City of Northampton, MA
Hampshire County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Northampton 10-7-1999 (Ch. 27 of the 1977 Code), as amended 1-20-2011. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
General penalty — See Ch. 1, § 1-17.
Enforcement — See Ch. 40.
Historic Districts — See Ch. 195.
Demolition — See Ch. 161.
Zoning — See Ch. 350.
156a Central Business Architecture Design Guidelines

§ 156-1 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to preserve and enhance the pedestrian-scale character, culture, economy and welfare of downtown Northampton by preserving historic and architecturally valuable buildings and features, and by encouraging compatible building design. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as creating a new responsibility for landowners to maintain their buildings.

§ 156-2 Map.

[Amended 11-17-2011; 4-19-2012]
A Central Business and West Street Architecture Ordinance is hereby established within the City of Northampton. The ordinance (this chapter) shall regulate the Central Business District and the West Street District bounded as shown on an attached map entitled "Central Business and West Street Architecture, City of Northampton," and made part of this chapter. This chapter creates an architecturally controlled district as envisioned by MGL c. 143, § 3A.

§ 156-3 (Reserved) [1]

[1]
Editor's Note: Former § 156-3, Central Business Architecture Committee, was repealed 12-4-2014. See now the Administrative Code, included in the City Code following the Charter.

§ 156-4 Central Business Design Guidelines Manual and rules and regulations; materials required for submission.

A. 
The Design Guidelines Manual, Downtown Northampton Central Business District, 1999, as may be amended, is attached hereto by reference. It shall be cited in this chapter as the "Design Guidelines Manual."[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: The Design Guidelines Manual is included at the end of this chapter.
B. 
The Central Business Architecture Committee shall have the authority to appoint a subcommittee or agent to act on behalf of the full Committee for any action which does not require a public hearing.
C. 
After a public hearing and only with four affirmative votes, the Central Business Architecture Committee shall have the authority to adopt reasonable rules, regulations, and forms and to revise the Design Guidelines Manual to aid in the administration of this chapter, and to reclassify building types shown on the Central Business Architectural Ordinance, City of Northampton, Map attached to this chapter.
D. 
Materials to be submitted for nonexempt projects shall be provided in sufficient detail to determine the projects impact and compliance individually and in context with the surrounding buildings, and with respect to the Design Guidelines Manual. The Committee may waive or clarify any of these requirements either as part of its rules and regulations or in their review of a specific project. For all nonexempt projects, unless waived by the Committee, the following shall be provided:
(1) 
Photographs of existing conditions, showing both detail and context of area(s) to be altered. Photographs should include buildings to be demolished and vacant areas to be developed.
(2) 
Scale plans of proposed alterations, renovations, or new construction sufficient to show all aspects considered under this chapter.
(3) 
Renderings or photographic or computer simulations showing both detail and context of the area to be altered sufficient to show all aspects considered under this chapter. For new buildings and major alterations, this item shall be sufficient to see the entire building, its details, and context from relevant viewpoints.
(4) 
A list or full description of existing materials to be altered and of proposed materials.
(5) 
Detailed description of any financial hardship.

§ 156-5 Central Business architecture; exemptions.

