Ask the City Council to Stand Up for Wetlands on September 6

On September 6, an unacceptably weak wetlands ordinance will come before Northampton’s City Council. Developers will be encouraged to encroach as close as 10 feet to wetlands in downtown areas. Vernal pool protection has been put in limbo. This will facilitate such ill-conceived proposals as Kohl Construction’s 31-unit condo development slated for the woods behind North Street. This area, which likely abuts one or more vernal pools, is known to have experienced flood damage from Tropical Storm Floyd in 1999.

As recently as 2004, the City Council acknowledged the value of wetlands buffer zones when it approved a Flood and Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. This plan noted that 100-foot buffers around wetlands were an effective strategy to combat flooding, and said that consistently enforcing wetlands regulations in the city was a “priority action”. This wisdom appears to have vanished in the face of today’s latest planning craze-infill-even as we observe the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The list of Massachusetts cities that respect the benefits of their wetlands is long, including Stockbridge, Wayland, Hopkinton, Barnstable, Boxborough, Chilmark and Belchertown. Springfield requires a minimum of a 50-foot undisturbed buffer around wetlands. Paradise City, famous for its balance of civilization and nature, deserves no less. Call Mayor Clare Higgins and your City Councilor today and urge them to reject the proposed Wetlands Ordinance. While this ordinance may make a few developers happy and stimulate a brief surge in tax revenue, it is supported neither by science nor by a consensus of the people.

We encourage all concerned citizens to attend Thursday’s City Council meeting. The public comment period begins at 7:15pm. The meeting will take place in City Council Chambers, 212 Main Street, behind City Hall.