Update: Planning Board *Approves* Seton Parish Site Plan, Restricts Oxbow Soccer

Update: On April 18, Northampton Senior Land Use Planner Carolyn Misch confirmed to us that, contrary to the result shown on the Seton Parish Site Plan video below, “the board’s decision (3-2) stands as an approval since it was a majority of the board present.”

Here are two YouTube videos covering the complete 4/14/11 meeting of Northampton’s Planning Board. These recordings were made by Adam Cohen.

In Part 1 (2 hours 12 minutes), the Planning Board and the Central Business Architecture Committee consider a revised site plan submitted by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish to demolish its existing rectory and Christian Life Center on King Street and build a new parish hall with expanded parking (preserving the main church building that exists there). The CBAC ultimately votes to approve the demolition of the Christian Life Center, but some members express dismay that they have no authority to review the design of the new parish hall, since that portion of the project lies outside the Central Business zoning district.

Members of the Planning Board negotiate to get more street trees and parking lot trees into the plan, as well as to connect the property with the new bike trail that runs behind it. The board hears from several members of the church who are eager to see this delayed project move forward. The board also hears from members of Northampton’s Historical Commission, who would like to see the rectory preserved for its historical significance. In particular, historians say they have recently discovered the rectory was an important part of the Underground Railroad, with escaped slaves sheltering in its attic.

While several members of the board say they like the current site plan better than the previous one, only three members vote to approve it. Katharine Baker and Andrew Weir vote no, causing the site plan to be rejected, since four votes to approve were needed at this hearing. Many members of the public leave at this point, some expressing anger and frustration.

Here is the site plan that was reviewed by the board:
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish – Revised Plans 31 March 2011

Here is a 6-minute YouTube excerpt from the site plan review, where Andrew Weir presses Ed Etheredge to explain why the church feels that connecting its property to the bike trail would be burdensome. Etheredge is a local attorney representing the church before the board.

In Part 2 of the Planning Board meeting (1 hour 38 minutes), the board considers a “Request by Northampton Soccer Club for special permit for outdoor recreation use at Oxbow Marina Map Id 45-58, Northampton.” The board hears from several residents of Island Road, who complain that soccer-related traffic is excessive and dangerous on their narrow road, that the problem is so severe it may be reducing property values, and that soccer clubs have not done enough to fulfill past promises. The board decides to grant a permit for the spring season only, with games capped at half the number from the previous season (or 30, whichever is less). Also, no practices are allowed at the Marina. Board members believe that practices may generate even more traffic than games, since parents are less likely to stay and watch.

See also:

Video Highlights from the 10/19/09 Mayoral Debate: Wetlands, King Street, Infill and the BID
Higgins: “I agree with Councilor Bardsley that we
need to think about design standards. I think we need to think about
density…and I think we need to think about things like greenspace and

Bardsley: “I think we need design standards… Infill isn’t simply cramming in buildings.”

Videos: King Street Zoning Workshop and Planning Board, December 2, 2010
Here are two short YouTube excerpts (Buffer Zones, Buffer Zones 2) from
the December 2 King Street Zoning Workshop Subcommittee meeting, where
the participants struggle to balance the car-oriented preferences of
many developers with a desire to encourage pedestrian and bike traffic
around King Street and its businesses.

An Open Letter from Residents of Edwards Square to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish (10/13/10)
We welcome the consolidation of churches into the Saint Elizabeth Ann
Seton Parish and look forward to seeing the church grow. However, we
have some concerns about the proposed demolition and site plan for the
parish hall. In particular…

  • The existing stand of twenty 100+ year old historical trees is
    one of the largest and most prominent in our downtown setting. Their
    removal will forever change the way our downtown looks, from a variety
    of perspectives.
  • There will be a significant loss of green space, especially
    given recent accolades for being the most progressive town in the state
    with regards to Land Use (see recent Republican article)…
  • Loss of a historically significant building. The Historical Commission
    has already placed a one-year demolition delay on this in order to
    encourage discussion about how to preserve the structure. It was
    designed by Isaac Damon who was a prominent builder of many churches and
    bridges. He is only known for building two residential properties, this
    one and the building used for the Northampton Historical Society.

Video: June 26, 2008 Planning Board Meeting Discusses Hospital Hill, Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Northampton Soccer Club
Discussion of soccer teams’ compliance with parking and traffic conditions at the Oxbow

  • “I want to be able to hear the soccer club defend themselves.”
  • “I get the impression we came down on the soccer club like a ton
    of bricks, and…they didn’t know about the hearing… At least they
    should have their day in court, so to speak.”
  • “…I think the Northampton Soccer Club is doing a good job, Western United not so much.”

Video: Planning Board Sharpens Up Parking Recommendations for Oxbow Soccer Fields (5/9/08)
Northampton’s Planning Board took 30 minutes on May 8 to discuss issues
with the implementation of a parking and traffic plan worked out last
year for the soccer fields at the Oxbow. The board seeks heavier usage
of an auxiliary parking lot to reduce traffic on Island Road.

Gazette: “Board presses carpooling to Oxbow soccer fields” (5/9/08)
…On Thursday, Planning Board members said the two soccer organizations
that use the fields at the Oxbow Marina – Northampton Soccer Club and
Western United Football Club – must make a better effort to reduce
traffic along Island Road. Their recommendation to Building Commissioner
Anthony Patillo states that 50 percent of all cars must be parked at
auxiliary lot and that members from both organizations need to take
responsibility in accomplishing the task.

According to the recommendation, the Planning Board expects full
compliance from both organizations within a month. If they are not fully
compliant in that time frame, the special permit granted last summer by
the board could be withdrawn…

Gazette: “Soccer at Oxbow hits snag” (5/8/08)
…One of the conditions set by the Planning Board when it approved a
three-year special permit last July calls for the soccer leagues that
use the fields at the end of Island Road to reduce traffic on the
residential street. Representatives of Western United Soccer and
Northampton Soccer Club were told to reduce traffic by carpooling and
shuttling families from a parking area on Route 5 to the fields…