Ward 3 Neighborhood Association Conveys Rezoning Concerns to City Officials

This message was circulated to city officials today from the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association. See the proposed residential district zoning changes in the Northampton Planning and Development web pages under Hot Topics.

November 27, 2012

Dear Mayor David Narkewicz, City Council President William Dwight, Ward

3 City Councilor Owen Freeman-Daniels, and City Councilor at Large Jesse Adams,

We appreciate the added attention that the Office of Planning and

Development has provided to the citizens of Ward 3 surrounding the

proposed residential zoning changes. The presentation provided by Ms.

Carolyn Misch on October 17th was very informative.

Based on what we heard there a few aspects of the zoning proposals that

concern us and we would like to see them revised.

URB Frontage

We do not find that the proposed frontage for URB of 50 feet matches the

realities on the ground. More typically frontages on URB streets are

60 feet or more. One such example is Orchard Street where 60 feet is

the Mean, Median, and Mode. The ZRC recommend 65 feet for URB and we

are confortable with that. A case for reduction to 50 feet has not been


Developments Greater than Four Units in URC

On the edges of Ward 3 URC there is a string of properties that are much

larger than those typically found in the interior of URC. These

properties are along Pomeroy Terrace, Williams Street, and Henry Street.
The lots are quite deep and their back lot lines abut farmland or open

space. These are transition properties and have served as such for well

over a hundred years.

Our concern is that the dimensions of these properties are anywhere from

five to fifteen times the size of the minimum lot size proposed for URC,

and under the proposed zoning these properties could be developed into

private ways of multiple single-family homes or condominium projects of

20 units or more. Massing development along the edges of Ward 3 seems

counter to the intent of the proposals as presented of creating density

at the city’s center.

Developments Greater than Three Units in URB

In a related matter, within Ward 3 URB there are various properties

where infill projects of 3 units or more may occur with only Site Plan

Approval. These properties can be found along Lincoln, North,

Northern, Day, Crosby, and Bates. Like the aforementioned URC

properties, we are very concerned we are inviting infill into peoples’


We are not strangers to infill controversies, as demonstrated by the

property owned by Kohl Construction. Due to a recent land court

decision [link], the plans to develop this property are no longer valid.

Flawed public process and the absence of design standards divided

neighbors. We now have an opportunity for a reboot.

It is critical that safeguards be in place before these zoning proposals

move forward. We would like to see the following:

  • The development of stricter design standards for large developments that account for appearance, layout, and the way they relate to the existing neighborhood
  • A technical study of streetscapes and property dimensions followed by a discussion about zoning map changes for streets inconsistent with their zone
  • A clear method for public involvement in all residential zones for projects beyond 4 units in URC and 3 Units in URB

Moving forward on the current zoning proposals without these safeguards

in place is an invitation to future controversy and hard feelings across

the URs, from Leeds to Florence to downtown.

We hope we can count on your support to see that these safeguards are

part of our new zoning. Thank you for your attention to these matters.

We look forward to working constructively with our fellow citizens and

city officials towards improving our zoning ordinance.


The Board of the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association

Councilor Maureen Carney

Councilor Paul Spector

Councilor Pamela Schwartz

Councilor David Murphy

Councilor Marianne LaBarge

Councilor Eugene Tacy

Northampton Planning Board

Office of Planning and Development

See also:

Lessons from San Diego: Why We Need Infill Design Guidelines