Problems with nutrient runoff, erosion, siltation, loss of groundwater recharge, poor water quality, vegetation change and harm to wildlife habitat are greatly exacerbated by activities within 100 feet of wetlands. These impacts may happen either immediately, or over time, as a consequence of construction, or as a consequence of daily operation.
Northampton, MA (PRWEB) August 2, 2007
The North Street Neighborhood Association (NSNA) is sponsoring a petition drive to save trees and wetlands in Northampton, Massachusetts. The association is a new civic organization established by citizens to advocate for livable urban environments in Northampton's North Street area and in the city as a whole.
Northampton, a Western Massachusetts community founded in 1654, is famous for natural beauty and progressive traditions. It was designated a "Tree City USA" in 2005 for its commitment to community trees and forests. Nevertheless, large, cherished trees continue to be cut down without public review, sometimes in quantity. These trees benefit the city as a whole by cooling local temperatures, removing air pollutants, absorbing water, reducing erosion, buffering sound, providing habitats for animals, and looking beautiful. We would like Northampton's city officials to consider adopting some of the tree protections that exist in other Massachusetts communities such as Lexington and Springfield.
Northampton is also home to numerous wetlands, which further enhance the natural beauty of the city and play a role in flood mitigation. Ordinance language now being considered by city officials states:
"Problems with nutrient runoff, erosion, siltation, loss of groundwater recharge, poor water quality, vegetation change and harm to wildlife habitat are greatly exacerbated by activities within 100 feet of wetlands. These impacts may happen either immediately, or over time, as a consequence of construction, or as a consequence of daily operation."
Despite acknowledging the fragility and value of wetlands, the city is actively considering laws to encourage new development to encroach as close as 10 feet to wetlands in downtown districts.
The association's petition asks the following of Mayor Clare Higgins and the Northampton City Council:
1) Pass an ordinance to protect "significant trees", such that all "significant trees", whether on public or private land, may not be cut down in whole or substantial part without permission from the Northampton Tree Committee or other appropriate official body. A significant tree is one which is 75 years old or older, or is 3 or more feet in diameter at chest height. The Tree Committee would take into account whether the tree is diseased, damaged, or poses a danger to people or property, and whether not taking action on the tree would impose a hardship on the property owner that exceeds the public's interest in preserving the tree.
2) Revise Northampton's wetlands protection ordinance to emphasize that new development should not occur within 100 feet of a wetland in any part of the city unless exceptional circumstances apply, such as the property owner demonstrating to the city that their hardship in being restrained from development exceeds the public's interest in protecting wetlands.
The proposed ordinances are intended to benefit the entire city. They express that downtown residents--human and animal--need and are entitled to green space just as residents in outlying areas. Urban planning concepts such as "infill" must be balanced against the many benefits provided by urban green space.
The petition drive was spurred by a condo project recently proposed by Kohl Construction of Hadley, MA. Kohl proposes to build 31 condo units, 66 parking spaces, and associated access roads on 5.49 acres of land in downtown Northampton off North Street. This parcel, which borders a wetland, is primarily forest and meadow. It is a significant portion of one of the few substantial stands of trees remaining in the area. Northampton has famously been called the "paradise of America" for its balance of urban and natural amenities. The petition aims to ensure this balance is not lost.
Petition forms and background information are available at NorthAssoc.org.