The site of a once-planned daycare center in Northampton is now being redeveloped into apartments instead.
Manny Makhoul of MGMJ Holding Company explained that the daycare owner pulled out of plans to turn the property at 1464 Washington Avenue into a daycare center for children. After sitting on the property for several months, Makhoul has decided to redevelop the site into an apartment building. Makhoul and his attorney Ronald Corkery presented these new plans to the Northampton Zoning Hearing Board on Thursday, December 14. Instantly, it was evident that parking was going to be an issue.
Makhoul plans to develop the property into eight studio apartment units. However, the property only has one off-street parking spot, reserved only for handicapped drivers. A property of this size requires at least 16 off-street parking spaces, according to zoning regulations. As a result, Makhoul was seeking a 15-spot variance.
According to Makhoul, these spots may not be needed. He said that he will be seeking tenants who are primarily single veterans with little money and no cars. A bus route behind the building will serve as tenants’ primary mode of transportation.
“Veterans are unfortunately the people who do not have much…and have a hard time finding a place,” he said.
However, there was still a concern among zoning hearing board members.
“I do not see how you are going to get 15 or even eight [off-street parking spots],” said zoning hearing board member Robert Solderich.
“What else can you use this building for?” countered Corkery.
“A daycare,” Solderich responded.
Unlike the apartment units, the zoning hearing board did not require additional parking spots when the building was intended to be a daycare. They said this was because the center was going to be a drop-off and pick-up spot. Apartments, they say, may generate much more traffic.
“You have to consider the whole neighborhood,” said board member Sylvia Wasko.
Borough resident Ashleigh Strange spoke in support of the apartment building. She thought it was “great” that more apartments are being developed.
“We have a lot of buildings in Northampton that are not really used. They are falling to pieces,” she said. “Something needs to be done.”
However, borough resident Jim Kucharick did not agree.
“My biggest concern is the parking,” he said. “I think what they are doing is great there, but currently on Washington Avenue there are four or five cars daily.”
After hearing the concerns of residents like Kucharick and Strange, and the arguments of Makhoul and Corkery, the hearing board made a motion to grant eight studio apartments for one tenant per unit and one car per tenant.
“No more,” stressed hearing board president Jerome Kroboth.
The motion was granted, with four members in favor and only Wasko opposed.