On the heels of the Easton Planning Commission’s denial of its land development plan for the mixed-use building on McCartney St., Lafayette is exploring other ways to begin its inevitable expansion plan, Vice President of Finance and Administration Roger Demareski said.
The college can appeal the decision of the commission to the Easton City Council. It went a similar route last spring, when the commission voted not to recommend the zoning changes Lafayette needed for expansion. The college went on to propose their plans in front of the city council, which then approved them.
President Alison Byerly said that construction can commence on a different phase of the expansion while plans for the phase one McCartney St. site are sorted out. One of three phases of the plan, this site extends from the corner of McCartney St. and High St. to March St.
“We could in the meantime begin work on the Watson Courts site, and that would probably be our next step,” Byerly said. Demareski said the college should make a choice on its next move in “the next week or so.”
The Watson Courts site is phase three of the plan, and it includes student housing to provide beds for some of the 400 students Lafayette plans to add over the next 10 years.
“We could build only part of what we need [at the Watson Courts site], or you could in fact build a quadrangle that has all of what we need, if we had to,” Byerly said. The plans as they currently stand are two separate buildings with space left in between them.
“I think our preference would be to use [expansion] as an opportunity to revitalize McCartney St. and create not only the housing that we need but also a lively transition between the college and the town that we think would benefit the community as a whole,” she added.
Phase two of the plan is student housing from just past Campus Pizza going toward downtown and to Clinton Terrace, not including Campus Pizza.
Demareski said that the options of appealing to city council and commencing on another phase of the expansion “are not mutually exclusive” and could happen at once.
The plans for the mixed-use building on McCartney St. could be changed at any point until it is built, Byerly said. She added that the college has taken into account the concerns of the neighborhood during the planning process.
Lafayette professor and city planner Paul Felder said after the planning commission meeting that he was pleased with the outcome of denial and thought that the college should recognize that it deserved to be voted down. Felder criticized the college at the meeting, especially in regards to parking.
Felder has repeatedly said that the project is a terrible idea for College Hill. Demareski said that the amenities the college would build would be open to the entire community, thereby bettering the neighborhood.
Demareski said the planned Wellness Center would be open to the College Hill community, providing a pharmacy, physical therapy center and X-ray facility among other amenities at walking distance. The diner, also included in phase one, would provide food unlike anything offered in the area currently, he added.
While the college makes a choice on what to do concerning its construction plans for dorms, its plans for an elevator to downtown Easton have been put on hold, according to Demareski.
“We have decided to put the project on hold for now and currently do not have any plans for the Skyway project,” he wrote in an email.
According to an article in the Morning Call, the plans were put on hold in order to focus on the campus expansion into College Hill.