A proposed zoning amendment to ban motor vehicle sales in the Central Business-Gateway District failed to receive a positive recommendation from either the City Council’s Committee on Legislative Matters or the Planning Board following a 2-hour, 15-minute public hearing on April 11.

Legislative Matters Chair Marissa Elkins and Vice Chair Garrick Perry, both at-large councilors, voted to send the proposed zoning change to the full City Council with a neutral recommendation.

Ward 7 Councilor Rachel Maiore said she favored a positive recommendation for the amendment initiated via a petition signed by 16 residents. The fourth member of the committee, Alex Jarrett of Ward 5, was absent.

The Planning Board voted 4-2 to oppose the change, with a majority of its members in favor of keeping the current zoning, which allows establishments selling, leasing or renting automobiles and trucks in the Gateway Districts on King Street and Pleasant Street if a special permit is approved. The Planning Board would have to determine that such a project meets the other zoning requirements for the Gateway District.

It 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 change will be considered by the City Council during its meeting at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 2, in the City Council Chambers, 212 Main St.

Here is the Zoom link to participate remotely in that meeting: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81954240577

The proposed zoning amendment comes after Carla Cosenzi, president of the TommyCar Auto Group, 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. That 5.35-acre site has been vacant for nearly two decades. City action on the application was delayed because it did not meet many requirements of the current zoning.

Cosenzi, a Northampton resident who spoke during the hearing, said she is waiting for a decision by the City Council on the proposed zoning change before deciding about moving forward with a project at the King Street site, which she purchased last year for more than $5 million. If she proceeds with plans for a dealership, Cosenzi said it would be built on less than half of the site, and she is open to a partnership for a mixed-use project.

Temporary Broad Brook Greenway closure

All access to the Broad Brook Greenway trails from Cooke Avenue will be closed while the parking lot at the former Moose Lodge property is paved between May 1 and 15. This is part of the city’s redevelopment of 196 Cooke Ave., which includes the parking area on the eastern side of the property near an access trail to the greenway.

While the lot is closed for paving, there will be no parking on Cooke Avenue or Pines Edge Drive to ensure access for construction vehicles. The Northampton Police Department will post no-parking signs on Cooke Avenue and Pines Edge Drive the evening of Wednesday, May 1. The contractor is expected to begin work on Thursday, May 2.

Trails in the Broad Brook Greenway and to Fitzgerald Lake will be accessible via the North Farms Road entrance during the project.

The building that once housed the Moose Lodge was demolished in 2022. The paved parking lot will have 21 spaces, including two that are handicap accessible. There also will be a rack for bicycles.

The city plans to sell a portion of the western side of the property to Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity for four single-family homes owned by first-time home buyers. The houses will have their own parking spaces and be screened from the conservation area parking by trees and fencing.