Hearing continued on housing project near downtown Northampton

  • 3 Olive St. and 236 South St. in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/2/2018 8:13:13 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The city’s Planning Board has once again continued its hearing on a controversial housing project set to be located on the corner of South and Olive streets, which has drawn objection by some in the neighborhood.

At its meeting last Thursday, the board voted unanimously to continue the hearing until Oct. 25, when the developer will present revised plans for the project.

The proposed development would see the demolition of an office building and a four-family house on the site to make room for about a dozen townhouse units. It would be located at 236 South St./3 Olive St.

At last week’s meeting, neighbor Jessica Lafleur voiced concern about the project’s dumpster plans show would be located on her property line.

“I’d ask that the dumpster get moved off our property line,” she said.

The creation of a specific turnaround space in the parking lot was also discussed by the board, and was raised by Ward 4 City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra.

Concerns about the property being out of character for the neighborhood were also raised.

“Nobody wants a piece of urban Chicopee dumped in our neighborhood,” said Dan Levy, who said that he lives in Northampton because it looks like Northampton. “If you want to turn South Street into Chicopee, this is a start.”

The hearing began and was first  continued on Aug. 9. The project’s developer, Benjamin Lewis, was out of the country with his family at that time, and at the Sept. 27 meeting, Lewis apologized for any offense his absence had caused.

“I pride myself on being compassionate and rational,” he said. “The last thing I would want to do is to be disrespectful.”

Lewis said he was proud that the project would provide more housing within walking distance of downtown.

“Northampton has a housing shortage,” Lewis said. “We are proud to bring units with just the right amount of space to South and Olive.”

Lewis said that the number of units being proposed would make the project financially feasible.

He also said that he would move the parking lot 10 feet from the property of Amy Meltzer, who lives next door to the project. This change is intended to address concerns about trees on her property, and would also save a maple tree on the development’s property as well. The change would likely result in the elimination of one of the development’s units, as well as two parking spaces.

Lewis said that he’d spoken to the parking department and police, and that Olive Street is not considered to be a street with major parking violation issues. He also characterized the request for smaller unit sizes so that less people would move in as “elitist.”

This elitist characterization was not received well by a number of neighbors that spoke at the meeting, although the Planning Board did ask people to limit their comments to the project itself.

“These are people who care deeply about everyone in our community,” said Meltzer, after listing off some of the people who had spoken in opposition.“Half the units are larger than our houses.”

Lafleur also said that she resented the elitist characterization, saying that she’d chosen to buy in what she thought was a smart-growth area.

On moving the parking lot, Meltzer said that such a move was the minimum suggested by her landscape architect, although she was grateful for the move. She said she shared this so that the board would not give its approval until the new plans could be seen.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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