Zoning Revisions Committee Seeks Input from Citizens

Northampton’s Office of Planning and Development is circulating the following announcement:

Dear Citizens of Northampton,

Your Zoning Revisions Committee is up and running, and busy exploring ways to make the Sustainable Northampton Plan [link] a reality. It is exciting work.

To be successful, thoughtful public input and involvement is necessary. We strongly encourage citizens to attend our meetings. We ask that you join our conversation about implementing our city’s vision as outlined in the Sustainable Northampton Plan. To meet this end, each Zoning Revision Meeting opens with public comment and our informal format allows for lively discussion. So come and share you thoughts.

To keep citizens apprised of our actions, we have a web page on the city’s website. Here you will find our schedule, meeting minutes, meeting agendas, and documents pertinent to our duties. We encourage you to give us a click.


If you want to share your thoughts with us via email, write to northamptonzrc@gmail.com. Also, please send an email to that address if you would like to sign up for our email list. We’ll send out regular announcements of meetings, forums and occasionally solicit feedback about our work.

Thanks for your interest and support.


The Northampton Zoning Revisions Committee

See also:

Our Ad in the May 6 Gazette: “How to Avoid Classic Infill Design Mistakes”
The Sustainable Northampton Plan can succeed if we heed the lessons of good and bad infill from other cities. Ask the Planning Board to hold developers to those principles that protect and enhance neighborhoods.

Knoxville Infill Housing Design Guidelines: Lessons from Experience

Portland Infill Design Strategies: Best Practices for Context-Sensitive Infill Design

Toronto Urban Design Guidelines: Infill Townhouses

Springfield Works on Infill Housing Design Guidelines; Residential Design Presentation by Dietz & Company

Video: Zoning Revisions Committee Meeting of 5/20/09
1:30:09-1:38:39… Discussion of design guidelines. Jim Nash: Neighborhood groups have anxiety about what infill will look like. Specifying design guidelines up front will ease the way for other regulatory changes. Residents will have more trust in the outcome. Let’s analyze mistakes from the past.

Audio Recording of Zoning Revisions Committee Meeting of 5/6/09

Video: Zoning Revisions Committee Meeting of 4/1/09; Wayne Feiden Gives Zoning Tutorial

“Innovative Non-Zoning Approaches to Encourage Smart Growth and Protect Public Health” – Video with Wayne Feiden and Bruce Young
“And then finally, Wayne and I mentioned this earlier, design standards in architectural ordinances. We really need to think about how the infill happens. 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…” (Bruce Young, Northampton Land Use and Conservation Planner, 12/12/08)

Smart Growth vs. “Smart Growth”
…developers often seize on convenient aspects of Smart Growth that align with their profit goals and disregard others. A common result appears to be overlarge developments, inapt developments, and/or excessive density. These are major bones of contention in Los Angeles and Berkeley, to give two examples.

Video: Planning Board Reviews the Latest Kohl Condo Proposal on 5/14/09
Without an understanding of human nature, well-intended Smart Growth policies can backfire, increasing sprawl. If planners want people to live in downtown neighborhoods, they need to demonstrate those neighborhoods will be respected, protected, and handled gently.

March 10: Zoning Revisions Committee to Meet; Our Suggestions
The Zoning Revisions Committee is charged with recommending zoning changes that implement the Sustainable Northampton Plan. We urge the committee to keep these considerations in mind:

  • Before trying to facilitate infill development, might it be best to first establish infill design standards? (see Springfield)

  • How can we encourage development within already paved-over spaces as opposed to eating into greenspace? Why are spaces in certain in-town areas like King Street languishing unused? Are there concerns about hazardous waste that need to be addressed?

  • How will proposed rule changes affect the quality of life within in-town districts? Changes that erode amenities (e.g. greenspace),raise safety issues (e.g. more flooding) or create hassles (e.g. more traffic jams) may defeat the purpose of the Sustainable Northampton Plan by motivating homebuyers to sprawl out elsewhere.

  • Will the proposed rule changes encourage development that is in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood?

  • How will proposed rule changes affect tree canopy ward by ward?

  • How will proposed rule changes affect the percentage of impervious surface ward by ward?

  • How will proposed rule changes affect the value of neighboring properties?

  • How will proposed rule changes affect property taxes? (if you can build more units on a parcel, its taxable value might increase)

  • Will the proposed rule changes alter the balance between single-family and multi-family housing units? (this could impact the municipal budget)

  • Will the proposed rule changes discourage the possibly desirable development of new neighborhood centers in outlying areas? (e.g.through requiring high traffic mitigation payments for certain businesses)

  • Will the proposed rule changes result in a ‘privatization’ of greenspace? This can happen, for example, with developments that sequester most of their greenspace behind buildings and away from the street.
So that non-professionals can understand what’s being debated, we urge the committee to circulate visual illustrations for all proposals whenever appropriate.

Planners’ Assumptions about Future Household Size and Car Usage May Prove Wrong