Videos: Public Comments on Proposed Zoning Revisions

Here are YouTube videos of open comment sessions hosted by Northampton’s Planning Board on September 11 and September 12. Members of the public gave feedback on proposed revisions to zoning in urban residential districts URA, URB and URC (look under Hot Topics on the Office of Planning and Development web page). These videos were recorded by Mary Likins.

In the September 11 meeting, some attendees expressed concern that no members of the Planning Board or OPD staff were taking official written notes of the comments from the public. In the September 12 meeting, there was a dispute at one point over what was said and not said at the September 11 meeting.

See also:

Gazette: “Proposed zoning changes catch flak at public meeting in Northampton” (9/13/12)
Resident Pauline Fogel inquired about the design review process, explaining that she was concerned about the appearance of second egresses that would have to be constructed for additional units. “There’s going to be fire escapes coming off everywhere,” she said.

Letter to Gazette from Richard Greene of Northampton: “Zoning proposals would change city’s character” (9/12/12)
The basic problem is that with higher density will come more traffic, which will change the character of the city, and not for the better. Those who will be adversely affected by the traffic will, I believe, greatly outnumber those who will benefit from the zoning changes.

The potential problem, by the way, is not merely that of current property owners adding residential units but of developers exploiting the more favorable zoning to maximize density and profits.

Atlantic Cities: “New Research Finds Urban Form Plays Little Role in Sustainability” (7/24/12)
“To our surprise, if you compare the compact form versus the current trend, the difference in reduced transport by automobile is very minor. And if you allow the city to expand, the increase in the use of the car is only marginal,” says Marcial Echenique, a professor at the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture and one of the authors of the report. “If you make the city more compact, it doesn’t mean that people will abandon their car. Only 5 percent of people abandon the use of the car. Ninety-five percent carries on using the car, which means there are more cars on the same streets, therefore there is much more congestion and therefore there is much more pollution and no great increase in the reduction of energy…

“We are not very convinced of the idea that compacting cities will make very much difference in terms of environmental quality. But it will have severe consequences in terms of economics and social issues,” Echenique says.

Of particular concern for these researchers is that restricting development to only high-density, urban locations could greatly increase the cost of land and housing, causing both the cost of living and the cost of doing businesses to skyrocket. Echenique worries this will cause cities to become less competitive over the long term.

Lessons from San Diego: Why We Need Infill Design Guidelines (8/28/09)
…the new housing diminished neighborhood character and walkability. Pejoratively known as “Huffman Sixpacks”, the six-unit apartment complexes that invaded older neighborhoods were like windowless boxes with a parking lot in front. Architect Michael Stepner, who served on San Diego’s Planning Commission for nearly three decades, explained that the unfortunate buildings emerged through a combination of factors, including increased parking requirements and a lack of design guidelines. Single-family homes fell quickly because the area was already zoned for multi-family units. “All the builder had to do was buy the house, get over-the-counter permits, demolish the house and build the apartments,” Mr. Stepner said. Communities resisted the loss of historic homes, especially given their unwelcome replacements…