Small steps to improve our downtown

Recently there has been a lot of talk about how the council is too involved in national issues, and somehow not doing the business of the town. Personally, I see the effects of national issues like anti-choice legislation, mass shootings, mass incarceration, and mass deportation in our community every day and I believe it’s the municipality’s responsibility to take clear, principled stands on these issues. But just in case anyone is concerned that I’m not focused on the micro level, here’s a slate of changes that I’ve proposed for discussion in the Economic Development Committee to make life easier for small businesses and improve the experience of Greenfield’s downtown. More to come soon.


  • Common victualler’s licenses. Currently $100/year, and requires attending a BLC meeting. I propose $50/year, issued directly by the town clerk or the licensing coordinator. We may also be able to do this several other licenses.
    • Rationale: The need to attend a meeting slows down business development, and I don’t believe the board ever turns anyone down.
  • Outdoor seating. Similar to above, I propose that the outdoor seating license be available without attending a meeting, and without the extensive documentation currently required. Applicants would get a set of rules for outdoor seating when they apply for the license (mostly related to ADA accessibility), and a fine would be imposed for violations of the rules.
    • Rationale: Outdoor seating brings life to urban spaces–it’s something we should encourage.
  • Rules for buskers and other street performers. These activities are currently governed by the assembly ordinance (c. 217), but this ordinance provides no clarity. I propose a free busking license with a clear set of rules. This could be done by ordinance, or more simply through DPW regulations.
    • Rationale: busking is part of street life in most vibrant urban centers.
  • Fines for jaywalking. Local businesses, I believe at the request of the police department, currently display copies of the jaywalking ordinance in their windows. This practice is intimidating, and penalizes a behavior–waking–that we should be encouraging. I propose that we eliminate the fines, and remove these notices from windows.
    • Rationale: Main Street should be, first and foremost, a pedestrian space. Jaywalking (which, incidentally, was a term invented by the auto industry) is an indication that our existing infrastructure is not serving pedestrians. Rather than fining (or threatening to fine) residents, the city should work towards better pedestrian infrastructure.
  • Pop-up ordinance. I propose that we establish clear rules and a clear process for pop-up shops and food trucks (though the latter may be a separate legislative issue). This will likely be complicated, and require an examination of licensing, building codes, and the zoning ordinance, as well as health and building codes at the state level. We can do
    • Rationale: Pop-ups and food trucks are excellent ways to pilot test new businesses and, again, we should be encouraging this sort of activity. Clarifying the process would go a long way in this regard.
  • Vacancy tax. I know we have differing opinions on this, but the fact is that a number of storefronts in Greenfield have been vacant for as long as I’ve lived here. We clearly have problem landlords, who might need a bit of motivation to rent their spaces at reasonable prices. Landlords would be able to use pop-ups and art installations to avoid the tax, and so the pop-up ordinance would likely be a prerequisite for this.
  • Fund regular Greenfield/Northampton bus service. The city has, in the past, worked with FRTA to directly fund bus routes, and we could do so again. Well-functioning arterial service has the potential to bring visitors from the urban parts of the valley (where many people live without a car), in addition to opening job opportunities to the south for Greenfield residents.
  • Crosswalk in front of Green Fields Market. People cross here anyway, and likely will always do so. Frankly I don’t know why we haven’t already done this. Not entirely sure how we would go about making the change.