Director of Planning & Sustainability
The City Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra’s appointment of Carolyn Misch as the permanent director of the Department of Planning & Sustainability.

Misch has been interim director of Planning & Sustainability since Wayne Feiden retired at the end of June. She has nearly 30 years of experience in the planning field at the local, regional and state levels. Misch has worked for the City of Northampton for the last 22 years, as the senior planner and permits manager and, since 2020, assistant director of Planning & Sustainability.

Sciarra said her advisory screening committee unanimously recommended Misch after reviewing candidates who responded to a national search. “Carolyn was the best and most qualified candidate by far,” Sciarra said. “She has the vision, the experience, and the temperament to guide Northampton as it implements its progressive planning agenda and as we work to meet our climate change goals.”

Cannabis dispensaries
Two City Council committees have scheduled virtual roundtable discussions to examine the impact of cannabis dispensaries on the community.

There are currently 12 adult-use dispensaries operating in Northampton (including two that also offer medical marijuana treatment). Two other host community agreements have been signed, including one for two separate sites. And
Euphorium LLC proposes to open a marijuana dispensary in the Goodwin Block at 125 Main St., Florence.

Although the City Council does not have jurisdiction over host community agreements for specific marijuana establishments, it could place a cap on the number of dispensaries allowed in Northampton. In 2018, the City Council rejected a proposed cap of 10.
City councilors are responding to some residents who are now calling for renewed consideration of a cap on cannabis dispensaries,

The Committee on Community Resources will hold its roundtable discussion at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 19. Participants are expected to include representatives of ServiceNet Inc., the Strategic Planning Initiatives for Families and Youth Coalition at the Collaborative for Educational Services, and the cannabis industry.

The Committee on City Services will hold its roundtable discussion at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 3. to hear from municipal staff, including Police Chief Jody Kasper and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Merridith O’Leary and other health officials.

I expect that the Finance Committee, of which I am a member, will examine the impact of a potential cap on the city’s budget. Northampton received $1,150,577 in revenue from adult-use marijuana excise taxes in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022.

CPA money for St. John Cantius Church
The City Council Finance Committee and Committee on Community Resources will hold a joint virtual meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, to review an order that would appropriate $500,000 from Community Preservation Act funds for exterior repairs to the former St. John Cantius Church at 10 Hawley St. If approved, the CPA appropriation would include a permanent historical preservation restriction for as long as that building stands.

The agenda for that meeting, including a Zoom link, will be posted Monday on the city website’s Agenda Center at Carolyn Misch, director of Planning & Sustainability, and a representative of the O’Connell Development Group of Holyoke are scheduled to attend and answer questions.

Both the Northampton Historical Commission and the Community Preservation Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of the $500,000 sought by O’Connell to repair the exterior and preserve the church building, which it would re-use for market-rate rental housing. About two-thirds of that amount – $335,737 – would be taken from a CPA account that can be used only for historic preservation projects.

The Historic Structure Report prepared as part of the city’s review of the project describes St. John Cantius Church, which was dedicated in 1913, as “a contributing structure located … on the corner of Hawley Street and Phillips Place within the Pomeroy Terrace Historic District in Northampton. The site has a significant connection to Polish immigrant history and the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.”

Some residents have criticized the use of CPA money for a private development that does not include affordable housing, and questioned whether there are other sources of money to preserve the former church building.

The Community Preservation Committee file for the St. John Cantius Church application is available here:

The Finance and Community Resources committees are expected to issue recommendations for consideration by the full City Council on Oct. 6.

Vaccine clinics
The Northampton Department of Health and Human Services offers the new COVID bivalent booster vaccines on Mondays between 2 and 6 p.m. and Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. through October at the Elks Lodge, 17 Spring St., Florence. Both the Pfizer shots for people ages 12 and older and the Moderna shots for people ages 18 and older are available.

People may make an appointment online at, or by calling 413-587-1314 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

COVID vaccines are free, but anyone with health insurance will need their insurance card to make an appointment because insurers are billed an administration fee to run the clinics. However, no one will be turned away if they do not have health insurance.

People need the date of their past vaccines to make an appointment and must show documentation of past vaccinations at the clinic. Either a paper or digital record may be used. To find your vaccination record, visit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the new bivalent boosters for anyone over 12 who is at least two months past their most recent booster dose or completion of the “primary series” doses of the original vaccines.

And the Northampton clinics continue to offer primary doses of the original vaccines for anyone 6 months or older. Appointments are available Mondays for the first, second and third doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for each age group.

Further information is available at

League of Women Voters book sale
The Northampton Area League of Women Voters will hold its 72nd annual book sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24, at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School.

The sale of hardcover and paperback books is a fundraiser for educational and advocacy programs sponsored by the local League of Women Voters, which was founded in 1922.

Florence Night Out
Florence Night Out, an outdoor festival of visual art, live music, food, and other family activities in downtown Florence, returns from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24.

The block party will feature three music stages and four mobile art boxes.

A schedule of events and details about supporting the event are available at

Community Preservation Committee vacancy
The City Council is seeking applicants to fill a vacancy in one of two elected positions on the Community Preservation Committee, which recommends how Community Preservation Act money is spent in the four program areas: housing, historic preservation, open space, and recreation.

Anyone interested may apply online at or by obtaining an application from the mayor’s office. The deadline to apply for the CPC vacancy is 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29. Applicants will be interviewed by the City Council’s Committee on City Services, which is expected to make a recommendation for a vote by the full council Oct. 6,

The person selected will serve until the next regular city election in 2023.

Historic Preservation Plan
City officials are working with the Barrett Planning Group of Hingham to develop a Historic Preservation Plan element of the Sustainable Northampton Comprehensive Plan. The first virtual community forum will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29, via Zoom.
People are asked to register for the session at

That will be followed by an in-person open house from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 12, in the City Council chambers at 212 Main St.

The plan will address physical preservation, regulation, documentation, and outreach and advocacy. A presentation made on June 9 to the Planning Board is available at

Northampton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center redevelopment
Valley Community Development Corp. of Northampton will host a virtual meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11, to share the latest working plans for redevelopment of the former nursing home at 737 Bridge Road into 60 units of affordable housing, and take questions and comments.

Anyone unable to attend who has questions or comments may contact Laura Baker, real estate development director for Valley CDC, at 413-586-5855, ext. 100, or [email protected].