Video: Zoning Revisions Committee Meeting of 9/16/09; Clarifying the Sustainability Mission and Process

Here is a complete video of the 9/16/09 meeting of Northampton’s Zoning Revisions Committee. This video is 2 hours long and was recorded by Benjamin Spencer (visit his blog).


Video highlights:

0:00:28-0:10:27… Jerry Budgar, president of the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association, presents a proposal on notifying property owners about zoning changes that would affect them. He says four city councillors have given him encouragement and support. A recent situation that concerned Budgar was proposed changes to regulations concerning zero lot line development. The city needs to work harder to making zoning and proposed changes comprehensible to ordinary citizens.

1:06:43-1:10:37… Committee member Dillon Sussman: “I have a different approach to this… Design is both a verb and it’s a noun… For me, design is primarily a process, it’s a verb. And it involves basically defining what our goals are, and going through…a rigorous process of creatively coming up with the best solution to the problem. And this committee has not really, from my point of view, done that work… We haven’t refined what our goals are, and so we’re kind of shooting in the dark because we’re not going through a design process… So for me, the first step is, thinking about what sustainability really means, what [are] our goals of sustainability… Do we want to have all of your basic needs for retail and services met within a quarter-mile of your house? A half-mile? Three miles? …What does sustainability in Northampton really mean? …I don’t think the Sustainability Plan [link] is specific enough… it needs some meat to it.”

1:33:42-1:37:34… Committee member Danielle Kahn: Let’s consider stepping back from specifics to settle on the design process first. Consider the Notre Dame urban studio and how it identified areas of Northampton for attention. Priorities can then be assigned and input gathered from the targeted communities.

Here is the official agenda:

Zoning Revisions Committee Meeting
Sept 16, 2009 Agenda
Bridge Street School Cafeteria

7:00 PM 

1.  Public comment
2.  Brief Reports from subcommittees
     a.  Urban ag
     b.  Cluster rewrite
     c.  Energy
     d.  Housing
3.  Meeting locations and schedule
4.  Discussion of design and zoning revision process issues

See also:

Video: Zoning Revisions Committee Meeting of 9/2/09; Presentation on Traditional Urban Design Infill

Zoning Revisions Committee: 6/3/09 Audio and 7/15/09 Video Recordings

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.

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

Envisioning Sustainable Northampton: Notre Dame Urban Design Presentation – Video and Handout

Envisioning Sustainable Northampton: Notre Dame Urban Design Presentation – Slides

Tailoring Infill and the New Urbanism to Northampton

Grasping the Sustainable Northampton Vision: We Need Pictures
The object of the charette [public design workshop] is not, however, to produce verbiage but to produce results on paper in the form of drawings and plans. This highlights an essential difference between zoning codes and traditional town planning based on civic art. 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.

9 Short Videos: An Architecture and Urbanism Tour of Ward 3 – Market and Hawley Streets
From the tour publicity: “Our goal is to better understand this transition zone between downtown and our neighborhoods. We will identify what we like, what works, what could be improved. We will also improve our architectural and urban design vocabulary while gaining an understanding of basic design and planning concepts.”

Pictures of Northampton Streets at Various Densities

Video: Northampton Design Forum – Leeds, Baystate and Florence, 7/27/09

Video: Public Forum on Planning and Sustainability, 3/11/09

Our Ad in the May 6 Gazette: “How to Avoid Classic Infill Design Mistakes”

March 10: Zoning Revisions Committee to Meet; Our Suggestions

Zoning Revisions Committee Seeks Input from Citizens
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 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.