The City Council will continue its fact-finding about the impact of cannabis dispensaries on the community when the Committee on City Services holds a virtual roundtable discussion at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 3.
The committee will examine how the growing number of marijuana retailers in Northampton has impacted the delivery of public safety, public health and prevention and recovery services. Police Chief Jody Kasper and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Merridith O’Leary are among the expected participants. .
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,
Downtown parking fees
The City Council Committee on Legislative Matters, of which I am a member, will discuss changes to downtown parking regulations, including fees and hours, during a virtual meeting at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 3.
Among the changes is a later start time of 10 a.m. to begin charging fees at parking meters. At some meters, fees would be extended to 9 p.m., with a higher fee charged between 5 and 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and all day on Saturdays. Some meter fees would be decreased, and time limits at some meters would be eliminated. A permit for the E. John Gare Parking Garage would increase from $90 to $110 per month.
The Transportation and Parking Commission on Sept. 27 issued a neutral recommendation on the proposed changes, and suggested that concerns raised about staffing for enforcement and the impact on revenue need further review.
Once the Committee on Legislative Matters issues a recommendation, the proposed changes would go to the full City Council for a vote.
CPA money for St. John Cantius Church
The City Council Finance Committee, of which I am a member, during a virtual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, will continue its review of 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. The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the full City Council for a vote on the issue during its virtual meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 6.
The agenda for the Finance Committee, including a Zoom link, will be posted no later than Tuesday on the city website’s Agenda Center at https://northamptonma.gov/agendacenter.
Both the Northampton Historical Commission and the Community Preservation Committee have voted unanimously to recommend approval of the $500,000 sought by the O’Connell Development Group of Holyoke 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. If approved, the CPA appropriation would include a permanent historical preservation restriction for as long as that building stands.
The Finance Committee and Committee on Community Resources held a joint meeting Sept. 21 to hear from residents; Carolyn Misch, director of Planning & Sustainability; and Matthew Welter, vice president for development for O’Connell. After two hours of discussion, the Committee on Community Resources issued a neutral recommendation on the order, and the Finance Committee continued its deliberation to Oct. 6.
The Community Preservation Committee file for the St. John Cantius Church application is available here: http://archive.northamptonma.gov/WebLink/Browse.aspx?id=732140&dbid=0&repo=CityOfNorthampton
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@example.com.
Historic Preservation Plan
The Barrett Planning Group of Hingham, which is working with city officials to develop a Historic Preservation Plan element of the Sustainable Northampton Comprehensive Plan, will continue hearing from residents during 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 consultants met virtually for an hour Thursday with about 30 people, and they invite anyone interested in the process to engage in direct conversation during the Oct. 12 session.
The goal is to produce a 10-year plan to identify key preservation elements – including buildings, natural resources and cultural artifacts – as well as the tools available to protect them.
Draft documents are available here:
A presentation made on June 9 to the Planning Board is available at
Keith Benoit, the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for the city, has issued a reminder to property owners that they are responsible for removing all obstructions to sidewalks, including vegetation as well as snow and ice, at all times.
Benoit writes: “While overgrown brush may only be a nuisance to some people, it can make a sidewalk completely inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and canes. It can also create an unexpected hazard for people with vision impairments. The brush can force people into the grass strip, which may become mud during certain parts of the season, or even push sidewalk users into the road.”
A city ordinance specifies that if the city Department of Public Works determines that a sidewalk is obstructed, the property owner will be notified and given 14 days to remove the obstruction. If that is not done, the DPW would remove or prune the obstruction at the owner’s expense.