|Gary Asteak chats with Chuck Piazza before the hearing starts.|
The developer of this project, Lou Pektor, was represented by zoning law expert Jim Preston. Providing legal advice to Palmer's Board was respected Easton Attorney Chuck Bruno, who got his start under the wing of Charlie Spaziani.
The apartments will be a mix of one and two bedroom apartments spread out among 13 buildings inside the 28-acre tract. These will be three and a half stories high. Developer Lou Pektor has been allowed to increase the density, but will be required to provide a needed traffic signal at the Greenwood and Hartley Avenue intersection and make other infrastructure improvements.
Pektor will collect between $1,200 and $1,600 per month for one and two bedroom apartments. They are within spitting distance of Route 22, so he's sweetening the deal with a clubhouse and a swimming pool.
|Pektor's Bethlehem Fields|
High density apartments are quite unpopular, especially when planned near single family homes. The following arguments were made concerning Palmer Points.
• Multifamily apartments lower the value of single-family homes in the neighborhood.
• People who live in apartments are less desirable neighbors and more likely to engage in
crime or other anti-social behavior.
• Apartments overburden schools, produce less revenue for local governments, and require more infrastructure support.
• Higher-density housing creates traffic congestion and parking problems.
|Palmer Tp's five-person board, chaired by Dave Colver|
Impact on Schools - Palmer View is a 306-unit apartment complex and has 27 school age children. Woodmont is a 216-unit operation and has 20 school age children. Based on what is going on there, Christman estimates that Palmer Points will produce 30 school age children.
Traffic - Police spent 30 days measuring the traffic along Hartley Avenue, the main point of access of Palmer Points. They counted 3,350 cars per day, driving an average of 30 mph. The 312-apartment complex will add 624 cars to the road and will increase traffic by about 50%.
Crime - Woodmont, Gateway Terrace and Palmer View all have extremely low call rates. Statistically, they are negligible According to Christman, the majority of police calls are 911 hang ups and false alarms, with little evidence of drug activity.
During February's hearing, Jessica McAndrew told Supervisors that people in homes near the Madison Farms apartment complex in Bethlehem Township are now experiencing more vandalism, thefts and scams from "out of state people." Christman asked Bethlehem Township Police Chief Dan Pancoast whether this is true and he responded that there was one incident of vandalism. During construction, there was some theft of material. Hhe noted three retail thefts at the nearby Shop-Rite and said the crime rate at the apartments is "extremely low."
Property Values - In reaction to those who complained their property values would deteriorate, Christman cited a study from the Delaware Valley Planning Commission, indicating that there is actually a slight appreciation in the property value of single homes. This was confirmed by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Christman also spoke to a realtor who sells homes in the Woodridge Falls housing development, located near Woodmont. He was told sellers are getting 92% of their asking prices, and that properties are on the market an average of 58 days.
Taxes - The total taxes currently paid at the ITT site is $42,435.16. But once Palmer Points is in business, the estimated total real estate taxes (school,county and township) will be $534,959.50.
"I feel this Board has to deal with the facts," stated Colver.
|Tom Comitta, deer in the headlights|
In February, Jim Preston attempted to establish "excellence in architectural design," which would justify an increase in the size of the buildings from 2.5 (35') to 3.5 stories (48'). He called Easton architect Jeff Martison, the same guy who was overseeing a project in Easton in which the building would collapse later that week.
Among other things, Martison was clueless when asked to define what constitutes a story.
Gary Asteak tore poor Jeff apart. He admitted that he himself was not the architect who designed these buildings, and was unaware of any awards given to the actual designer. When pressed, he called the design "prototypical" and then later called it part of the "vernacular architecture" in this region. In other words, common. He refused to use the word "common" or "typical" once he realized where Gary was headed, but had already screwed himself.
Preston decided he better try again, so last night, he had a new witness who would establish "excellence in architectural design." After all, he couldn't possibly be worse than Martison, right?
|Sign at library, where meeting took place|
Comitta is actually a landscape architect. He's never designed an apartment building or any residence. But there he was, horn rimmed glasses and all, providing thirty-minute answers to five second questions. Among other things, he let it be known that he could help Palmer write their own design guidelines.
He went to Harvard, you know.
Things got so bad that Chuck Bruno had to step in and tell him to just answer the damn questions.
Comitta said he wouldn't call the design "ugly" or "repugnant" or "awkward."
When Asteak finally had him in his clutches, Comitta was soon ready to be committed. Asked to provide examples of other designs in this area that are "a cut above," he was unable to do so. He actually at one point likened the design to a Moravian building. That was likely news to Pektor, who graduated from Moravian.
Asteak had Comitta simultaneously saying that the architecture is "excellent" and "normative."
Yes, normative is a word. It means normal, not excellent. .
Because the zoning ordinance mentions pitched roofs, and this design is a pitched roof with gables and dormers, he hung his hat on clause in the ordinance.
So did Supervisors, when it was time to vote. But this was clearly the weakest part of the plan.
Gary also tangled with Supervisors at times. He thought he and others should have been allowed to cross-examine Christman's "study." but Bruno refused to allow it.
Asteak began suggesting that this was a "done deal and we're wasting our breath." Bruno responded that Asteak was essentially making an "accusation of corruption, and you better back that up."
He then explained there is no need to go back and forth with "point and counter-point."
"If you don't let me speak, I'm going to raise Hell," said a man behind me in the audience. "Every one of you has spoken ten times," replied an exasperated Dave Colver He also claimed that the information provided by Christman was no study, but just a response to questions he had after listening to residents express their concerns.
"There was no Watergate report," he said. . .
Though Supervisors gave Pektor all the relief sought, and did so unanimously, they want the traffic signal in operation before he gets a CO for any of his 13 buildings."You need the signal now," advised Township Engineer Brian Dillman.
That in turn will require a Highway Occupancy Permit from PennDOT, and Diillman predicted that will take "at least" a year.
Colver suggested that Pektor might want to return with phases, so that he might be able to build one or two buildings to generate the revenue needed to pay for the traffic signal and other infrastructure improvements.