Northampton Planning Board to Meet on Implementing Sustainable Northampton Plan

Northampton’s Planning Board will meet on Thursday, February 7 and Thursday, March 6 to discuss and plan for the implementation of the Sustainable Northampton Comprehensive Plan. These meetings begin at 6pm and may last for two hours each. We urge concerned citizens to attend at City Hall, 210 Main Street, 2nd Floor, Room 10 (enter via the rear door).

These meetings are where laws that affect the character and quality of life in neighborhoods will be discussed. Some of these laws may also affect your property values and tax bill. It is vital that residents inform themselves about these proposals before they become set in stone.

See also:

Planning Board Adopts Sustainable Northampton Plan
We are encouraged by language like “ensure that new development does not degrade the quality of existing neighborhoods and mitigates traffic” and “encouraging designs compatible with historic neighborhoods”. We are concerned, however, about the reference to densities of 50 years ago. Much has changed since then. In particular, women have far more jobs outside the home, meaning more cars are on the road. By the same token, more families have become too busy to dedicate an adult to shopping in small amounts on a daily basis. If you’re buying 50 pounds of groceries and supplies at a time, you’re probably going to prefer to do that by car rather than walk or use the bus. Factors like these mean that a neighborhood that had comfortable density in 1957 might be perceived as congested with cars today.

NY Times Magazine: “The Autonomist Manifesto (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Road)”
Some…especially the young and the childless, are moving back to cities, and once again there are private developers ready to meet their desires, which now run toward lofts and historic town houses with modern kitchens. But for most middle-class families, the ideal of city life conflicts with the reality of their own lives. Even if they’re willing to do without a yard, how can they afford to live in a decent neighborhood within easy commute of their jobs? How will they go shopping on a rainy day with a child in tow?

Our Column in Today’s Gazette: The Hidden Risks of ‘Smart Growth’
Steven Greenhut: “Creating unattractive and high-density projects in a place awash in open space only pushes people farther out into the countryside. In Belgrade, eight miles away, one finds market-driven suburban-style subdivisions. That city does not have many restrictions, and those who cannot afford Bozeman or who want a bigger place simply move away, thus promoting the sprawl that Smart Growthers are trying to stop…”

The New Draft Sustainable Northampton Plan: Balancing Compact Growth Against Taxes, Urban Greenspace, Homeowner Preferences
The Plan calls for high and medium density housing in downtown and the “more densely developed areas”, 12-65 units per acre. (p.13) If zoning rules are changed to facilitate this, it could mean that a parcel of land that represented one buildable lot could come to represent two lots or more. When land can be developed more intensely, its assessed value might rise. If you want to sell, you might be thrilled. If you don’t, however, the main impact on you might be a larger real estate tax bill. As the Plan acknowledges, “increased property values are desirable but not the increased property tax and decreased affordability that comes with increased value.” (p.17)