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Northampton neighbors take issue with planned 12-unit development

  • 236 South street which would taken down along with 3 Olive street to build larger housing units. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • 3 olive street and 236 South street in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amy Meltzer who lives at 11 Olive Street in Northampton, creates a visual for the hearing about the proposed development of 12 units on Olive and South St. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amy Meltzer who lives at 11 Olive Street in Northampton, creates a visual for the hearing about the proposed development of 12 units on Olive and South St. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amy Meltzer, of 11 Olive St. in Northampton, looks at plans for a development on land next to hers, showing where the parking lot would go. She is concerned the project will affect the trees on her property. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • 3 olive street and 236 South street which abuts Amy Meltzer's property at 11 Olive Street. Meltzer is concerned about the proposal to take these down, build 12 units and a parking lots which might effect trees on her property. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amy Meltzer who lives at 11 Olive Street with her husband and two children looks at the trees in their yard that could be effected with a proposal to demo the abutting houses and build 12 units and a parking lot. The tree in the middle is on the abutters land and would be removed while the two on either side are the ones in question. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Zoe Lepine, 13, and Amy Meltzer, who live at 11 Olive St. with Keith Lepine and Ella Lepine, are shown under the maple trees in their yard. The family is concerned about losing the trees with a proposal to demolish the abutting houses and build 12 units and a parking lot. The tree in the middle is on the abutter’s land and would be removed, while the two on either side are the ones in question. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Three trees that could be effected by a proposed 12 unit housing project on South and Olive with a parking lot. The tree in the middle is on the abutters land and would be removed while the two on either side are the ones on Amy Meltzer and her families property at 11 Olive Street. The family is concerned about losing the trees in their yard with a proposal to demo the abutting houses and build 12 units and a parking lot. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amy Meltzer who lives at 11 Olive Street with her husband and two children stands where a parking lot is proposed to go with the demolition of 3 Olive street and 236 South St. The proposed demo and then construction of 12 units and a parking lot is concerning Meltzer and her family because of how it might effect the trees on her property. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amy Meltzer who lives at 11 Olive Street with her husband and two children looks at the trees in their yard that could be effected with a proposal to demo the abutting houses and build 12 units and a parking lot. The tree in the middle is on the abutters land and would be removed while the two on either side are the ones in question. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



@BeraDunau
Friday, August 10, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — The three mature maple trees in Amy Meltzer’s backyard have been a part of her family’s life since they moved to their home on Olive Street around six years ago. Yet if an abutting development goes through as currently designed, Meltzer believes the trees will be harmed and may even die.

“They’ve designed this project in a way that either kills directly or greatly threatens five mature trees,” Meltzer said.

The 12-unit development at 236 South St./3 Olive St. was the subject of significant objections at a Thursday meeting before the Planning Board. Meltzer spoke to the Gazette before the meeting.

The project’s construction would be made possible by the demolition of an office building and a four-family house on-site. The 12 units would be spread over two buildings, and would include a 19-car parking lot.

The trees in question are the three maple trees on Meltzer’s property, two of which are 30 inches and one of which is 24 inches in diameter; a 34-inch maple tree on the developer’s property that is set for removal; and a 34-inch deciduous tree on a neighbor’s property. All diameters given are at breast height.

Meltzer detailed what the maples on her property mean to her family.

“The first year we moved in we tapped the trees and made maple syrup,” she said.

They’ve also had numerous parties near them, particularly around Jewish holidays.

“We have a tire swing on one of the trees and a regular swing on the other,” Meltzer said.

And although her two daughters, now 13 and 15, are no longer in the demographic that typically uses swings, she said younger children and their families still play around the trees.

Meltzer said the parking lot of the most recent plan for the development would damage the root system of the trees on her property and on the property abutting it. The parking lot would also directly abut her property.

Meltzer said her objections aren’t just about preserving her trees, however. Indeed, she said, she’d consider such a reason to be selfish.

“I wouldn’t be fighting so hard, honestly,” she said.

Rather, Meltzer said this was about doing infill development in an environmentally sustainable manner.

“This is an ethical issue for the city,” she said.

Meltzer said she would have objected to the development even if she hadn’t discovered its threat to the trees. Her immediate reaction, she said, was not liking the idea of living next to a parking lot.

She also said concerns have been raised with the parking lot being too small and the 12 townhouse units increasing traffic in the neighborhood.

These concerns were among those that came up at the meeting.

“What the hell is this project doing in our neighborhood?” said Dan Levy, who said it threatened the entire character of the South Street area.

“I am a supporter of infill,” said Judi Wisch. “But I am not a supporter of overfill.”

“It has to be smaller,” said Keith Lepine, Meltzer’s husband.

Ward 4 City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra also spoke, and said she probably has received more comment on this one subject than any in her four and a half years as a city councilor.

“There’s really significant and genuine concern,” said Sciarra.

Prior to the meeting, Carolyn Misch, Northampton’s senior land planner, said the 2013 zoning changes reduced the lot sizes per unit in urban residential district B and urban residential district C.

The changes also created standards for energy-efficiency, the affordability of smaller units, design and orientation of buildings.

“People wanted projects that were good for the community,” Misch said.

Projects of six or more units in these districts also require special permits from the Planning Board, which is what the developer, Ben Lewis, was seeking Thursday.

In its presentation before the Planning Board, Berkshire Design did note concerns around the three maples.

“We did reach out to an arborist today,” said Jeffrey Squire, a landscape architect with Berkshire Design.

While he said that he hadn’t heard back, he did present a plan to put the parking lot down without digging into the roots of the trees, although he said that the opinion of an arborist is still needed.

Lewis and his family were out of the country in Israel on Thursday, so he was not at the meeting.

His absence was not looked on favorably by the neighbors, including Peter Smolenski, who has lived his entire life on South Street.

“The fact that this person is not in this room speaks volume,” he said.

With the meeting stretching past 11 p.m., the board said it would continue the hearing and keep it open for public comment.

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