In defense of suburbs: Futurist Joel Kotkin is not so sure people should be down on suburbs, listen in:

Original Kohl proposal, area shown in white: wetlands

Northampton has been debating the merits of infill and whether or not this is the best way to "plan" the city’s growth. Part of what spurred this discussion is Douglas Kohl’s proposed residential development in the North Street area woods adjacent to certified wetlands and, in the eyes of some, vernal pools. New local regulations that Mr. Kohl helped to craft through the Chamber of Commerce wetlands committee will permit him to build within ten feet of these wetlands. (Whether you view my opinion as outrageous or this predicament as outrageous is understandable depending upon your perspective-but hey, can we talk?) I’m supposing that since the Northampton Conservation Commission, chaired by a Williamsburg resident, found that the North Street forest’s facultative vernal pools (there were snails, fingernail clams, and a diving beetle found) do not qualify as obligate vernal pools (there were no frogs and the like found), that Mr. Kohl could add back to his proposal four units he was prepared to remove bringing the total number of units proposed to thirty. Though the Conservation Commission accepted a report that was submitted by a firm whose services were secured by the North Street Neighborhood Association, Mr. Kohl said to me that it is the choice of the local Conservation Commission on whether to require more than one season of study and that, "it can take up to five years to properly certify a vernal pool." With such a controversial proposal combined with the existence of some type of vernal pools, it might have been wise to require more study, in my humble opinion.

Original proposal super-imposed over existing site-courtesy Northassoc.org

The design of Kohl’s proposal has been criticized for failing to fit in with the existing neighborhood. The units do not front the street for instance. Mr. Kohl counter-asserts that city regulations require this type of development and that he cannot do better. (Ironically, Mr. Kohl’s potential sale of land in the Turkey Hill Road area for conservation purposes could provide some of the seed money for this project off of North Street.)

After listening to Joel Kotkin’s talk on the suburbs, it is apparent that not everyone thinks the suburbs (sprawl) are a bane to human existence as some in Northampton have opined as justification of Kohl-type proposals. Agree or not, it is an interesting talk.

From Word for Word, American Public Media: "October 5, 2007 The majority of people in the world now live in cities and futurist Joel Kotkin says it’s a positive way to go, especially in the suburbs. In fact, Kotkin says suburbs have not only grown but will ultimately change the way we look at the concept and culture of cities themselves. Joel Kotkin spoke on "The City Everywhere: Urbanism in the 21st Century" at this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival." 53 minutes.

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