Hospital Hill: 12/1/08 Joint Meeting of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Planning Board and Housing Partnership – Video and Minutes; MassDevelopment vs. Notre Dame Visions

Here is a complete Google video of the 12/1/08 joint meeting of Northampton’s State Hospital Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), Planning Board and Housing Partnership. This video is 2 hours and 18 minutes long, and was recorded by Lachlan Ziegler. A draft of the official minutes follow the video. The minutes may also be downloaded as a PDF.

Subsequent to this meeting, the CAC met again on 12/9/08 and authorized MassDevelopment to build up to 100 additional housing units at Hospital Hill (Village Hill). The Gazette reported on 12/10/08:

The state agency creating Village Hill Northampton won approval Tuesday night from the Citizens Advisory Committee to build up to 100 additional housing units on the development’s north campus, a move that could boost the number of homes to 327.

In approving MassDevelopment’s request to alter the master plan for the former state hospital grounds, the committee also set a goal that 50 percent of the additional homes be “work-force affordable,” a term that its members struggled to define but in general refers to lot size.

During 1:41:00-1:51:45, the joint meeting discussed the merits of alternative plans presented by The Notre Dame Northampton Charrette (see below for details). Some participants expressed derision. Some found elements to be worth discussing. One question: Should there be a central, unifying feature to the development?

Here are the official minutes of the meeting (draft version, not yet formally approved) from the 12/1/08 meeting:

See also:

Letter to the Gazette: “Criticism unfairly aimed at Notre Dame design effort” (12/29/08)
To the editor:

On viewing a video recording of the Dec. 1 joint meeting of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Planning Board and Housing Partnership regarding Hospital Hill, I was concerned to hear some attendees express derision toward the alternate proposals put forward by The Notre Dame Northampton Charrette. The video may be viewed at The portion in question is 1:41:00-1:51:45.

Whether or not the Notre Dame proposals have merit, they deserve respect as a sincere and well-intentioned effort. When efforts like these are disrespected, I’m concerned this will discourage others from contributing to public debates in the future.

Adam R. Cohen

Valley Advocate: “On Northampton: Mayor Higgins’ Siege Ends Successfully” (12/18/08)
State environmental officials still need to approve the change (they have accepted other amendments quickly and without intense review), and the city’s Planning Board will need to approve implementation plans…

Incapable of compromising on a plan, the CAC approved the new houses without one…

[Planning director Wayne] Feiden…argued that growth was inevitable, and if they were to halt development on Hospital Hill, traffic congestion would only crop up elsewhere…

Envisioning Sustainable Northampton: Notre Dame Urban Design Presentation – Video and Handout
[The 12/13/08 Notre Dame presentation addresses Hospital Hill during 0:37:22-0:41:52]

Envisioning Sustainable Northampton: Notre Dame Urban Design Presentation – Slides
[Pages 68-78 from the slideshow (PDF) compare current plans for Hospital Hill to Notre Dame’s alternative]

Notre Dame Northampton Charrette Critical of Hospital Hill Plans, Fleshes Out Alternative
Here are some of the Design Studio’s specific concerns about the MassDevelopment Plan:

…the proposal currently before the CAC fails to promote the Sustainability Plan in a number of ways:

  • The proposal essentially destroys the site’s most valuable features.
  • Land is not put to its best or most efficient use. Instead, large
    private lots sprawl throughout the design and inhibit the creation of
    well-designed public space.
  • Uses are not mixed, but are primarily residential, with the
    exception of one huge industrial employer. The design is essentially an
    industrial park next to a residential subdivision. Residents must drive
    off-site for many of their daily needs, essentially making Hospital
    Hill an unsustainable suburb.
  • The proposal does not provide for usable public open space or
    recreation areas. This is a huge loss to the Hospital Hill residents
    and to the larger Northampton community. The mere preservation of
    undeveloped acreage does not, by itself, create the kind of shared open
    space that is conducive to community life.
  • The proposal does not provide for the enhancement of arts, culture,
    or heritage resources. There is not enough mixed-use development or
    public space proposed in which these activities might thrive.
  • The proposal does not create a walkable community. It is a residential subdivision that depends on cars.

