Northampton’s Rezoning Subcommittee held its fourth meeting at Forbes Library on August 4. The two members of the city council (Michael Bardsley, David Murphy) and two members of the planning board (George Kohout, Kenneth Jodrie) worked to nail down the optimal size and composition of the prospective Rezoning Committee. Planning director Wayne Feiden attended the meeting as a member of the audience.
Here is a 77-minute Google video of the complete meeting. The next meeting of the Rezoning Subcommittee will take place in Forbes Library (mezzanine level) at 5pm on Monday, August 11. The public is encouraged to attend.
Adam Cohen from NSNA asked the subcommittee to consider three points in its deliberations:
- The Rezoning Committee should include at least some “laypeople” who can convey the perspective of ordinary homebuyers. These buyers frequently have certain core priorities–such as low crime, adequate greenspace, and adequate parking–that can be neglected by planners in favor of more abstract goals, such as compact development. Even if some planners may disagree with the priorities of homebuyers, they need to respect the fact that they can’t force people to live in any particular place. If Northampton does not offer sought-after amenities, many buyers will seek them elsewhere. This has been a driver of sprawl in other locales. This is not to say that either homebuyers or planners should automatically get their way, but that a balance of interests must be struck.
- The potential “losers” from rezoning, in particular residents in the designated receiving areas (see proposed future land use map), must have adequate representation on the Rezoning Committee. If some people want to make Wards 1-5 more dense, it’s vital that the residents from these in-town wards have ample opportunity to express their concerns.
- The Rezoning Committee may be tempted to skimp on soliciting public input on proposed changes, arguing that the Sustainable Northampton Plan already embodies a great deal of public input. However, it is not always clear how to translate the Sustainable Northampton Plan into new laws. For example, a 2006 Sustainable Northampton survey found that 89% agreed that “Development
Should Be Encouraged At Densities And Locations That Can Support
Transit”. On the other hand, 90% agreed that “We Should Protect More Open Space & Wildlife Corridors”. It is entirely possible that many survey respondents were not aware that compact development might mean a loss of open space around where they live.
Smart Growth: When Polls and Reality Diverge
It is common knowledge among pollsters that what people say may differ
from what they do. This is particularly the case when a question has a
“politically correct” answer (see “spiral of silence”).
In the case of Smart Growth, survey results might lead planners to misperceive how people want to live and commute. Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren at the Cato Institute provide an example:
Consider the survey results published by the Milwaukee
Journal-Sentinel. Wisconsinites were asked where they would like to
live. Only six percent said in a major city. The largest group, 44
percent, said in rural areas; the second largest group, 27 percent,
preferred the suburbs. At first glance, one might think the
Clinton/Gore campaign to promote “livable communities” (densely
developed communities) would be resisted by a majority.
survey went on to ask, “where would you prefer development to occur?”
The most popular response (34 percent) was “in a major city.” Another
question: “Do you favor zoning laws that would encourage communities to
have smaller houses on smaller lots within walking distance of shopping
and work?” Yes, said 76 percent. But when asked, “Would you be
interested in living in such a development?” 65 percent said no…
Another hazard is that respondents might answer a question sincerely
but be wrong. For example, one might assume that living in a large
apartment building is more energy-efficient per square foot than living
in a single-family home, but this is not correct.
Video: July 28 Rezoning Subcommittee; Comments from Alex Ghiselin and Ward 3 Association
The Ward 3 Neighborhood Association’s Sustainable Northampton Study Group has prepared a plan [link]
that calls on communities within the city to send nominations for their
representative: the business community, environmental groups, the