Northampton City Briefing: New hotel approved; city keeps high bond rating; seniors, veteran tax can work off portion of taxes

The Planning Board recently approved a new hotel on Conz Street in Northampton next to the Fairfield Inn where the former Daily Hampshire Gazette building was located.

The Planning Board recently approved a new hotel on Conz Street in Northampton next to the Fairfield Inn where the former Daily Hampshire Gazette building was located. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 10-15-2023 1:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After hearings on the matter stretched across three consecutive meetings, the Planning Board has approved a special permit for a proposed 109-room hotel and a 31-unit residential building at 115 Conz St., formerly the site of the Daily Hampshire Gazette office building.

According to Rankin Holdings, the limited liability company established by property owner Mansour Ghalibaf, the project will be completed in two phases, with the hotel first followed by the condominiums. The company also stated that building the property would triple the amount of vehicle traffic in the area.

A presentation given to the Planning Board by Berkshire Design showed conceptual renderings of the condominiums planned for the property, showing the building at three stories high with an “L”-shape, a small front courtyard and trees planted at the entrance to the complex.

The Planning Board delayed in its approval until the Department of Public Works could sign off on a permit for a stormwater drainage system for the property. Once the department approved the stormwater system.

The board unanimously approved the permit, albeit with three conditions — that the property include additional electric vehicle chargers, to replace a section of parking lot with low maintenance grass seed and that a foundation for the residential buildings be started before receiving a certificate of occupancy.

Ghalibaf said Friday he’s unsure when construction might begin, saying the process to ensure the property met the conditions of the board had to be worked through first.

City keeps AAA bond rating

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Northampton maintained its AAA bond rating from S&P Global Ratings, the highest attainable bond rating, a sign of financial health for the city.

“Northampton consistently maintains reserves higher than the median for comparably rated state peers,” S&P wrote in its report on the city. “The town’s financial performance has stayed strong over several years, which has allowed for the maintenance of very strong reserves, well above the medians for the state.”

The rating agency in its report cited the city’s growing tax base, strong financial management and reserves, and consistent financial results as positive credit factors. The report also noted that the city had suffered a $2.3 million shortfall in its school budget, which the city dipped into its emergency funds to help stabilize, but the agency expressed confidence that the city would continue to show financial stability in the upcoming year.

“This is more than a point of pride; it directly benefits our residents through better financial terms which allow us to do more,” said Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra in a statement. “It’s the best external validation that we’re on the right track.”

The city also announced that its bonds had received competitive bids from bond underwriters on Oct. 3 for a $1.9 million, 10-year general obligation bond issue. Fidelity Capital Markets purchased the bonds at an average interest rate of around 3.5%. The city received a total of six bids on the bonds, and the proceeds of the sale will be used to finance various capital projects, according to the city.

Seniors, veterans can work off portion of taxes

Senior citizens and veterans living in Northampton will once again be eligible for a reduction in property taxes in exchange for volunteer work for the city, through Northampton’s Senior and Veteran Tax Work Off Program

The program allows income-eligible seniors and veterans to earn up to a $1,500 abatement off their property taxes in exchange for volunteering in city departments and entities. According to the city, 221 eligible seniors and veterans have participated in this program since 2014, providing more than 20,000 hours of volunteer service to city departments. In return for these volunteer services, the city provided over $250,000 in property tax relief to those who volunteered.

Those interested and eligible for the program must submit their application by Nov. 17. They may complete an application online or pick one up in person at the Assessor’s Office, Senior Center, or Veterans Services Office. Paper copies of the Senior Tax Work Off Applications are to be dropped off at the Assessor’s Office in City Hall while copies of the Veterans’ Tax Work Off applications go to the Veterans Service Office at Memorial Hall.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.