Lehigh Valley

Mayor Panto: Expand tax base or face gentrification

Mayor gives State of the City address

EASTON, Pa. - After reflecting on 10 years of economic success, Mayor Sal Panto declared affordable housing and homelessness pressing issues during his State of the City address Wednesday evening.

To combat them, Easton plans to roll out an affordable housing program next year, targeting lower-income homeowners and renters.

But Easton can’t avoid gentrification unless it expands its tax base, Panto said.

Easton’s growth and economy is currently heavily based on tourism and Lafayette College, and more projects are on the horizon.

The city has plans to develop the former Black Diamond, Easton Yards and Heritage Lanes sites. 

Other projects include the potential Da Vinci Science City, the largest development project of the bunch currently on the table, and the contentious Lafayette College dorms project.

Although Panto argues that the Lafayette project will add $2.5 million annually into the local economy along with real estate taxes, other members of city council and the planning board have objected to the number of zoning changes the project requires.

Easton’s real estate market is strong — the city processed 980 buyer notification inspections in 2017, up 37 percent from previous years — but the fast growth raises concerns that rising property values could force out small businesses and poor residents.

While the city must appeal to visitors with disposable income, Panto said, it couldn’t afford to overlook reasonably priced housing for the poor and senior citizens.

The planned Black Diamond and Easton yards developments will bring more affordable housing to the south side, he said.

More highlights

Bridges: Easton owns three bridges. After completition of the Hugh Moore Park Bridge repairs in 2017, all three bridges now have an A rating.
Silk Mill: Vacant for 25 years, the Silk Mill on 13th Street has new life. Phase two of the project will be completed in 2018. Spaces completed in phases two and three have already been rented out.

40 years: A festival on June 8th will commemorate the 40th anniversary of Larry Holmes’s triumph in the heavyweight championship fight against Ken Norton.

Stormwater: Easton will be adopting a stormwater management plan later in the spring to keep its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer, also known as MS4, permits. A necessary but expensive project, the cost will be added to the utility bills of Easton land owners, including non-profit organizations.

The stormwater requirements of the federal Clean Water Act are administered under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) Program.

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