Video: Planning Board Hammers Out Cautious Support for Design Northampton Week

[8/30/08 update: Joel Russell sent us the following comments, which we are reprinting with permission:

Thank you for posting the video of the Planning Board meeting. I would like to offer some clarifications and corrections, however:

  1. The Planning Board has never been asked to contribute public funds. When the Board voted in June, the main issue was whether or not to invite the Notre Dame University Urban Design Studio to come to Northampton. This project was presented as an effort for which funds would be raised privately. The Planning Board had various reasons for not issuing the invitation, but spending public funds was not one of them.
  2. There was never any question last Thursday of the Board endorsing the “product” that may come from the exercise. It would be entirely unreasonable to ask them to endorse something that does not exist yet. All that they were being asked to do was to endorse the exercise itself, with no commitment to its product. No one, including the Northampton Design Forum itself, can endorse a product before it comes into existence. What we do endorse is the creative process and community conversation about urban design and sustainability that will occur during Design Northampton Week.
  3. What the Planning Board actually approved was the following statement:

    “The Planning Board voted to support the Northampton Design Week/University of Notre Dame Studio. This studio is an opportunity to raise public awareness about the importance of urban design and to help get the public, stakeholders, and decision makers to participate in a community conversation about design. Given that this project is first and foremost a University of Notre Dame student studio, we fully understand its primary purpose is to educate the Notre Dame students. As such we understand that this is not a report commissioned to help in future decision making or set policy. We believe that any public discussion about urban design is extremely helpful.”

I hope we can put aside any confusion or concerns about the genesis of Design Northampton Week, and just have a wonderful time from September 7-13. It will be a great learning experience not only for the Notre Dame students, but for everyone who participates. I hope to see as many of you as possible at 7 PM on Sunday, September 7 at the Senior Center for the opening presentation.

Joel Russell, Chair
Northampton Design Forum]

At the August 28 meeting of Northampton’s Planning Board, Joel Russell, coordinator of the Northampton Design Forum, and Ward 3 City Council Bob Reckman asked the board to give its support to Design Northampton Week. Here is the description of the week’s activities from the NDF blog:

The graduate urban design studio from the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture will be in Northampton from September 7-13, to conduct a community design exercise. Please stop by the A.P.E. Gallery at 126 Main Street during that week to talk to the students, see their work, and offer your suggestions for the direction of future development in Northampton. Formal presentations will be scheduled for every evening that week.

Russell and Reckman believe that the perception that the Planning Board opposes Design Northampton Week has been holding some citizens back from contributing to the private initiative. (In June, the Planning Board declined to contribute public funds.)

In this 34-minute Google video, the Planning Board crafts a statement that expresses support for the Week (public discussion of urban design is good) but refrains from endorsing any product that may come from the exercise. The board believes it should take its guidance from the Sustainable Northampton Plan. While this may overlap with the philosophy of the Notre Dame School, they are not one and the same.

Also at the August 28 meeting, the board took about seven minutes to discuss the proposed Zoning Revisions Committee. Topics covered include the purview of the Zoning Revisions Committee, the appointment of members, and how proposed ordinances will emerge from the Committee to be taken up by the Planning Board. The Zoning Revisions Committee will be discussed at greater length at the Planning Board’s meeting of September 11.

See also:

Latest Draft of Zoning Revisions Committee Ordinance

Video: August 11 Rezoning Subcommittee

Design Northampton Week: Preliminary Schedule

Support Design Northampton Week, September 7-13

Gazette: “Planning Board: Student architects too costly” (6/18/08)

Video: Notre Dame Urban Design Studio Presentation

Notre Dame Pitches Urban Design Studio to Northampton

Grasping the Sustainable Northampton Vision: We Need Pictures