Lehigh Valley

Easton planners to Lafayette College: Come back to see us

EASTON, Pa. - The Easton Planning Commission took no action on proposed Lafayette College housing Wednesday following a question-and-debate that ran until nearly 11 p.m.

Lafayette College is proposing two new buildings on college-owned property bordered by High, McCartney and Marquis streets. The buildings will be separated from main campus by McCartney Street.

The issue is left until the next meeting, at which the board will get clarification on whether the two proposed buildings meet square foot and height requirements set in city code. Lafayette College will also be cleaning up some 82 conditions -- mostly engineering details -- set along with the zoning hearing board’s approval of the project.

In doing this, the college consolidates 10 properties to build student housing as well as a bookstore and a diner.

The two new buildings would add 244 beds, raising the question of where the students would park.

Roger Demareski, Lafayette vice president for Finance and Administration, said the college had a three-fold plan to reduce on-street parking by Lafayette students in off-campus, college owned buildings.

The college is incorporating Easton Authority techniques, including electronic chalking to identify violators. To add teeth to the rules, the college will “boot” vehicles with high parking fees and will withold diplomas until fines were paid. Additionally, the existing shuttle system will be expanded to the Bushkill parking lot as well as downtown, Demareski said.

All students who lived in the new dorms would be required to park in the Bushkill lot and would not be referred to the City of Easton for a residential parking permit, Demareski said.

Additionally, the college is changing its parking policy so staff and students with college parking lot privileges may use on-street parking no longer than three hours at a time.

Last year, Lafayette had 250 off-campus students with residential parking permits, allowing them to park on city streets. The college hopes to drop that number to 190 – a 25 percent reduction --with those changes, Demareski said.

But commissioners questioned how the college came up with its parking estimates and how it would enforce new parking rules.

Commissioner Robert Sun debated the overall accuracy of the study, which showed a 20 percent parking availability based on a single peak day. Those spaces could be easily filled if students parked in lots as directed instead of using on-street parking, he said.

Bonnie Winfield also questioned parking enforcement and whether the college could write deed restrictions into its off-campus housing to compel students to use the appropriate parking lots.

"I have the same concerns as the residents of the hill," Winfield said.

Also, Easton Planning Commission approved land development plans for the new Cheston elementary School in South side.

The new two-story, 54,000-square-foot building will be constructed in the adjacent lot, currently Pioneer Field.

Once construction is completed, the old school will be demolished to make way for a new field.

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