Letter to Gazette: “Increased housing density will hurt Northampton”

Saturdays’ Gazette publishes a letter from Beverly Parker Bingham of Northampton. She expresses concerns about the higher densities sought in the draft Sustainable Northampton Plan:

…The Northampton we all wish to sustain is the Northampton that we have now…

The Northampton League of Women Voters was the major force behind the creation of our master plan. The most important source of our motivation to accomplish this was the situation at that time in the City of Springfield, which seemed to be in a constant state of turmoil. Springfield, lacking a master plan and zoning ordinance, had been allowed to grow into a dense conglomeration of crime-infested neighborhoods, the effects of which were being felt here.

Increasing the population density of our residential neighborhoods is the very opposite of what is needed to sustain the quality of life here in our beautiful city. It is the very thing that destroyed Springfield, a city that had been a lovely residential city, the remnants of which are still visible behind the rubble.

See also:

The New Draft Sustainable Northampton Plan: Balancing Compact Growth Against Taxes, Urban Greenspace, Homeowner Preferences; Come to the November 8 Hearing
These changes have the potential to reduce or eliminate the yards that separate homes from each other and from streets. This loss of greenspace may well entail a loss of privacy, attractiveness, flood protection (through an increase in impervious surfaces), and an increase in the heat island effect, noise and congestion. If fewer trees are shading homes, cooling costs are likely to rise…

The Plan calls for high and medium density housing in downtown and the “more densely developed areas”, 12-65 units per acre… (p.13)


1) You own a home with 30-foot greenbelts on each side that separate you from your neighbors. These trees are handsome to look at, shade your home, absorb water, freshen the air, and give you privacy. A year later, developers buy the houses on either side of you, tear them down, and build four-story condos with eight units each. The condos have been permitted to come closer to your lot line, so the gap between you and your neighbors has been reduced to 15 feet on each side. Several mature trees had to be cut down. You find you now have clear views into your neighbors’ kitchens, and you need to draw your shades for privacy. The noise and heat in your immediate surroundings have increased noticeably. It’s much harder to find a parking space. The amount of impervious surface surrounding your home has increased, so your basement now floods during the larger rainstorms. To top it off, the assessed value of your property has increased by 30%, based on new valuations of the neighboring lots, and your property taxes have risen proportionately. You begin to think about selling out and moving to the suburbs to recapture the greenspace, peace and quiet you used to enjoy, along with property values you can afford…
Pictures of Northampton Streets at Various Densities

Berkeley, California: Cautions on Infill
Renters and other high-density residents are expected to do without adequate living space, greenspace, quiet, and cars; and without cars, they lack the freedom, pleasure, and mobility taken for granted by average Americans. This is ethically unacceptable…