Northampton’s Planning Board has approved Capital Video’s Site Plan by a vote of 4-3. This means Capital Video may now proceed with building a porn shop at 135 King Street. Capital Video did withdraw a photo of a bondage-themed storefront when a member of the Planning Board objected that it violated Northampton’s new ordinance about adult signage.
We believe the Planning Board erred by ignoring or proceeding on inadequate information about the following issues:
- Capital Video has promised to adhere to a “Victoria’s Secret” standard for its storefront. This standard is vague, and based on the initial bondage storefront proposal it is now in doubt that Capital Video understands what will comply with Northampton’s signage ordinance. The Board should have asked for new depictions of the planned storefront.
- The Board seems to have little concern for parking volumes or safe traffic flows in the alley that leads to Capital Video’s parking lot.
- Capital Video says the back half of its store will be empty. They made no promises that it will always be empty. Should Capital Video find a use for this space later, such as a warehouse, this will raise new issues (commercial traffic, truck flows, noise). Will there be any mechanism in place to address these issues?
The Board would have been justified in rejecting this plan. In lieu of that, asking Capital Video to return with better plans at a later hearing would have been more than reasonable. Instead, the Board hastily and irresponsibly approved a vague plan that inadequately protects the interests of citizens and businesses around 135 King Street.
The relatively brief discussion given to Capital Video’s sketchy plans stood in remarkable contrast to the extended discussion given to the Board’s preceding agenda item today, a detailed plan from Berkshire-Noho, LLC for the construction of 90,000 square feet of office and retail space at 171-187 King St. This plan was also approved, after the Board discussed such minutiae as the number of trees in certain areas of the property and fine points of traffic mitigation.
Naturally, should Capital Video’s store have bad impacts on the neighborhood, such as secondary effects, unsafe traffic flows, overflowing parking, disruptive patrons or illegal offensive signage, there are several recourses for citizens and businesses, complaints to Northampton’s building inspector being one and nuisance claims being another. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and update you on new developments.