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Jim Nash: Northampton zoning package lacks design standards

To the editor:

During my time on the Zoning Revisions Committee, the citizens of Northampton were loud and clear about sustainability and infill development; they were open to residential zoning changes as long as the character of their neighborhood would remain unchanged.

Sadly, the zoning package being considered by th City Council lacks the safeguards citizens demanded. Yes, the average property owner, those of you who own 1-4 family homes, will be offered greater latitude around additions to structures and use. However, this same latitude will be extended to developers and larger commercial infill projects, a fact largely omitted during public forums held by the Office of Planning and Development.

What is missing is from this zoning package are design standards, regulations that insure that when development occurs it adheres to our urban streetscape and neighborhood sensibilities. Such regulations are even more important for larger projects. Roadways should not be in setbacks. Structures should be not built on parking lots. Walkways should be required. City blocks should be encouraged. Northampton urban development should look like the Northampton we love, not a collection of townhouses on parking lots in anywhere USA.

Our Office of Planning and Development has had its opportunity to allay citizen concerns but has chosen to minimize impacts rather than present real solutions. Instead of learning from past infill mistakes, this zoning pretends the problems never existed. Approving this package as it stands will invite a new era of contentiousness residential development from downtown to Bay State, Florence, and Leeds. The discord that accompanied the North Street development will be coming to a neighborhood near you.

City Council should see this flawed zoning package for what it is and hire an outside consultant. Let’s get the urban design standards citizens have demanded.

Jim Nash

Northampton

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