Zoning Revisions Committee on City Council Agenda for 10/16/08

The proposed Zoning Revisions Committee is on the 10/16/08 agenda of Northampton’s City Council. The meeting will take place at 7:15pm in City Council Chambers, 212 Main Street. The public is encouraged to attend.

The City Council will decide whether to endorse the creation of the Zoning Revisions Committee, which is to recommend zoning changes in accordance with the Sustainable Northampton Plan. The proposal is reproduced below, and you may also download it as a PDF.

See also:

Valley Advocate Critiques Sustainable Northampton Plan
…without a clear vision, the document, packed with jargon, undefined
terminology, unexplained acronyms, and third-party reports that aren’t
properly referenced, is a confusing mess. Far from providing guidance,
it raises hundreds of questions and a good deal of doubt that the
city’s design decisions are being made by anyone that has a clue where
we’re going…

The Notre Dame Northampton Charrette – Website Launches
NSNA’s desire is to preserve what’s good about a neighborhood that’s
working well. We want New Urbanist principles to be applied with
nuance, a light hand, and an appreciation for local conditions. For
example, not all cul-de-sacs are as bad as the Sustainable Northampton
Plan makes them out to be. Some, such as Northern Avenue,
are great places to live. New Urbanists need to understand what makes a
street layout work in one place and not in another. Above all, they
need to be cautious about imposing changes on neighborhoods when
residents are happy with their current condition.

We are concerned that developers will seize on New Urbanism and Smart
Growth as an excuse to jack up density, erode in-town greenspace, and
build near wetlands. This may feed their profits, but it may also
degrade our quality of life, increase the risk of flooding, and even
motivate homebuyers to prefer homes farther out, increasing the sprawl
that New Urbanists hate.

Video: First public “in-process” presentation and feedback session for Design Northampton Week
Fran Volkmann, Vice Chair, Community Preservation Committee
We would like to concentrate development closer in, we like the idea of
walkability, bikeability, neighborhood center… The thing that happens
to us, however, is that we buy that and then somebody builds some
horrible thing…and then they say to you, “This is infill, you know.
It’s good, it’s infill.” …You know if you walk in European cities,
you very often find little tiny pocket parks, and little bits of green
spaces, mixed in with beautiful buildings… How do we…learn
to…value…respect for people at the same time that we try to fill in
our park spaces?

Video: August 11 Rezoning Subcommittee
Here is a 51-minute Google video of the entire meeting. Three points to consider:

  • While the Zoning Revisions Committee is intended to follow the
    Sustainable Northampton Plan, reasonable people might disagree on what
    is sustainable. For example, given a half-acre of open space within
    walking distance of downtown, some people might say developers should
    be encouraged to build housing units on it. Others might say the space
    is better used as home gardens that will also absorb stormwater and help mitigate flooding.
  • The Planning Board will be the body that appoints members to the Zoning Revisions Committee.
  • Some worry that between the committee’s three “expert” members, the
    member representing business concerns, and the member from the Planning
    Board, the committee as a whole may tilt too much in favor of dense
    development, and fail to give enough weight to the needs and desires of residents in “traditional neighborhood and receiving areas” (see proposed land use map below).

Proposed Future Land Use Map (PDF)

orange zones are “Traditional Neighborhood and Receiving Areas”. The
light green zones are “Conservation Development and Sending Areas”.

Video: August 4 Rezoning Subcommittee
…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.

Video: July 28 Rezoning Subcommittee; Comments from Alex Ghiselin and Ward 3 Association

June 30 Rezoning Subcommittee Considers Who Should Shape City’s Future;
Proposals from Joel Russell and Ward Three Association