NSNA Circulates Northampton Trees & Wetlands Petition

The North Street Neighborhood Association is now circulating a Northampton Trees & Wetlands Petition (MS Word version, Rich Text File version). The text of the petition reads:

Northampton was designated a “Tree City” in 2005, in recognition for its commitment to community trees and forests. Nevertheless, large, cherished trees continue to be cut down without public review, sometimes in quantity. These trees benefit the city as a whole by cooling local temperatures, removing air pollutants, absorbing water, reducing erosion, buffering sound, providing habitats for animals, and looking beautiful. We would like Northampton’s city officials to consider adopting some of the tree protections that exist in other Massachusetts communities like Lexington and Springfield.

Northampton is also home to numerous wetlands, which further enhance the natural beauty of the city and play a role in flood mitigation. Ordinance language now being considered by city officials states:

Problems with nutrient runoff, erosion, siltation, loss of groundwater recharge, poor water quality, vegetation change and harm to wildlife habitat are greatly exacerbated by activities within 100 feet of wetlands. These impacts may happen either immediately, or over time, as a consequence of construction, or as a consequence of daily operation.

Despite acknowledging the fragility and value of wetlands, the city is actively considering laws to encourage new development to encroach as close as 10 feet to wetlands in downtown districts.

We, the undersigned, urge Mayor Clare Higgins and the Northampton City Council to:

1) Pass an ordinance to protect “significant trees”
such that all “significant trees”, whether on public or private land, may not be cut down in whole or substantial part without permission from the Northampton Tree Committee or other appropriate official body. A significant tree is one which is 75 years old or older, or is 3 or more feet in diameter at chest height. The Tree Committee would take into account whether the tree is diseased, damaged, or poses a danger to people or property, and whether not taking action on the tree would impose a hardship on the property owner that exceeds the public’s interest in preserving the tree.

2) Revise Northampton’s wetlands protection ordinance to emphasize that new development should not occur within 100 feet of a wetland in any part of the city unless exceptional circumstances apply,
such as the property owner demonstrating to the city that their hardship in being restrained from development exceeds the public’s interest in protecting wetlands.

The proposed ordinances are intended to benefit the entire city. They express that downtown residents–human and animal–need and are entitled to green space just as residents in outlying areas. Please download, sign and mail the petition to North Street Neighborhood Association, 351 Pleasant Street, PMB 222, Northampton, MA 01060-3961.

Revision History

Initial version released online.

Expanded “Northampton is also home to numerous wetlands, which further enhance the natural beauty of the city” to add “and play a role in flood mitigation”.


“…the city is actively considering laws to permit new development to encroach as close as 10 feet to wetlands, especially in downtown districts…”


“…the city is actively considering laws to encourage
new development to encroach as close as 10 feet to wetlands in downtown districts…”

This change recognizes the reality that
the city has permitted developers to build as close as 10 feet to
wetlands in the past, as in the Industrial Park area. A hallmark of the
proposed new wetlands ordinance language,
however, is its stated desire to “encourage infill development”. We are
concerned that language like this will put wetlands on the defensive in
downtown districts, overweighting development relative to environmental
concerns and flood mitigation.

See also:

Kohl’s Condo Proposal: Where Things Stand, and What You Can Do
Kohl Construction proposes to build 31 condo units
in the forest between North Street and the bike path. This development,
with its access roads and 66 parking spaces, will claim 5.49 acres of

Surrounded by developed areas on all sides, our forest is one of the
few substantial stands of trees in downtown Northampton. A distinctive
and beautiful feature of our neighborhood, the forest cools the air,
buffers sound from I-91 and King Street, smells great, absorbs water,
and provides a habitat for deer and small animals of all kinds.

Parks moderate urban temperatures (source: EPA)

A wetland centered on Millyard Brook runs through the heart of the forest. The buffer area
around a wetland is important in itself, an edge zone of high species
diversity that helps regulate water flows into the wetland. These areas
are fragile, can take a long time to establish, and are easily
disturbed by development. The consequences of development around
wetlands are often increased flooding in wet periods and more severe
dryness during droughts.

Urban ‘infill’ development is laudable
when it reclaims parking lots, brownfields and decayed structures.
However, Kohl’s proposal will impact substantial amounts of natural
green space, in conflict with the ecological goals of Northampton’s Sustainability Plan.