Northampton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center redevelopment
About 35 residents attended a meeting on Wednesday, March 30, at the site of the former nursing home at 737 Bridge Road that Valley Community Development Corp. of Northampton proposes to redevelop for 60 units of affordable housing.

Laura Baker, real estate development director for Valley CDC, and staff at Berkshire Design Group described the latest plans for the 6.2-acre property and led a tour to view where green space and recreational areas may be located behind and at the side of the building closest to Hatfield Street. Carolyn Misch, assistant director of Planning & Sustainability for the city, also attended to answer neighbors’ questions.

Valley CDC is working with a traffic engineer and city officials to determine if motor vehicles can enter and exit the property from and to Bridge Road safely by prohibiting left turns. Valley CDC also is studying relocating the existing driveway from Hatfield Street further away from the intersection at Bridge Road.

While the interior of the building will be gutted, the plan calls for conserving the exterior and maintaining the same footprint for the renovated two-story building. No additional paved surfaces are planned.

On Thursday, the City Council received the first of three financial orders to support Valley CDC in financing the project, which is expected to cost $25 million. Valley CDC has requested a total of $1 million from the city, and this first order for $50,000 from community impact fees collected on short-term rentals was referred to the Finance Committee. A vote is expected at the next City Council meeting April 14.

During Thursday’s meeting, I urged support for the city’s assistance in financing this affordable housing project, which will help meet a critical need in the community.

American Rescue Plan Act Advisory Committee
I am one of two city councilors, along with Vice President Karen Foster of Ward 2, who will serve on the ARPA Advisory Committee to make recommendations on the allocation of $4 million designated for community recovery projects.

That is part of the total $21,747,984 the city will receive from the federal COVID relief measure approved in 2021, all of which must be committed by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

The ARPA Advisory Committee, including community representatives, will determine the application process and criteria for awarding grants to nonprofits, businesses and other organizations for projects to address needs resulting from the pandemic. Among them are housing services, health care, child care and early education, food security, and assistance to businesses.

Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra is completing the appointments to the advisory committee, which is expected to convene this month.

Water and sewer rates
The City Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve the mayor’s recommendation that water and sewer rates remain unchanged from this year for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Form-based zoning hearing
The Planning Board voted unanimously March 24 to recommend that the City Council approve a package of 14 zoning ordinances related to the so-called “form-based” code. The vote came after a joint public hearing with the City Council Committee on Legislative Matters.

The proposed form-based code would affect the central business district in downtown Northampton, as well as Florence village center. The changes, which the Office of Planning & Sustainability have worked on for four years, would merge design standards with expanded uses for properties in those districts. Among the desired impacts are additional multifamily housing, allowing residential units on the ground floor of commercial buildings and creating more spaces that are attractive for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Committee on Legislative Matters will continue its portion of the public hearing on the zoning changes at 5:30 p.m. April 11 before issuing a recommendation. The full City Council is expected to vote April 14 on the zoning package.

The 14 amendments are available here:

Permitting process
The Office of Planning & Sustainability has responded to questions raised by residents about clarifying the review and permitting process for proposed developments in the city. Carolyn Misch, the assistant director, reports that “we have reorganized and added some content and provided a direct link” at

Finn Street closing
Finn Street is closed between State Street and King Street this morning, Monday, April 4, and again Wednesday, April 6, for work by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Access for local traffic and businesses will be maintained.

City Clerk Pamela Powers reported Friday: “Effective immediately, notices sent by the Board of Registrars or City Clerk’s Office about elections or voting will reflect ward and precinct details based on revised boundaries after the 2020 Federal Census. Approximately 1/3 of the residential addresses in the city will be affected.”

That includes residents in Ward 1 because its precincts have been reversed. Ward 1 residents who live closest to downtown (like myself on Perkins Avenue) are now in Precinct B, while those living on many streets formerly in Precinct B (including Bridge Road and surrounding areas) are now in Precinct A. That is simply a change in political address and will not affect where you vote because both precincts in Ward 1 vote at the Jackson Street School.

More significant changes are the streets at each end of Ward 1 that have been redistricted to a different ward. For example, Aldrich Street is now in Ward 4A and Cloverdale Street is in Ward 7A.

The city’s street listings that will be mailed to all residents by April 15 will reflect those changes.

Dog licenses
A dog licensing reminder will be a part of the street listing form. Because that will be mailed later than usual, the late fee assessment will be delayed for two months. Residents will have until June 30 to register their dog without a late fee.

A $20 late fee will be imposed for each pet that is licensed after June 30. Dog licensing fees remain unchanged for 2022: $10 for altered and $20 for non-altered dogs.