The development agreement signed in August
by Smith College President Carol T. Christ and Northampton Mayor Mary Clare Higgins
called for the creation of an educational use overlay zone for the Smith campus.
The proposed zoning change was introduced by Mayor Higgins at a November 10, 2005
joint hearing of the Planning Board and City Council Ordinance Committee and was
approved by the City Council on September 7, 2006.
How is the Smith campus currently zoned?
The campus is currently regulated by three different sets of zoning requirements,
largely applicable to residences and small businesses; this makes for a complex
set of specifications for the college and its architects to anticipate — and
for the planning board and other city boards to interpret and adjudicate.
What are the boundaries of the overlay district?
Kensington Avenue, Elm Street, Round Hill Road, State Street, West Street and the
property of the former Northampton State Hospital.
What are the building requirements?
Within 30 feet of the zone boundaries, the height and size of buildings would be
subject to the same zoning regulations as currently exist. Moving toward the interior
of the campus, the new zoning would, in some cases, allow for taller buildings
and lesser setbacks. That is, a building of 55 feet would be permitted inside the
30-foot line. For each one-foot step back from the line, an additional foot of
height would be allowed, to a maximum of 85 feet.
How will Smith projects in the overlay zone
When planning any project over 2,000 square feet, the college would be required to
apply for site plan approval from the Planning Board and would be subject to all
applicable zoning and permitting regulations.
How would the overlay zone affect parking?
Under current zoning laws, each square foot of new construction requires additional
parking—even when the study body and employee base remains unchanged. Moreover,
current regulations assume the new spaces will be located near the new facilities—even
though the majority of Smith people park in existing lots or the college garage,
and even if demand for parking is much greater in other parts of campus, such as
areas closer to student residences. There is widespread agreement that creating
large paved parking lots that will go unused makes little sense. The new zoning
regulations would link parking requirements to actual demand; demand would be determined
via a parking study conducted by the college with input from the City and with
Why does an educational use overlay zone make
sense for Northampton and for Smith?
The creation of an educational overlay district would reflect, in the context of
zoning and planning, the fact that Smith is a campus, not a residential area. It
would give Smith (and the city, and its boards) greater certainty as to the building
requirements within the boundaries of the district. An educational use overlay zone
is something that a number of municipalities with colleges and universities have
adopted and is an appropriate approach to planning and managing a campus.
News & Events