EASTON, Pa. – The Easton Planning Commission voted to recommend an amendment to the city’s business and entertainment district ordinance Wednesday night.

A key part of the amendment, which will be considered next by city council, calls for a 20-story limit to buildings in the business and entertainment district. The district encompasses Second to Fourth streets and Pine to Church streets, a one block radius from Easton’s Centre Square.

Although the city’s planning staff originally proposed a limitless height, commission Chairman Charles Elliott said he was still puzzled by the rationale for a 20-story limit. The city’s tallest structure, the Alpha Building, is half the size of the proposed limit.

Elliott, who cast the lone vote against recommending the amendment to city council, said the proposed height is too high considering the historic nature of the business and entertainment district and its effect on the streetscapes.

Stephen Nowroski, the city’s planning and codes department director, said the amendment received favorable comments from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission for its consistency with land use policies among regional cities and boroughs. He reminded the commission that a 20-story structure would only be permitted if it complied with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – a widely used green building rating system –  included a green energy system and offered affordable space for low- and moderate-income people.

Joel Scheer, planning commission solicitor, said his preference would be to live in a neighborhood with buildings no higher than 10 stories. He noted his dislike for the development approach in center city Allentown, which, he said, “threw out anything with sensitive design.”

Nowroski countered that the amended ordinance shows that Easton is “open to unique and perhaps aggressive development.”

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