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Adam Cohen: Northampton’s new zoning proposal lacks safeguards

Last modified: Wednesday, June 05, 2013

To the editor:

The new zoning proposed for Northampton’s urban residential neighborhoods may well give flexibility to owners of one- to four-family homes, but it also gives too much latitude to developers of larger projects. Bad infill can permanently disrupt historic neighborhoods — as residents in Houston, Denver and San Diego have learned to their dismay.

Sad experience has spurred cities like Knoxville, Portland and Toronto to specify in detail what makes for good infill. The North Street Neighborhood Association explores these issues in depth at

One particular trigger for conflict between residents is inadequate off-street parking. Northampton’s proposed zoning would cut parking requirements by as much as half. The Zoning Revisions Committee was not nearly so aggressive in its recommendations, and its caution should be heeded.

The city’s planning staff rightly points to Graves Avenue as an example of successful density that looks good, but the reality is we’ll continue to get many less inspiring developments unless our zoning affirms what we really want. Jim Nash, former member of the Zoning Revisions Committee, is absolutely correct when he says, “Moving forward with this zoning package without inserting strong regulations for multi-unit developments is a breach of the public trust from when the infill discussion began, that our neighborhoods would be protected.

“In this zoning package I find such safeguards severely lacking and ask that you not approve them as written.”

Adam Cohen



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