Mayor says access not denied
© Eric Sparling – Amherst Daily News
Dink Gouchie has two signs on the border of his property: No Pucking Trespassing, and Thieves Town. He’s been under the impression the street his property fronts on, Victor Avenue, has been sold by the town for a new school site. But that’s not the case, says the town.
AMHERST – The sign has been changed with spray paint. It now reads ‘ No Pucking Trespassing’. It was harsher before.
The sign – both versions – was created by the landowner, James ‘Dink’ Gouchie.
“It’s an injustice, and I have a right to cry about it,” said the 78-year old.
Gouchie fears access to a piece of property he owns on Victor Avenue will be lost or reduced when the new West Highland Elementary School is built.
“You’re taking something from me,” said the man.
Except it looks like it hasn’t been taken from him, at least not yet.
The landowner was under the impression the actual street, Victor, had been sold by the town for use by the school board (the street, up at Gouchie’s end, is a dirt track that devolves into undergrowth). With the street supposedly sold, the landowner was wondering what provisions were going to be made to ensure he had access to his land.
“We haven’t sold Victor Avenue,” said Amherst’s mayor, Robert Small.
The part of Cornwall Avenue needed for the school has been sold, but Victor has not.
“Yes, it was part of the RFP,” said Small, but the town has asked the school board to try and design the school site without the land occupied by Victor.
The mayor said the RFP called for a piece of land seven-plus acres in size – he didn’t have the exact size readily at hand – so Victor was included to meet that requirement.
He said that if the school board does need the street, they’ve already set a requirement that development won’t landlock privately held property – access will be ensured.
The landowner’s home is on a second property, adjacent to the Victor property, that fronts onto Cordovan Street. Between them, the two parcels stretch from one street to the next.
“I’m not an unreasonable person,” said Gouchie.
When a police officer came by to tell him his sign couldn’t be left with an ‘F’ at the start of the second word, the owner eventually compromised by spray painting the offending letter, turning it into a ‘P’. (He told the officer to charge him immediately, he said, but the officer was patient with him.)
Gouchie claimed the other property owners on Victor are sympathetic to his cause.
“They’re pissed, too,” he said.
Gouchie’s not opposed to the school, and there is a financial fix, according to him, if the road is needed: some combination of deeded access plus money, or more money if access is removed entirely. But there’s been no discussion about compensation, he said.
“Talk to me…talk to us,” he said.
Contacted after this newspaper spoke with the mayor, Gouchie reiterated his understanding the property had been sold. When told that wasn’t the case, he said he’d gotten that impression from a town meeting he attended where, he claimed, a town representative indicated in the affirmative when Gouchie asked if the town had been compensated for Victor Avenue. The landowner further asserted that a 20-foot right-of-way, which he said was discussed at the same meeting, would be insufficient to allow him to sell the property in the future.