Water and sewer rates will remain the same in fiscal year 2025 that begins July 1, Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra informed the City Council on Thursday.

Both the base rate charge and the consumption rate will not change for owners of homes and businesses.

This comes a year after the City Council approved the first increase in water and sewer rates since fiscal year 2020. In the current fiscal year ending June 30, the increase totaled between $244 and $337 for most residences in Northampton, while the average commercial water and sewer bill rose by $523.

The rate increase resulted from revenue lost as the Coca-Cola bottling plant, the city’s largest water consumer, reduced its operation in the Northampton Industrial Park. It is now expected to shut down entirely by June 30.

Gateway District zoning amendment

The City Council on Thursday referred to its Committee on Legislative Matters and the Planning Board a petition from residents seeking to change zoning for the Central Business-Gateway District to ban motor vehicle sales.

A public hearing will be held, likely in April, on the petition filed March 14 by 16 registered voters.

The zoning now allows establishments selling, leasing or renting automobiles and trucks in the Gateway District if the Planning Board approves a special permit.

The district is intended to “create a gateway to downtown Northampton and adjacent residential neighborhoods, develop a pedestrian-scale public realm, facilitate redevelopment of the area with a broad range of moderate to high-density commercial, mixed-use and residential buildings” and “provide increased options for housing and services that benefit residents in the surrounding neighborhoods and travelers along the corridor.”

The proposed zoning amendment comes about two months after Cosenzi Automotive filed an application for a special permit to develop a 14,400-square-foot automotive dealership at 171-187 King St., which is in the Gateway District. However, Cosenzi requested that city officials delay considering its application because it did not meet many requirements of the current zoning.

Earlier start for City Council

Beginning May 2, the City Council will begin its meetings at 6:30 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than the current start time.

Councilors believe that the change will result in an earlier end to meetings, which now often go past 10 p.m., and will be more convenient for the public and city staff.

Resilience Hub community meetings

City officials, Community Action Pioneer Valley and Jones Whitsett Architects of Greenfield will hold three community meetings this spring to help develop plans for the Resilience Hub in the former First Baptist Church at 298 Main St.

The sessions will be held at the Edwards Church, 297 Main St., from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on March 25 (“Blueprints & Beginnings: Mapping Our Hub”), May 1 (“Resilience & Relationships: Strengthening Downtown Together”) and June 5 (“Connections & Collaborations: Envisioning Comprehensive Care”).

Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra said the goal is to involve the public in “a project that reflects our collective aspiration for a more inclusive, supportive, and resilient Northampton. As we unveil the progress made thus far, it is your insights and aspirations that will guide us in tailoring the Hub to truly meet our community’s needs.”

The city paid $3.175 million for the former church, which has been vacant since 1993. The Resilience Hub will provide services and resources in a central location, including a community center and kitchen during the day, to members of the city’s most vulnerable population.

The building also will serve as headquarters for the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Community Care, and it will be used as an emergency response center and shelter during crises.

Community Action Pioneer Valley is the city’s social service partner and is leading the development process for the Hub. Jones Whitsett Architects of Greenfield is helping to design and manage the project.

More information about the Resilience Hub is available here:


State school funding

The Northampton School Committee will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 27, at the Northampton Senior Center, 67 Conz St., for a presentation about school funding by the state.

Here is the Zoom link to participate remotely in the meeting (passcode 191872): https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83874751765

Tracy Novick, the school finance field director for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, will discuss Northampton’s situation as a minimum aid community and other factors impacting the city’s Chapter 70 state funding.

“POP: Pardon Our Progress”

Musician Daymen Toussaint of South Hadley was recognized Thursday for his winning entry – “POP: Pardon Our Progress” – in the “Name That Campaign” contest to support Main Street businesses during the Picture Main Street project.

Toussaint received a $50 Northampton gift card for his slogan that was selected from more than 100 submissions. It will be used by the city, Downtown Northampton Association and Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce to promote continued patronage of downtown businesses during the project that is expected to begin in the fall of 2025.

Picture Main Street, for which the state is expected to pay $19 million, will channel motor vehicle traffic to one travel lane in each direction with a center turning lane; add physically separated bicycle lanes on both sides of the road; widen sidewalks; shorten crosswalks; reduce the overall number of parking spaces by 57; increase accessible parking spots by two; and add 36 trees.

More information about Picture Main Street is available here:


Forbes Library trustees

Registered voters in Northampton who are interested in serving Forbes Library are invited to apply for two new trustee seats created when the governing board was increased from five to seven members.

The new trustees were added to encourage broader representation from the community and distribute the increasing workload among more people. Members of historically underrepresented communities are encouraged to apply.

Applicants are asked to email library director Lisa Downing ([email protected]) a statement of up to 500 words describing their interest in serving as trustee. The deadline for applying is Monday, April 1. Candidates will be invited to answer questions during a public meeting at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 10. The board will then vote for two people to fill the vacancies through 2025. The new trustees may choose to run in the municipal election in November 2025 to fill those seats for a four-year term.

The trustees hire and evaluate the director and oversee the library budget and policies. They attend 11 monthly meetings annually and do committee work, including fundraising.

More information is available here:


Climate Action interim director

Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra on Friday named Benjamin Weil as interim director of the city’s Climate Action and Project Administration Department. He succeeds Carole Collins who had served since September as the first director of CAPA and decided to return to her previous position as director of the Department of Energy and Sustainability in Greenfield.

Weil, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will serve as interim director from the end of May through August. He has been a member of the Northampton Energy and Sustainability Commission since January 2018.

Weil said, “The CAPA department has the potential to integrate climate and sustainability into everything the city does, making local government more efficient, cost-effective, and responsive.”

The City Council last year approved the CAPA Department to help meet the goals of achieving carbon neutrality for municipal operations by 2030 and for net-zero carbon emissions citywide by 2050. It is a resource for everyone in the community, including residents, businesses and institutions, and coordinates efforts to secure state and federal grants to help meet the city’s goals.

More information about CAPA is available here: