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Monday, November 06, 2006

Easton Neighbors for Responsible Development

Save Easton's Academy Hill, Skyline, and Riverfront
Easton Neighbors for Responsible Development
Contact: Phyllis Johnson at (610) 923-0517 or Charles Klabunde at (610) 252-1938

Did you know that the proposed Intermodal/Riverwalk project—being rushed through City Hall right now—is a $25–40-million, taxpayer-subsidized development to be located on Larry Holmes Drive at Church Street, and it will:

Ø Be twice the height and bulk of the Eastonian (former Hotel Easton) and consist of a pre-cast concrete mega-structure covering half a city block—a building that belongs more in Las Vegas or Miami than Easton—with an open parking garage for cars and buses (visible to the street) and seven levels above that for 147 luxury condos and a few stores located in the parking structure and mostly invisible to pedestrians?

Ø Dwarf the surrounding historic neighborhood of restored homes, businesses, and attractions (including Easton’s oldest building—the Bachmann Public House, now closed and in limbo) and overshadow our beautiful skyline of church steeples and bell towers, completely blocking the irreplaceable views of both the Governor Wolf Building (formerly Easton High School) as well as the last remaining structure of Easton’s first public school, Easton Union Academy, on Academy Hill—Easton landmarks of civic pride and national significance for well over a century?

Ø Be exempt from paying taxes for the next four years (through 2010) while being subsidized by $14+ million of our tax dollars—in part a loan with payments due soon that threaten to bankrupt the City, contribute to an imminent 15% tax hike, and lead to the elimination of vital public safety positions and equipment for police officers and firefighters?

Ø Add far more than 500 cars and 35 diesel buses a day to this location as well as numerous delivery trucks and service vehicles (a loading dock and major entrance/exit for buses and cars is planned parallel to Church Street) that will cause traffic jams and a dangerous intersection—rated a "D" by PennDot (one step above an "F,” the worst rating)?

Ø Supply fewer than 100 new parking spaces for area residents, shoppers, visitors, and commuters at a cost to taxpayers of $140,000 each (at least 400 spaces will be permanently reserved for condo owners and building workers as well as current personnel of the Governor Wolf Building)—causing overflow of vehicles to residential streets?

Ø Cast deep morning shadows over nearby houses and afternoon shadows over Riverside Park; make adjacent houses less economically viable by taking their property, views, air, and light; turn the Governor Wolf Building into a white elephant without adequate parking and no views toward the river (only views of the back of the new building and passing buses and cars below); and take away most of the adjacent green spaces needed for street shade trees and other landscape plantings for sight and noise buffering required by law?

Ø Increase flooding downtown and downriver because it provides no mitigation for stormwater runoff or groundwater recharge, paves over the entire lot with impermeable asphalt and concrete surfaces, ignores U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources regulations, and covers part of the former bed of Bushkill Creek, an area that is riddled with sinkholes?

Ø Have no possibility of future connection with inter-city trains or provision for other kinds of true "intermodal" transportation other than cars and buses—yet is being built just one block from the former Easton bus terminal and a few more blocks from the former freight rail station, either of which could be restored at a fraction of the cost?

Ø Eliminate the public sidewalk on Church Street (as well as street shade trees and landscaping) and erect a 13-foot-deep concrete balcony that overhangs the public sidewalk just 17 feet overhead—hiding the shops above and creating the perfect sheltered haven for criminal activity, gang "tagging," and vagrancy at the gateway to our City?

Ø Look to Easton taxpayers for even more public funding to improve Riverside Park access and provide additional parking in the park on Larry Holmes Drive for the building’s tenants and visitors?

Ø Set a precedent for more anything-goes, publicly subsidized development on both sides of our riverfront?


John Bry, an urban planning and economic development expert from Harrisburg, spoke in Easton recently and called such parking garages a multi-million dollar waste of taxpayer money that never pay for themselves nor generate economic activity. No one ever visited any city because of its great parking garages. This is not the way to build our economic future by mortgaging our assets and selling out the twin legacies of our historic skyline and public riverfront.

Action is needed now! Express your opinion at these upcoming meetings: Planning Board, Historic District Commission, and Shade Tree Commission (visit http://www.easton-pa.gov/ or telephone 610-250-6600 for details). Urge your neighbors to write Mayor Mitman (pbm@easton-pa.gov), members of City Council, County Executive Stoffa, your state representatives, and Governor Rendell, and tell them you want reasonable development in the City of Easton that preserves our heritage and environment and brings real economic benefits, affordable housing, and well-paying jobs to all our neighborhoods. Planning for the Intermodal/Riverwalk development project has already cost taxpayers one-half million dollars. If the condo market sinks any further, the developer will either cut and run or demand even more public funds—either way leaving us holding the bag. Our tax money is too precious to squander on subsidizing luxury condos and private parking.

Get the Facts on the Intermodal/Riverwalk Development Projectand Contact your Elected City, State, and Federal Representatives

Say “NO” to:
Ø A 15% property tax hike to finance $14 million for luxury condos and their private parking while eliminating public safety positions and equipment for police officers and firefighters


Ø Increased downtown and downriver flooding

Ø More dangerous concentrations of trucks, traffic, and congestion on our streets

Ø Obliterating the irreplaceable views and usefulness of the more than century-old Governor Wolf Building (former Easton High School) and its bell tower as well as the Easton Union Academy Building (Easton’s oldest extant public school structure)—local, state, and national monuments to public education

Ø Overshadowing our streets, homes, businesses, and parks with oversized development that violates the guidelines of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Easton’s own Historic District Commission for our downtown, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Ø Ruining our distinctive and historic skyline that has been a source of civic pride and an attraction to visitors and new residents for over 200 years

Ø Taking public space, light, and air for private gain

Ø The most destructive development project in Easton since 1960s and 1970s “urban renewal” leveled our riverfront neighborhoods

Say “YES” to:
Ø “Green architecture” that is environmentally sound and meets stormwater runoff and groundwater recharge standards of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources and Conservation


Ø A pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown for residents, shoppers, and visitors

Ø Following federal, state, and local guidelines and laws for historic preservation, street shade trees, and landscape buffering

Ø Keeping the Governor Wolf Building and the Easton Union Academy Building as public assets and landmarks of public education and civic pride

Ø Preserving our heritage, skyline, and riverfront

Ø Public hearings and discussion as well as appeals to the Zoning and Planning Boards with, balanced, complete, and accurate information

Ø Investigative reporting by our local newspapers and other news media

Ø Renovating our existing housing stock and pursuing economic development and job creation for all neighborhoods in our City

Ø Seeking creative alternatives for this historically and environmentally sensitive site

Ø Transferring the $14 million in public funding to another location more suited for this development and allowing for true intermodal public transportation, including rail connections

Ø Smart growth and development that includes informed, comprehensive planning and land use


Editor's Note: Although we are not confident in the success of a bus depot beneath luxury condominiums, our lack of confidence is for different reasons than the Easton Neighbors for Responsible Development. As we've mentioned bus stations are not desireable places. And with things being the way they are in Easton it is not reasonable to assume that we will be able keep a bus station clean and safe. We have predicted that the intermodel project will never come to fruition-- it's brochureware. What we are destined to get from this pitch parade is over 100 fewer employees in the city and another very large, very empty building. -HoC



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