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News Briefs: King Street Meeting, Sidewalk Sipping, and the Bicycle Bridge

King Street Zoning Forum Tonight

NORTHAMPTON – Tonight’s public forum on proposed zoning changes for King Street will be held tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 29) at 7-9 p.m. at the Jackson Street School auditorium. The public meeting is the second of two planned by the city’s Zoning Revisions Committee (ZRC), which since June has been reviewing a proposal submitted by the Northampton Area Chamber of Commerce.

About 30 people attended last week's King Street zoning meeting. Tonight, city planners are holding a 7-9 p.m. session at the Jackson Street School. (David Reid photo)

The ZRC is an arm of the Planning Board, which itself will hold public meetings on the plan once the ZRC is done with its vetting. If formal zoning ordinance changes are proposed, there will be additional public hearings, including one by the City Council’s Ordinance Committee.

Two weeks ago, ZRC chairman Joel Russell resigned just before the first public meeting on the chamber’s King Street plan. In a resignation letter he sent to city officials, Russell alleged that the chamber was interfering in the planning process and making his job untenable. Mayor Mary Clare Higgins, Planning Board Chairman Stephen Gilson and others have disputed Russell’s characterization.

Bottoms Up, Bottoms Down Outside Starbucks

NORTHAMPTON – Coffee-drinkers who like sitting outside and interacting with other downtown life-forms can once again do so outside the Starbucks store at 211 Main St.

Starbucks is now in complaince with city sidewalk regulations and has begun putting back their outdoor tables and chairs. (David Reid photo)

According to folks at the Department of Public Works, someone from the Seattle-based company plunked down the required $300 maximum fee and filled out the paperwork to get those tables and chairs back on the sidewalk out front.

Earlier this summer, the DPW discovered the coffee giant hadn’t obtained a permit forms for sidewalk furniture here for four years, so store managers pulled their tables and chairs inside. (See Northampton Media’s Sept. 1 story, “Starbucks’ Grande Sidewalk Screw-Up.”)

DPW Director Ned Huntley told Northampton Media last week that he has signed Starbucks’ permit request which, thanks to a city engineer who went down to Starbucks with a tape measure, allows the store to feature three tables and six chairs. According to the DPW’s sidewalk regulations, the fee is $200 per table and $25 per chair, with a maximum cost of $300. The permit is good between April 1 and Oct. 31.

“Over the Highway and Through the Bridge. . .”

NORTHAMPTON – The Manhan Rail Trail bridge across Route 10 is up and functioning fine after its installation Sunday, which dozens of curious and supportive onlookers. What they saw were workers assembling the three bridge sections, a crane operator swinging the completed bridge up in the air and then setting in down onto two earthen-and-concrete ramps, where the structure was bolted into place.

The process was delayed a week because one of the three steel bridge sections being trucked in from Minnesota ran into a traffic snag in Pennsylvania. Despite the postponement, officials here and in Easthampton couldn’t be happier that bikepaths in the two towns are finally linked. Easthampton officials are still working on another section of their rail trail connecting with downtown, but the most important piece, the pedestrian-bicycle bridge over Route 10, is snugly in place.

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