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Easton officials hope to avoid condemning property for proposed parking lot

By Kevin Lechiski, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 23 2013 10:14:26 PM CST

Like many other Easton City Council meetings, much of Wednesday night's agenda focused on parking issues.

EASTON, Pa. -

Easton officials are hoping to avoid condemnation proceedings to acquire private property for a proposed parking lot downtown.

City Council on Wednesday night voted to table for three weeks an ordinance that would authorize the mayor to move forward with condemning a one-third acre private property at 37-43 North Fourth Street. Easton officials are hoping to acquire the property, which combined with other abutting properties already owned by the local economic development authority, would add immediate surface public parking. The ultimate hope, city officials have said, is to construct a 275-to-325 space multi-story facility.

Easton officials decided to consider condemnation after the property owner rejected two offers from the city. Officials would not disclose the dollar figure of the offers to Kindred, other than to say the offers were for more than he purchased the property in 2010. Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said the city "made more than substantial offers."

The decision to table the ordinance was made following a lengthy discussion with the property's owner, Scott Kindred. His property currently consists primarily of parking, with an old banking drive-up structure that the city is looking to remove. Kindred said tenants of adjacent buildings he owns use this lot for parking.

Kindred said he believes the city currently has sufficient public parking in that section of the downtown.

Panto said the city is in need of additional surface parking at this time, especially in the evening hours when many people frequent local restaurants.

Going forward, Panto said the city needs additional parking to accommodate the Crayola Experience, which is undergoing renovations that officials project will lead to the annual number of visitors there jumping from 300,000 to 450,000.

Kindred raised concerns over the costs the city would face in the condemnation process, demolishing a former satellite drive-through banking structure on the property, and installing meters.

If the city eventually moves to condemn the property, the purchase price would be based on "just compensation" through the legal system.

Kindred described the proposed condemnation as flawed logic. "You'd be condemning a parking lot to make a parking lot," he said.

Kindred took exception to the thought of having his private property condemned for this particular purpose. "By it's very nature, condemnation is very adversarial right out of the box because you're taking someone's property."

Panto attempted to smooth things over by calling for a tabling of the ordinance and to set up a meeting with Kindred in the immediate future to discuss "alternate solutions" that could include designating parking on the property for both the public and his tenants.

"You have very well maintained buildings and are one of the city's better landlords," Panto said to Kindred. "We're not looking for a fight, but we need to look at the global picture of parking in the city. If you feel I have offended you in some way, I apologize."