Northampton Site Plan Approval Requirements; Capital Video’s Plan Falls Short

We believe Capital Video’s Site Plan (PDF) for 135 King Street falls short of the requirements in Northampton’s Zoning Ordinance, and that citizens have grounds to appeal its approval.
Here are elements we believe to be relevant from the zoning ordinance (emphasis added):

Section 1.3 – Purpose

This Ordinance is enacted for the following purposes: to lessen congestion in the streets; to conserve health; to secure safety from fire, flood, panic, and other dangers; to provide adequate light and air; to prevent overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population; to encourage housing for persons of all income levels; to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, water supply, drainage, sewerage, schools, parks, open space and other public requirements; to conserve the value of land and buildings, including the conservation of natural resources and the prevention of blight and pollution of the environment; to encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout the City, including consideration of the recommendations of the City’s master plan, adopted by the Planning Board, and the comprehensive plan of the Pioneer Valley Regional Planning Commission; and to preserve and increase amenities by the promulgation of regulations to fulfill said objectives…

Section 7.2 – General Sign Regulations

…19. Signs may not include text, graphics or pictures defined as obscene in MGL Chpt. 272 §31 if taken as a whole it

A. Appeals to the prurient interest of the average person applying the contemporary standards of the county where the offense was committed;

B. Depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and

C. Lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Nor may signs depict or describe sexual conduct or sexual excitement as defined in MGL Chpt 272, §31. (added paragraph 11/2/2006)…

Section 8.10 – Additional Standards for over five spaces.
In addition to §8.9 above, all parking and loading areas containing over five (5) spaces, including automotive and drive-in establishments of all types shall either be contained within structures or shall also comply with the following:

1. The area shall be effectively screened with suitable planting or site impervious fencing on each side which adjoins or faces the side or rear lot line of a lot situated in any Residential “R” District


…Section 11.5 – Procedures

The application for Site Plan Approval shall be accompanied by a site plan, drawings and supporting documentation in a form specified by rules and regulations which shall show, among other data, the following…

Estimated daily and peak hour vehicle trips generated by the proposed use, traffic patterns for vehicles and pedestrians showing adequate access to and from the site, and adequate vehicular and pedestrian circulation within the site

Section 11.6 – Approval Criteria

In conducting the Site Plan Approval, the Planning Board shall find that the following conditions are met:

1. The requested use protects adjoining premises against seriously detrimental uses. If applicable, this shall include provision for surface water drainage, sound and sight buffers and preservation
of views, light, and air; and

2. The requested use will promote the convenience and safety of vehicular and pedestrian movement within the site and on adjacent streets, minimize traffic impacts on the streets and
roads in the area. If applicable, this shall include considering the location of driveways openings in relation to traffic and adjacent streets, access by emergency vehicles, the arrangement of parking and loading spaces…

3. The requested use will promote a harmonious relationship of structures and open spaces to the natural landscape, existing buildings and other community assets in the area; and

4. The requested use will not overload, and will mitigate adverse impacts on, the City’s resources including the effect on the City’s water supply and distribution system, sanitary and storm sewage collection and treatment systems, fire protection, streets and schools

6. B. Pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic movement on site must be separated, to the extent possible…

9. A. No signs, text, graphics, pictures, publications, videotapes, CDs, DVDs, movies, covers, merchandise or other objects, implements, items or advertising, depicting, describing sexual conduct or sexual excitement as defined in MGL Chpt. 272, §31 shall be displayed in the windows or on any building or be visible to the public from the street, pedestrian sidewalks, walkways, or bikepaths or from other areas outside such

As discussed in our open letter to Capital Video attorney Michael Pill, there are several outstanding questions about how Capital Video will comply with the goals and requirements above. In some cases their Site Plan is silent on the issues, in others it is vague, in still others the Planning Board has been asked to rely on vague verbal assurances, such as adherence to a “Victoria’s Secret standard” in signage. Based on the images at the Victoria’s Secret website, it is not clear that this standard complies with Northampton’s signage regulations, or that it would not be detrimental to the surroundings of 135 King Street.

Planning Board member Kenneth Jodrie called Capital Video’s Site Plan “one of the poorest I’ve seen in a long time”. He’s right, and citizens have ample grounds for an appeal.

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