A. 
The Central Business Architecture Committee shall appoint a subcommittee or agent and authorize that subcommittee or agent to issue a certificate of nonapplicability under this section. Such certification is not required but is provided to provide an applicant documentation that a permit is not required.
B. 
To request a certificate of nonapplicability under this section, the applicant shall complete and file the appropriate application form with the Northampton Office of Planning and Development. Within 14 days the Committee's duly authorized subcommittee or agent shall issue such certificate if it finds that the application demonstrates that the project is exempt under this section. If the Committee fails to act within these time periods, an applicant may send a written notice requesting the certificate. If the Committee still fails to act the certificate shall be deemed to have been issued seven days after the Committee's receipt of said notice. A denial of this certificate may be appealed to the full Committee within 21 days of its denial.
C. 
The following elements are specifically exempt from review by the Committee. The Building Commissioner shall issue permits for this work only after determining that the project is exempt:
(1) 
Interior work, including features, arrangements or use of other nonexterior elements.
(2) 
Exterior architecture features not visible from a public street, provided that they would not be visible even in the absence of all freestanding walls and fences, signs, accessory structures, and landscaping, and the rear of any buildings if the rear facade does not abut a City street.
(3) 
The ordinary maintenance, repair or replacement of any exterior architecture feature which does not involve any change of design or appearance.
(4) 
Landscaping with plants, trees or shrubs.
(5) 
Meeting any requirements certified by a duly authorized public officer to be necessary for public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition.
(6) 
All ground signs, building signs and awnings except those which could potentially alter or damage the building facade to which they are attached.
(7) 
Open terraces, walks, driveways and similar structures, provided that such structures are substantially at grade level.
(8) 
Handicapped access ramps designed solely for the purpose of facilitating ingress or egress of a physically handicapped person, as defined in MGL c. 22, § 13A, provided that such ramps are not more than one foot above original grade.
(9) 
Freestanding walls or fences that are not part of any other structure, when such walls or fences are allowed as of right by Chapter 350, Zoning. (No special permits or findings are required.)
(10) 
Storm doors and windows, screens, window air conditioners, rooftop solar panels, lighting fixtures, and antennas. Satellite dish antennas with a diameter of greater than one foot are not exempt.
(11) 
Roof colors, paint and stain colors, and painting of unpainted masonry and all nonmasonry structures.
(12) 
The reconstruction, substantially similar in exterior design and appearance, of a building, structure or exterior architecture feature damaged or destroyed by fire, storm or other disaster, provided that such reconstruction is begun within one year thereafter and carried forward with due diligence.
(13) 
Freestanding outdoor art, provided that such art is not also a sign, does not alter any exterior feature protected by this chapter in such a way that it cannot be readily repaired, and is not also an integral part of the exterior facade of a building.
(14) 
Alteration or renovation, but not expansion or demolition, of any anomaly or transitional residential building, based on its most recent classification, if developed in accordance with the Design Guidelines and so long as the change does not reduce the glazed area of any street-facing façade.
[Amended 12-3-2015]
(15) 
Alteration of the first-floor facade of any theme commercial building, as defined in the Design Guidelines Manual, that was built with glass covering a significant part of the first-floor facade or has glass covering a significant part of the first-floor facade when a permit for the proposed alteration is applied for, when at least 50% of the altered first-floor facade will be glass installed providing a view from the public right-of-way of the inside of at least part of the building.
(16) 
Alteration of the first-floor facade of any landmark building, when the Committee finds that such alteration will be in conformance with Design Guidelines Manual.
(17) 
Replacement of a window with a new window of the same general design and appearance but a change in materials when the Building Commissioner or the Committee finds that the new windows are identical in size to the old windows and do not alter sills, lintels or tops, do not incorporate mirrored glass, and when, except for small decorative windows and first-floor storefronts, windows have a traditionally appropriate horizontal division within the glass. (Snap-in grills are exempt, but do not meet the requirement for a horizontal division.)
(18) 
Restoration of features of the same general design and appearance as existed historically on a structure when the Building Commissioner or Committee finds that there is adequate evidence to believe that the restoration is historically accurate and the restoration will not damage other historic features nor alter the historic character of the building.
(19) 
Temporary structures for up to 30 days.
(20) 
Streets, sidewalks, utility poles and public and utility infrastructure that is generally within the street right-of-way.
(21) 
Any other classes of projects or construction methods which the regulatory Committee has found, after a public hearing, are appropriate for exemption after Committee review.

§ 156-6 Central Business architecture permit process.

Except for activities exempted above, no building or structure within the Central Business Architecture District shall be constructed, altered, or demolished in any way without a central business architecture permit from the Central Business Architecture Committee issued in accordance with this chapter, nor, without such a permit, shall such activities be issued a building permit or demolition permit. (See also MGL c. 143, § 3A.)
A. 
To apply for a permit, the applicant shall complete and file the Committee's application form and file required submittal materials with the Northampton Office of Planning and Development.
B. 
The Committee shall use the same public notice and time line requirements for permit applications as are required under the State Zoning Act (MGL c. 40A) for special permits and time lines for exercising permits as specified in Chapter 350, Zoning, § 350-4.7.
[Amended 6-1-2017 by Ord. No. 17.289]
C. 
The Committee shall hold a joint public hearing with the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals, as appropriate, for any project that also requires zoning relief from those Boards, if the applicant provides a written request for a joint hearing with the application to both Boards, and if the applicant grants waivers from statutory time limits, if necessary, to allow a joint hearing.
D. 
The Committee shall follow the following process in reviewing an application:
(1) 
If the Committee finds that a project is exempt, it shall issue a certificate of nonapplicability.
(2) 
If the Committee finds that a project is compatible with the preservation of historic, architecture and pedestrian-scale character, under the terms of this chapter, it shall issue an central business architecture permit. The Committee shall not review elements of the project which are exempt under § 156-5, but shall determine that projects respect the details and the character of Central Business by considering the following:
(a) 
Any element of the project or the project in its entirety shall be presumed to meet the standards necessary for approval if the Committee finds that it meets the Applicability and Design Guidelines sections in the Design Guidelines Manual; and
(b) 
Any element of the project or the project in its entirety not permitted under Subsection C(2)(a) above shall be approved if the Committee finds that the project maintains and enhances the Downtown Northampton Central Business District: Character Defining Features in the Design Guidelines Manual, even if it does not meet the Design Guidelines; and
(c) 
In the event elements of the project or the project in its entirety does not meet the above standards, the Committee can waive some or all of the standards if such waiving will clearly preserve and enhance the pedestrian-scale character, culture, economy and welfare of downtown Northampton by preserving historic and architecturally valuable buildings and features, and by encouraging compatible building design.
(3) 
If the Committee finds that owing to conditions especially affecting the building or structures involved, but not affecting the district generally, failure to approve an application will involve a substantial hardship, financial or otherwise, to the applicant and whether such application may be approved without substantial detriment to the public welfare and without substantial derogation from the intent and purposes of this chapter, it shall issue an central business architecture permit.
(4) 
If the Committee finds that none of the above apply, it shall deny the central business architecture permit.
(5) 
A landowner in the district or his or her representative may request informal assistance from the Commission in planning alterations or new construction. The Commission shall offer informal advice and comments on any proposal. This advice, however, cannot be binding on the Committee when they formally review an application for a certificate.

