March 2: Zero Lot Line Workshop

Citizens are urged to attend a Planning Department workshop on proposed changes to the zero-lot line rules. Here are the details, also available as a PDF (271KB):

See also:

Video: Planning Board and Ordinance Committee Discuss Zero Lot Line Changes, Traffic Mitigation Payments
Some issues that arose during and after the [1/8/09] discussion include:

  • 1:42:15-1:45:55…
    Gerald Budgar, President of the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association: We
    need to find better ways to notify people who might be affected by
    ordinance changes. Few are probably aware of the proposed Zero Lot Line
    changes, even if they affects them or their neighbor. “…I think
    frankly it’s one of the weaknesses of city government in Northampton,
    that people don’t know what is being proposed either on their
    properties or near them. And it would seem to me that some effort
    should be made to notify the people who are either red or green here
    [see below], and the people who are around them, to let them know that
    this is being proposed. I think that’s only fair. I don’t think that
    people should some day just find something happening next to them that
    they know nothing about…

    “This has wide-ranging impact on a lot of people, and if we’re going to
    start getting into a lot of this rezoning for the city, I think we need
    a better process… You have to communicate with people, you have to
    educate them and inform them… I can tell you, I’m President of the
    Ward 3 Neighborhood Association–I’m speaking as an individual–we’ve
    had a lot of discussions about a lot of things on city government and
    the biggest complaint we hear is that ‘We didn’t know. We weren’t told.
    We weren’t informed.’ And something like this needs to be communicated
    to people. People need to be told what’s being proposed, and they need
    to be given an open opportunity to speak about something they know
    about. Am I angry? Yeah…that this might…have some impact on me.
    I didn’t know it until I saw the little red dot, and I really think
    that this is an opportunity to find a better way to do these things.
    Thank you.”

  • Land Use and Conservation Planner Bruce Young favors the adoption of “design standards in architectural ordinances
    Because if we’re saying we want a house between two houses, and we
    can’t get the neighborhood to buy onto houses that are just not helping
    the neighborhood…” The Planning Board should consider setting aside
    infill-related ordinance changes until design standards are in place. Springfield is working on its own infill housing design guidelines as we speak.
  • Planning Director Wayne Feiden says the proposed Zero Lot Line
    ordinance changes are not supposed to affect rear setbacks, but certain
    developments may not have a clear “front” or “rear”. An example could
    be the condo complex proposed for North Street by Kohl Construction.
  • If tree canopy is given away piecemeal in our built-up wards and
    impervious surface spreads, this could make these wards less pleasant
    to live in and more vulnerable to flooding over time. The Planning
    Board should track tree canopy and impervious surface by ward and
    report it to the public annually. All infill-related ordinance changes
    should be evaluated in how they will impact these and other critical
    environmental metrics.
  • High traffic mitigation payments could prove burdensome to small
    businesses. For example, a 3,000-square-foot grocery store could face a
    payment of $108,000 if it was located in certain districts. This could
    inhibit some businesses from forming, especially in the northern and
    western portions of Northampton. Ironically, this could impede traffic
    reduction by compelling residents there to drive relatively long
    distances to buy basic necessities. Where there are already clusters of
    homes in these outlying areas, it might be better to encourage the
    establishment of small stores to form the center of walkable

More Detail on the Zero Lot Line Proposed Changes; Evaluating Infill Impacts
The maximum possible consequences from the proposed changes need to be
spelled out, including the potential percentage increase in impervious
surface and potential loss of tree canopy, broken out by ward. As with
the new wetlands ordinance,
it’s not enough to evaluate the impacts of new rules project by
project. Long-term impacts at the ward and city level must also be

More generally, the extent of impervious surface,
tree canopy, and other critical metrics should be monitored ward by
ward and reported to the public on an annual basis.

Portland: A Photo Tour of Spiraling Densification
What we see happening is
that planners are never satisfied — let them densify you a little
bit, and they keep coming back for higher and higher densities.
Portland has zoned many formerly single-family neighborhoods for

In neighborhoods that are still zoned for single family, Portland has
reduced the minimum lot size. One result is the “skinny house.” This
is not a row house but a 15-foot-wide single-family detached home on
a 25-foot-wide lot. Portland held a competition to design innovative
skinny houses, but in actual practice they all look almost exactly

76th before

76th after

In 76th before and 76th after you see a skinny house built in the
empty space between two other houses…

Photo Essay: 10 Reasons People Like Trees Around Them; Will the Sustainable Northampton Plan
Put Urban Trees at Risk?