Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Plan to Redraw Property Lines Approved by Easton Zoning Hearing Board

By Christina Georgiou

The Easton Redevelopment Authority has been
renovating a number of houses along the alley
in the 600 block of Pine Street, on the edge of the city's
West Ward neighborhood. They are then being sold
to new low- and middle-income owners who occupy them.
The lines of four small land parcels along the 600 block of Pine Street on the edge of Easton's West Ward can be redrawn to facilitate redevelopment of the residential properties and allow for off-street parking, the city's zoning hearing board agreed at its meeting Monday evening.

The Easton Redevelopment Authority (ERA) owns a number of properties on the south side of the block, including the four that were the subject of the applications for variances last evening, having acquired them with the intent of rahabilitating some of the existing residential structures and razing and rebuilding others. Many of the homes on the block were vacant and/or had been declared blighted by the city in the past few years.

While many other buildings in the immediate area are historic, none of the houses affected by the Redevelopment Authority's plan are significant and were built in the 1920s and 1930s, said attorney Daniel Cohen, who represented the ERA.

Existing residential houses at 676 and 678 Pine St. are set to be remodelled, he said. A garage and house at 680 Pine St. has been demolished and will become the site for parking for adjacent residences, he said.

682 and 684 Pine St., right, will be razed and new
residences will be built on the sites. 680 Pine St. seen
 left in this photo taken in late spring of this year, has already
been demolished, said Easton Redevelopment Authority
representatives. The city's zoning hearing board approved
a variance to redraw the property lines to allow for
off-street parking for each of the new houses that
will be built on the sites.
Two houses, at 682 and 684 Pine St., will be razed and new dwellings will be built in their place, said Michael Brett, community development coordinator for the ERA. Both buildings were in too poor a  condition to make remodelling them feasible, he added.

Both of the properties will be widened by several feet, and the new houses set to be built there will also be a bit larger than the existing structures, according to site plans presented to the zoning hearing board.

Brett, also a member of the city's zoning hearing board, recused himself from voting on the variance applications, representing the ERA in the applications instead.

The residential lots along the Pine Street alley are extremely narrow and deep, which makes providing off-street parking without being granted variances relieving them of side-yard setbacks impossible, Cohen said. Additionally, variances to allow parking in front of two of the residences are necessary, as Easton code ordinances call for parking to be on the side or behind dwellings.

Brett and Cohen also noted that Pine Street, which is only 14 feet wide and allows for two-way traffic, does not have on-street parking. If the renovated residences were to be denied variances allowing off-street parking, the nearest legal on-street parking would be a block away, on the already busy and overcrowded South Seventh Street.

Other residences along the 600 block of Pine Street, seen in
this photo taken in April of this year, have already been
renovated. 676 Pine St., right, which is now nearly complete,
was granted a variance for a lot line adjustment and
to add a driveway alongside the building.
Some other properties along the block have already been rehabbed by ERA and are now owner-occupied. Others are in progress, Brett said, noting that the exterior of 686 Pine St. has been completed, and he expects work to begin on the interior in another month or two.

Money used to buy the properties and for their subsequent reconstruction is recouped by their later sale, ERA Director Gretchen Longenbach has said previously. The homes are aimed at low- to middle-income buyers, and a requirement of their sale is that they be owner-occupied, not purchased as investment properties, she added.

"What we're doing here is salvaging houses so people can live in them and raise their kids in them," Cohen said of the project. "We think it's going to be very good."

Easton's Zoning Hearing Board gave the okay to allow a
total of three ground-floor apartments at 118-120 Northampton
Street Monday evening. The residences will be in the rear of
the buildings, and two commercial spaces will still
occupy the buildings' fronts, said representatives for
developer Post Road Management.
Also Monday evening, the board agreed to allow two additional first-floor residential apartments at 118-120 Northampton St., for a total of three residential units planned in the soon-to-be-redeveloped buildings at ground level.

The first ground-floor apartment was approved by the board in July.

Two commercial spaces will still occupy the front of the building, Cohen, representing developer Post Road Management, said, though they will obviously be smaller than original plans for the buildings indicated.

The two additional apartments will range in size between 800 and 900 square feet and be in the rear of the building, he added.

The variance is needed because city zoning ordinances call for non-residential uses of first floor spaces in the Downtown commercial district.

The buildings' accompanying parking lot, across the street at 129 Northampton St., is sufficiently large enough to accommodate the additional two apartments, Cohen testified.

Upgrading and beautifying the back view of the long-disused
buildings is part of the plan for the two long vacant buildings,
property developer Post Road Management said at its original
public presentation in December of last year.
Adding the two extra residential spaces became necessary when some anticipated grant funding failed to materialize. The extra units make the rehabilitation project in the long vacant and dilapidated buildings financially feasible, Cohen said.

The project is being facilitated through the city's redevelopment authority, which currently owns the properties. Grant funding has been secured to remove hazardous materials, such as asbestos and lead from the two buildings at 118-120 Northampton St., which will ultimately become one parcel, Longenbach, who was not present Monday evening, has said previously.

That abatement work is scheduled to begin in coming months, and when complete, the extensive rehabilitation needed to renovate the long-vacant structures will begin, project architect Jeff Martinson said earlier this year during a presentation of Post Road Management's plans for the property.


  1. Great reporting Christina. Thanks for providing this in-depth information.

    1. I'm glad you find The Easton Eccentric useful. Thanks so much for reading!