§ 156-7 Central Business architecture appeals.

Any issuance or denial of a permit by the Committee may be appealed to the Northampton Planning Board, by an applicant or other aggrieved party, provided that such appeal has been filed within 21 days of the filing of said decision with the City Clerk. The Planning Board shall limit its consideration of such an appeal to considering errors of the Committee and shall need a two-thirds vote of its members to overturn the action of the Committee. For the purposes of this section, Planning Board associates may serve as full Planning Board members in the absence or inability of the Planning Board member to vote.

§ 156-8 Violations and penalties; noncriminal disposition.

A. 
This chapter may be enforced by criminal and noncriminal penalties and injunctive relief, in accordance with Chapter 40 of the Northampton Code of Ordinances. Each day a condition is in violation of the provisions of this chapter shall constitute a separate violation.
B. 
As an alternative to criminal prosecution or civil action, the City of Northampton may elect to utilize the noncriminal disposition procedure set forth in § 40-5.

§ 156-9 West Street architecture standards.

A. 
The following activities are exempt from West Street architecture review:
(1) 
Interior work, including features, arrangements or use of other nonexterior elements.
(2) 
Exterior architecture features not visible from a public street, provided that they would not be visible even in the absence of all freestanding walls and fences, signs, accessory structures, and landscaping, and the rear of any buildings if the rear facade does not abut a City street.
(3) 
The ordinary maintenance, repair or replacement of any exterior architecture feature which does not involve any change of design or appearance.
(4) 
Landscaping with plants, trees or shrubs.
(5) 
Meeting any requirements certified by a duly authorized public officer to be necessary for public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition.
(6) 
All ground signs, building signs and awnings, except those which could potentially alter or damage the building facade to which they are attached.
(7) 
Open terraces, walks, driveways and similar structures, provided that such structures are substantially at grade level.
(8) 
Handicapped access ramps designed solely for the purpose of facilitating ingress or egress of a physically handicapped person, as defined in MGL c. 22, § 13A, provided that such ramps are not more than one foot above original grade.
B. 
All regulated activities will integrate buildings and landscape design with the campus, the West Street streetscape and neighborhood, consistent with the following principles:
(1) 
Locate new buildings along West Street in a manner that is densely developed, oriented to the street and frames the street, enhances the streetscape, and creates an urban, pedestrian-friendly corridor at the ground floor, connecting downtown, the Smith/Green/West Street neighborhood, and the Village at Hospital Hill. For buildings along West Street, among the building alternatives considered will be massing and scale that is similar to the existing residential scale, such as use of stepped-up facades, bays, courtyards and other design options, and/or more urban-style facades built near the sidewalk edge that include ground floors with active uses.
(2) 
Pay particular attention to the campus/neighborhood interface; i.e., porous facades facing public streets as well as inner campus; balance of interior and exterior focus/views; sensitive siting and design of back sides of buildings, dumpsters, loading docks, mechanicals, and parking lots to support the urban corridor.
(3) 
Minimize new curb cuts onto public ways; i.e., limit new service access driveways onto West Street.
(4) 
Extend pedestrian-focused Smith College core campus to Ford Hall and create pedestrian pathways linking green spaces, buildings, streets, campus, neighborhood, and the parking garage, considering elements such as sidewalk width and street trees.

§ 156-10 West Street architecture process.

A. 
Except as noted above, no building or structure within the West Street Architecture District shall be constructed or altered, in any way, nor shall new off-street parking be constructed without a permit from the Planning Board issued in accordance with this chapter, nor, without such a permit, shall such activities be issued a building permit.
B. 
To apply for a permit, the applicant shall complete and file the application form and file required submittal materials with the Northampton Office of Planning and Development. To provide consistency, even though West Street architecture is distinct from zoning ordinances, the Planning Board shall use the same public notice and time line requirements for permit applications as are required under the State Zoning Act (MGL c. 40A) for special permits. If the Board fails to act within these time periods, an applicant may send a written notice requesting the permit. If the Board still fails to act, the permit shall be deemed to have been issued 21 days after the Committee's receipt of said notice.