Northampton Redoubt: “North Street area citizens join together”

Valley Advocate blogger Daryl LaFleur this week reports on NSNA’s July 21 barbecue with a long article on Northampton Redoubt. Some excerpts:

More than sixty people attended the North Street Neighborhood Association Barbecue [Saturday], July 21 to learn about Douglas Kohl’s 31-unit condominium project proposed for their area…

Situated close to a wetland area, the project calls
for the creation of five detention ponds to handle the storm water
run-off that will be
created by adding asphalt and buildings to an area where impervious
surfaces do not currently exist. The project proposes to eliminate part
of a forest that supports Northampton’s urban ecology. Comprised of
three and four bedroom market rate units in the $300 thousand range,
the development will add significant traffic to well traveled North
Street, a narrow two lane road in poor condition lacking sidewalks
along certain stretches and without any crosswalks or lane markings.

to the city’s website North Street carries from 5,000 to 10,000
vehicles daily. At eight vehicle trips estimated per vehicle, if the
sprawling single use subdivision averages two vehicles per unit, about
500 new vehicles trips per day will be added to an already congested
street. This doesn’t account for service vehicles and visitors…

There was much enthusiasm on display at the barbecue, tempered by
concern for the future of the neighborhood. Some questions raised to

  • How much development is not over-burdensome for the existing neighborhood?…
  • Will the city hear concerns and agree with them?
  • Why
    does city leadership value open spaces in the outlying areas of the
    city more highly than open spaces near downtown that add to the quality
    of life of residents?…

See also:

Kohl’s Condo Proposal: Where Things Stand and What You Can Do
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

The urban forest behind North Street is already surrounded by development

The crucial large lots slated for condos are 25C-012 and 25C-017.
The plan calls for adding pavement to View Avenue and the “paper
street” between View and Northern to provide access for the condo
residents. 66 parking spaces are planned. For more detail, download the
PDF of Map 25C

The proposed condos will encroach close to wetlands. Note the planned artificial “detention pools” to manage the
substantial water flows in this area. These are inferior
substitutes for naturally-evolved forests and wetlands

the Ordinance Committee meeting on July 24, 6:00pm at 212 Main Street
in City Council Chambers. This meeting will discuss changes to
Northampton’s wetlands regulations

Association is concerned that the buffer zone around wetlands for many
areas of Northampton will shrink from 100 feet to as little as 10 feet,
even as ordinance language now being considered (PDF) 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.

We urge you to ask officials at this meeting to preserve 100-foot
buffer zones for wetlands throughout the city unless extraordinary
circumstances apply.

the Tree Committee meeting on July 24, 6:30pm at 125 Locust Street and
push for stronger protections for Northampton’s trees

Even though Northampton has been designated as a “Tree City”, a number of other communities in the state have stronger protections for their trees. We encourage you to ask the Tree Committee to promote local ordinances that will protect “significant trees”. In Springfield,
property owners must demonstrate to the city forester that they have
good reasons to remove or cut back trees that are over 75 years old or
more than 3 feet in diameter at chest height.

Express your opinions to your elected officials and the local media:

Contact Mayor Clare Higgins
City Hall Room 12, 210 Main Street, Northampton, MA 01060, 413-587-1249,

Contact your Northampton City Councilor
Ward 3: Marilyn Richards, City Hall Room 18, 210 Main Street, Northampton, MA 01060, 413-586-2519,

Write a letter to the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Write a letter to The Republican

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. 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 permit new development to encroach as
close as 10 feet to wetlands, especially 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.