The Board determines when there is enough information to close the public hearing. The Board must make a decision based upon regulations and adopted plans and consideration of public comments. There are often many ways to address the standards. The Board must evaluate what the applicant has presented and whether that application meets the standards as presented or with conditions. The Board cannot redesign a project based on ideas generated during public hearings.
Approval standards are at www.northamptonma.gov/938/Permits-Codes. Public comments are very important and often persuasive, especially when they align with the regulatory standards. Testimony does not replace, however, the board's reliance on other information, statutes, city plans and regulations, and case law. (See Unrepresented Democracy in Local Zoning and Planning Boards). The City writes its own zoning and other ordinances, typically based on the City’s Sustainable Northampton Comprehensive Plan (updated 2021), which includes climate resilience and regeneration, bike/ped, and open space elements. Projects such as affordable and attainable housing and encouraging land use patterns that support commercial centers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions often come from community-wide goals even when immediate abutters might have a different vision.
After the public hearing is closed, no new testimony or information can be accepted. The permit granting board deliberates and makes their decision. Planning & Sustainability staff then issues the necessary decision. Notice of the decisions varies based on statutory requirements, with notice of Zoning Board and Planning Board decisions mailed to abutters. Abutters have the right to appeal, within strict appeal periods and procedures established by law for each permit process. Appeal periods are noted on decisions.
Applicants must pick up certified copies of the decision from the City Clerk at the end of the appeal period and record the decision at the Register of Deeds before seeking a building permit.