Video: Northampton State Hospital Citizen Advisory Committee Meeting, 11/17/08
Selected highlight: 1:50:00-1:57:46
George Kohout, member of the Planning Board
appreciation for the outlining of more green areas. Would like more
information on why the number of additional proposed homes is targeted
at 100. The original plan had some benchmarks around the amount of
commercial activity. Will the target for commercial activity grow as
the number of residential units grows? Wants a village look, a village
mix. Concerned about a stratification of homes and incomes in the
development. Consider larger greenspaces that can accommodate a range
of activities. Consider a structure dedicated to community use.

Village Hill Demographic Projections (PDF)

the projections below, note how “New Suburban Neighborhoods” have a
relatively high percentage of school-age children. If Village Hill
follows more closely to that pattern as opposed to the Planning
Department’s assumptions, this would boost the number of school-age
children in the development. The Planning Board discussed this
possibility and its implications at its November 13 meeting.]

November 13 Planning Board Meeting: Hazards Mitigation Plan; Zoning
Revisions Committee; Hotel Northampton Complaint; Hospital Hill
Diverging from Vision of Planned Village; Comments on Notre Dame
Charrette Website

Members of the Planning Board Are Displeased with
How Hospital Hill/Village Hill Is Diverging from Their Vision of a
Planned Village

Jodrie: “We have an awful working relationship with this developer
[MassDevelopment]… They’re going about this in a way that’s not
working with us at all… I’m extremely disappointed in this process…
It’s MassDevelopment who’s not listening to us [as opposed to the
Citizens Advisory Committee]. They don’t hear what we tell them about
what our interpretation of this village is…”

Jodrie: “…the developer is not complying with our vision of what a
village ought to be… We need to tell the developer directly that
they’re not going to get these approvals when they arrive here
regardless of what the CAC says…”

2:26:35… Dierenger: “I think that we have to fight
that pressure… What I’m sensing here is that this is what MassHousing
is doing. They have this strategy of going to CAC, getting their
approval and then things fester politically and then the pressure
mounts for us to just approve what everyone already thinks is a
foregone conclusion ’cause CAC approved it… We know that’s not true.
We know what our purview is. We know what we have control over…
[Resisting the pressure is] going to suck, but…we’re not the CAC…”

MassDevelopment proposed plan:

Video: June 26 Planning Board Meeting Discusses Hospital Hill, Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Northampton Soccer Club
Discussion of evolutions at Hospital Hill (Village Hill) with respect to Kollmorgen’s proposed new plant and other changes

  • “The project still has to meet all the design guidelines.”
  • “There’s a lot of components that definitely have to come back to you.”
  • “If they meet the design guidelines, you’re limited to finding they
    meet the design guidelines. If they don’t meet the design guidelines,
    then anything goes.”
  • “I’m not necessarily opposed to Kollmorgen or any big, industrial
    type thing up there, I just want it to be done in a way that meets the
    village concept.”
  • “Conceptually, it’s OK with the CAC.”
  • “I was surprised it happened without us knowing about it.”
  • “My feeling is it’s going to be like an armed camp up there, and I
    think it would be really desirable for them to design it so that they
    didn’t feel that the parking lot had to be secure; could be a little
    bit more of a village walking places.”

Valley Advocate Critiques Sustainable Northampton Plan
the diagram of the planned single-use sprawl [on Hospital Hill] a mile
and a half from downtown, the mayor remarked on how well the architect
used urban design principles by packing a lot of homes into the design.
Density of construction is, of course, only one principle of urban
design, but without regard for mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods,
packed housing can also be a ghetto.

Valley Advocate: Northampton: No “Village” at Hospital Hill (6/12/08)