Northampton OKs parking garage rate hike, housing board additions

  • Gail Cleare, of Whately, pays at the Northampton parking garage Wednesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/16/2018 6:57:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — It will cost a tad more to park in the city’s downtown parking garage starting next year after the City Council on Thursday approved the first rate increase in nearly two decades.

Also on Thursday, the council OK’d a home rule petition that would add two new members to the Northampton Housing Authority’s board.

Mayor David Narkewicz said there hasn’t been much opposition to the plan to increase parking rates at the E.J. Gare Parking Garage from 50 cents an hour to 75 cents an hour. He said the price hike will probably begin next year.

“Many people won’t notice it frankly,” Narkewicz said.

The first hour will still be free.

The increase passed on first reading with no dissent, although Ward 2 City Councilor Dennis Bidwell was not at the meeting.

New housing authority

City Council President Ryan O’Donnell’s home rule petition would add a second tenant member to the Housing Authority’s board, as well as a member from the Northampton Housing Partnership, both of whom would be appointed by Narkewicz.

The plan the council passed was much different than O’Donnell’s original proposal, which would have added six tenant members to the board through elections among the tenants. O’Donnell has said he revised that plan to give it a better chance of becoming law. Home rule petitions must pass at both the local and state level.

A number of councilors said that they were excited by the original version, but were still supporting the revision in order to advance reform.

“It’s my hope that actually it does set precedent,” said City Councilor At-Large William Dwight, who said he hoped it would lead to statewide adoption.

Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne LaBarge, meanwhile, said that she was not a fan of the original version, but would support the revised version.

O’Donnell was proud that his legislation led to robust public discussion, noting that Tuesday’s council subcommittee forum elicited a strong response both for and against his reform.

“When is the last time the public as a whole felt something for what’s going on in public housing?” O’Donnell said. “I think it’s something where Northampton is actually leading,”

The home rule petition passed 8-0 on its first reading.

Other business

In other business, the council voted to revise its rules so that pole petitions wouldn’t have to be subject to multiple readings. In the discussion, Dwight noted that the practice of doing two readings was originally based on a misreading of parliamentary rules. However, he said the two readings tradition has become useful, in allowing a two- to three-week window for legislation.

“The fact is it actually serves a purpose,” he said. “But it’s not mandated.”

However, Dwight did not object to the change, which passed without dissent.

“I think it will minimize the amount of words we need to use to describe the placement of telephone poles in the future,” said O’Donnell.

The council also voted to enter into an intermunicipal agreement with Easthampton to allow it to join the Pioneer ValleyBike Share program.

“We’re happy to have them,” said Narkewicz.

“I think this is great,” said O’Donnell. “Great program and great expansion.”

The council did both readings of the order at its Thursday meeting, where it passed without dissent.

In addition, the council voted on first reading to amend the city’s significant tree policy, most notably by allowing the Planning Board to issue special permits for the removal of significant trees in the case of the construction of some net zero energy buildings.

And in a rare occurrence, the council voted 8-0 to kill a ordinance to restrict parking on Grove Avenue because of resident opposition, with the idea that the matter would return to the council once residents and the Department of Public Works come up with a better version.

“They just want to blow up this version,” said Ward 5 City Councilor David Murphy.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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