|302 W Packer Ave|
Lehigh purchased 302 W Packer Avenue, a 2 1/2-story single-family home, on December 21, 2015, for $152,000. Though assessment records rate the property as a C+, Lehigh Director of Real Estate Services Erin Kintzer gives it a failing grade. She described it as "uninhabitable," and told zoners she would raze everything except for the stone wall along the perimeter. In place of the single family home, the University planned to build a tasteful, three-story brick building, containing 15 single bedroom apartments, with five on each floor.
Kintzer was unsure what the monthly rental rates would be, saying that would depend on construction costs.
Since each apartment could include two people, this would add as many as 30 people to the neighborhood.
"You're pretty dramatically increasing the density," observed Fitzpatrick.
Each apartment, estimated at about 600 sq ft, would have its own living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom and living room. Kintzer, the sole witness presented by Lehigh University Attorney Catherine Durso, explained that the apartments would be made available to.professors, staff and grad students.
Unlike many other colleges, Lehigh has no housing for professors or staff.
Kintzer added that the University would consider renting to the general public if unable to generate interest among professors, staff and grad students. She estimated that grad students could live there from two to seven years, while the staff and professors would spend from one to five years at the apartment building..
She ran into difficulty when she discussed parking. There would only be six on-site parking places. Remaining tenants would be required to purchase a permit to park in one of the University lots. Not only does this cost $400 per year, but the closest lot is 370' away.
This puzzled Linda Shay Gardner, who asked about a tenant on the third floor, who would have to walk 370' to a parking lot, and then possible another 1000' to find a spot in the lot.
Linda Shay Gardner was far from alone. About 15 people in the neighborhood, and several of them argued that the temptation will be too great for tenants to simply park along Packer Street.
"Parking has always been a nightmare," said Jane Gaughran. She added that forcing women to walk 370' alone, in the dark, is asking for trouble. She indicated that one of her friends, a Lehigh professor, was accosted while walking to her Montclair Street home from the labs.
Craig Evans noted that there were four requests to "grossly ignore" the zoning ordinance, and that the only appropriate answer is No. "This will congest an already taxed neighborhood," he insisted.
Evans wife, Anne, noted the irony in the arguments for a public parking garage at Third and New Streets, where it was claimed that Lehigh staff were unable to walk for than 200'.
"I don't think it's our job as neighbors to support Lehigh's investments," she said.
Krintzer had earlier stated that Lehigh regarded this as an investment property and would seek no tax exemption.
|Fritz United Methodist Church|
Noting that the apartment building will bring an additional 30 cars to her front door. Rev. Lee stated that "we really struggle as an urban church to get our folks in and out of church.".
She indicated that right now, traffic on Packer Avenue is a "nightmare" when parents come to pick up elementary school students who participate in a daily homework club with Lehigh volunteers.
Lehigh student Bailey Falk told zoners that tenants might be walking more than 370' because the closest parking lot is often full during the day. She indicated that the $400 annual cost of parking permits is too expensive for many students, who will instead park on the street. She added that several years ago, Lehigh offered professors a place to live on campus. Only one took on-campus housing.
Attorney Durso argued that there is a "definite need" for this kind of housing, and there is no real difference between a one and three minute walk.
Zoners only deliberated about five minutes before voting 4-0 to deny the zoning appeal.
During the hearing, Kintzer admitted she was taking a risk when she bought the property, and said she would sell it at a slight loss if her variances were denied. But after it was over, she and Attorney Durso began to discuss building a five-story apartment building at the same location, with no need for dimensional variances.