And I thank Barry Roberts, and Dave Wasenda for their foresight in recognizing the values this land has for the community.”
"Hickory Ridge will address many priorities for the Town,” added Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek. “It will increase the amount of solar power generated in the region; protect the riverfront and important habitat for common and rare species; make over 100 acres of open space available to the public including miles of cart paths and walking trails; offer land for potential future development to meet community needs; and provide a safe pedestrian connection for residents on East Hadley Road to access the newly created open space and the Pomeroy Village Center shopping district.”
In selling the property, longtime resident Barry Roberts said, “I was born, raised, and have lived my entire life in South Amherst. This Town, this area, is very special to me. I am pleased to be able to make this important contribution to making our Town better. We see this as a win-win, and I credit the Town staff for their diligence and attention to every detail.”
Town Council President Lynn Griesemer added, “I am so pleased that the Town Council saw the wisdom of providing the funds to enable this purchase to occur. Even when funds are tight, we must assert our role as wise stewards for those will live in our Town well into the future. This land will be our legacy.”
The Town will now move forward to develop a master plan for the site, with a vision for how the site will be programmed, managed, and funded for the foreseeable future. The Town has already begun to solicit resident input and involvement through online and in-person surveys and forums. Amherst will also receive an annual Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for the solar project.
The Town kicked off a public planning process in October 2021 with a series of events called ‘Discover Hickory Ridge’ which were attended by over 200 residents and provided those in attendance an opportunity to learn more about and explore the soon-to-be public land and to offer ideas, visions, and suggestions for how the land should be used and managed. Town officials held similar events at the Mill Valley Apartments which abut Hickory Ridge to the north.
Outreach is also happening online with a new tool called ‘Engage Amherst’, which allows residents to share ideas and suggestions on a dedicated website for Hickory Ridge, engageamherst.org/hickory To date, over 285 ideas and comments have been contributed by community members about future land uses and ideas for Hickory Ridge – including walking trails, housing development, mountain biking trails, disk golf, and theater/entertainment space.