Here is a complete blip.tv video of a meeting last night between residents of Edwards Square and Ned Huntley, director of the Northampton Department of Public Works. The meeting was hosted by Ward 3 City Councilor Angela Plassmann. It took place in a conference room at ServiceNet. Residents expressed concern about the condition of the road, parking scarcity, and safety issues (Edwards Square connects with the new bike trail). The video is 57 minutes long and was recorded by Adam Cohen.
Huntley discussed how Edwards Square is currently a private way, even though the city plows it and maintains utilities under it. Citizens can petition the city to accept the street as a public way. This would make it eligible for “Chapter 90” state funds for road repair and clarify issues of liability.
Residents observed that parking on the street has become tight since a home nearby increased its number of rentable units from 2 to 7. This is an example of a general issue that needs to be addressed by proponents of infill and Smart Growth: how to manage the added cars.
The risks of poorly managed densification are substantial. These include parking shortages, traffic jams, overwhelmed infrastructure, vanished greenspace and charming historic neighborhoods turned into an ugly mishmash of incompatible buildings. We hope city officials will study the experience of places like San Diego and Houston, and put protections in place before contemplating higher densities in the infill receiving areas. These protections include infill design guidelines, an appraisal of increased needs for parking and infrastructure, and monitoring tree canopy and impervious surface by ward.
Northampton’s historic downtown neighborhoods were built in a time when cars were more scarce (or nonexistent). It is risky to assume that households will gladly give up their cars to return to those bygone days. A car gives you access to more jobs, better jobs, cheaper goods, and more friends and activities. This is not to say that cars can’t be shrunk and improved to reduce their impact on the environment.