Ordinance to Simplify Zero Lot Line Developments to Come Before City Council on 11/6/08

[Update: The City Council agenda says this proposal is getting its first reading on November 6, but it’s actually at an earlier stage of the process. The proposal will likely be referred out to various committee meetings and hearings before coming back to the Council.] 

This November 6, Northampton’s City Council will get its first look at amending Ordinance Sec. 350-10.14, “Simplify Zero Lot Line Developments” (PDF).

From the bare text of the amendment, it’s hard for a layperson to tell if the changes are significant or why they are being proposed. It would help to have examples with pictures of what the new ordinance will permit that the old one didn’t.

As we’ve mentioned before, our concern is that changes like these will make it easier for developers to eat up the greenspace between structures. Yes, developers might compensate their abutters for their loss, but the public has an interest in preserving this greenspace as well.

Here is the proposed amendment:

See also:

Grasping the Sustainable Northampton Vision: We Need Pictures
James Kunstler writes:
Zoning codes are invariably twenty-seven-inch-high stacks of numbers and legalistic language that few people other than technical specialists understand. Because this is so, local zoning- and planning-board members frequently don’t understand their own zoning laws. Zoning has great advantages for specialists, namely lawyers and traffic engineers, in that they profit financially by being the arbiters of the regulations, or benefit professionally by being able to impose their special technical needs (say, for cars) over the needs of citizens — without the public’s being involved in their decisions.

Traditional town planning produces pictorial codes that any normal citizen can comprehend. This is democratic and ethical as well as practical. It elevates the quality of the public discussion about development. People can see what they’re talking about. Such codes show a desired outcome at the same time that they depict formal specifications. They’re much more useful than the reams of balderdash found in zoning codes.

The New Draft Sustainable Northampton Plan: Balancing Compact Growth Against Taxes, Urban Greenspace, Homeowner Preferences
An objective of the Plan is to “implement ideas for maximizing density on small lots”. (p.16) It calls for the City to “consider amending zero lot line single family home to eliminate 30′ side yard setback”. (p.69)

Condo Monotony: The Future of Ward 3?

These closely packed units have a garage in between, rather than greenspace

Downstreet.net: Despite Tree City USA Honor Northampton Planting Lags
…developers, both residential and commercial, often regard landscaping and tree requirements as an unwarranted expense, not as a benefit to the quality of life to the city’s inhabitants…

Photo Essay: 10 Reasons People Like Trees Around Them; Will the Sustainable Northampton Plan Put Urban Trees at Risk?
If you walk down North Street, imagine most trees between houses gone and replaced with a near-solid wall of housing.

Portland: A Photo Tour of Spiraling Densification
…Rowhouses 1 shows some more rowhouses in a former single-family neighborhood in east Portland.

Rowhouses 1

Portland, Oregon Voters Sour on Densification Over Time