Major Zoning Changes Proposed for Easton: Residents have three chances to comment

By Peggy Palmer

EASTON, PA — Easton’s City government has proposed a rewritten zoning ordinance that includes, among hundreds of changes, allowing warehouses in the River Corridor District, congregate housing on the South Side and West Ward, and midrise apartments on College Hill. The proposed changes also eliminate Context Sensitive Design Standards in all neighborhoods, relax environmental regulations, cut open space requirements for Lafayette College’s campus in half, allow developers to define their own parking requirements, and more. The full draft of the Major Zoning Changes Proposed can be seen at the Easton Pa city website.

Residents will have three chance to learn more about and comment on these proposals in three upcoming meetings:

Community Meeting:
College Hill Presbyterian Church

501 Brodhead St.
6:30 PM, Tuesday, Jan. 28

Easton Planning Commission Meeting:
Easton City Hall

Easton City Hall
123 S. Third Street
6:30 PM, Wednesday, February 5


Public Hearing:
Easton City Hall

123 S. Third Street
6 PM, Wednesday, February 12

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185 S. Third Street is one of several proposed developments currently in the planning process in the city of Easton that any changes to zoning would affect.

Here’s a partial list of some of the proposed zoning changes:

  • New definitions have been added for Congregate Residences, Mobile Home Parks and Short Term Rentals. (pages 32, 33)
  • Mixed use dormitories will be allowed to house more students. (33)
  • A new use, Large Accessory Structures (such as garages) permits buildings up to three times the size now permitted. It is allowed in most zones. (40)
  • Midrise apartment buildings will be allowed BY RIGHT on College Hill (but not in other residential neighborhoods in Easton). (50)
  • Multifamily apartments will be allowed BY RIGHT on College Hill (only by Special Exception in West Ward or South Side). (50)
  • Standards requiring green areas and fewer paved areas will be lowered while more area may be covered with paving and buildings (e.g. greater impervious coverage) on College Hill and elsewhere. (50)
  • Congregate Residences will be allowed by Special Exception in South Side and West Ward. (63, 68)
  • Intent of River Corridor District is now “to accommodate appropriate development” that will include warehouses, storage buildings and parking garages. (77)
  • Impervious coverage may be increased in the River Corridor District. (79)
  • Buildings in the Institutional-1 District can be constructed within 10 feet of Bushkill Creek (vs. 50 feet now permitted). (85)
  • Allowable building height and impervious coverage are increased in the Institutional-1 District. (85)
  • Language about intent of signage is eliminated from Expressway Transitional (ET) Zone. (111)
  • Dimensional Criteria table for ET Zone includes uses that are not permitted. (113)
  • ET zone will allow 75% impervious coverage. (113)
  • Street Corridor Enhancement (SC) Overlay District contradicts College Hill District by stating that midrises require a Special Exception. (118)
  • Supplemental Standards contradict College Hill District by stating midrises are only permitted in the Street Corridor Overlay District. (141)
  • Maximum impervious coverage allowance for Institutional Uses is increased. (150)
  • Developers may propose their own parking requirements which may reduce City standards based on the developer’s own study. (159)
  • Context Sensitive Design Standards that help ensure that new buildings will fit into our community will largely be eliminated. (185-193) although new “Design Standards” appear throughout the proposed changes, more than 40 Context Sensitive provisions have been eliminated, including provisions regarding compatibility with surroundings, placemaking, diversity, adaptive reuse, landscaping and screening, lot widths, setbacks, lot sizes, lot coverage, impervious coverage, stormwater infrastructure, natural resources protection, steep slope protection, parking, etc. 
  • Language governing Special Exceptions has been changed from restrictive to inclusive of anything that “would normally be expected from the proposed use.” (225-226)
  • Language to appeal zoning decisions or seek judicial relief has been eliminated. (233-235)

This review does not include changes to signage, steep slope, flood plain or communications facilities among other things, and is only intended to provide a brief overview of a 260-page document that requires detailed and extended study.

Peggy Palmer is a fourth generation Easton resident and a retired Easton school teacher.


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