The Norwottuck Rail Trail crossing at Damon Road will be closed from Monday, April 8, through Friday, April 12, while the Massachusetts Department of Transportation installs concrete wheelchair ramps.

Bicyclists and pedestrians will be detoured next week via the sidewalk and rail trail parking lot to the existing crosswalk near the rotary at the Coolidge Bridge.

Motor vehicle traffic on Damon Road will not be affected.

Environmental review of Picture Main Street

As part of an environmental review of the Picture Main Street project, the state will hold a virtual session to hear from agencies, officials and citizens at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 10.

Here is the Zoom link (Meeting ID 936 7621 5346; Passcode 427106) to participate in the meeting:

Officials from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office seek comments about the impact of the project on the environment. People who want to speak are asked to register by Tuesday, April 9, with Eva Vaughan, an environmental analyst for MEPA, by calling 857-408-6381 or emailing [email protected].

Because trees on Main Street will be removed and replaced for a net increase of 36, this environmental notification is required by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation as part of the design, development and permitting process for the project.

Construction of Picture Main Street is scheduled to start in 2025 and continue for three years.

The project, 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; and increase accessible parking spots by two.

More information about Picture Main Street is available here:

Division of Community Care

The City Council’s Committee on City Services, which I chair, and Committee on Community Resources will hold a joint meeting from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Thursday, April 11, in the City Council chambers, 212 Main St., for a presentation about the Division of Community Care.

A Zoom link to join the meeting will be included with the agenda, which will be posted no later than Tuesday on the city’s website.

The DCC, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, sends civilian responders to nonviolent calls as an alternative to policing. Responders assist some of the most vulnerable members of the community by providing support, advocacy and connection to resources.

Michele Farry, deputy commissioner of the DHHS, and Kristen Rhodes, director of the DCC, will discuss its first seven months in operation.

The Division of Community Care now operates from 1 Roundhouse Plaza, where its community space is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. The DCC eventually will move to the Resilience Hub planned for the former First Baptist Church at 298 Main St.

More information about the Division of Community Care is available here:

Gateway District zoning amendment

The City Council’s Committee on Legislative Matters and the Planning Board will hold a joint public hearing at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 11, in the City Council chambers, 212 Main St., on a petition from residents seeking to change zoning for the Central Business-Gateway District to ban motor vehicle sales.

A Zoom link to join the hearing will be included with the agenda, which will be posted no later than Tuesday on the city’s website.

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 after Cosenzi Automotive in January 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.

Remote option for disrupted meetings

The City Council on Thursday approved a rule change that allows it to recess to a remote-only meeting in the event of a disruption that prevents it from conducting business. The vote was 8-1 with Quaverly Rothenberg of Ward 3 opposed.

The change allows a recess to a remote-only meeting if “the presiding officer determines that a disruption, disturbance, or other interruption materially interferes with continuing the in-person portion of such hybrid meeting.” If a meeting is recessed, councilors would be given sufficient time to log remotely into the meeting before it resumes.

The rule change was adopted after the Feb. 15 meeting of the City Council was shut down by about 60 chanting protesters who filled the City Council chambers seeking an immediate vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The City Council that night adjourned without considering any items on its agenda.

Food drive

The Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with the Northampton Survival Center to sponsor a food drive during April.

Health Commissioner Meredith O’Leary stated that, “Food insecurity in Northampton, as in many other parts of the United States, has been a significant concern since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic led to widespread job losses, rising costs of food, economic disruptions, and challenges accessing food, particularly for vulnerable populations.”

The Survival Center needs nonperishable food including baked beans, canned chicken, canned fruit in juice, canned tomatoes, canned vegetables, cereal, crackers, flour, gluten-free pasta, granola bars, macaroni and cheese, oatmeal, oats, pasta (all kinds), peanut butter, pigeon peas/gandules, rice (brown and white), soups, spaghetti sauce, sugar, and unopened spices.

Collection boxes are at City Hall, 210 Main St., second floor; Municipal Building, 212 Main St., third floor; Memorial Hall, 240 Main St.; 1 Roundhouse Plaza; Fire Department, 26 Carlon Drive and 69 Maple St., Florence; Police Department, 29 Center St.; Senior Center, 67 Conz St.; Forbes Library, 20 West St.; and Lilly Library, 19 Meadow St., Florence.

More information about items needed by the Survival Center is available here: