Proposal for

A West Ward Historic Conservation District

January 23, 2021

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BACKGROUND

In February 2019, a group of Easton residents came before the Easton Planning Commission to propose that the City create a series of historic conservation districts in the West Ward, College Hill and South Side neighborhoods. Such districts are intended primarily to preserve the quality of life in communities by protecting historic buildings and affordable housing, promoting good design of new and existing structures, and encouraging adaptive reuse. Historic Conservation Districts are especially important in Pennsylvania, because of the abundance of unique historic neighborhoods. They have been successfully in place for years in cities such as Bethlehem, Lancaster, Pottstown and Pittsburgh.

 

The residents based their request on an awareness of Easton’s history since World War II. For over thirty years, beginning around 1950, the City lost population and generally declined in appearance, vitality and economic prosperity. These changes coincided with, and may have been partly caused by, the loss of many beautiful historic buildings. The construction of Route 22 through the downtown, the widening of Canal and St. John’s Street on the South Side, the poorly executed conversion of single family homes to apartments and most of all, the Urban Renewal projects downtown all contributed to Easton’s decline.

 

Conversely, in recent years, the City has seen a reversal of all these trends, at the same time there has been an upsurge in preservation efforts, spurred by the creation of a downtown National Historic District, the rehabilitation of the State Theatre, the adaptive reuse of the Simon Silk Mill, and many other projects.

Creation of Historic Conservation Districts could help continue this progress. The residents proposed to continue their own grass-roots efforts to develop ordinances by getting input from their neighbors, coordinating with City officials (who, coincidentally, are working on their own updates to Easton’s subdivision and zoning codes) and reporting back to the Planning Commission.

 

The Planning Commissioners supported the idea. Since then, Historic Conservation District Committee members held a series of public meetings in each neighborhood, eventually focusing on the West Ward as the first target neighborhood. (A proposed ordinance for College Hill will follow shortly. It should be pointed out that because it has its own successful National Historic District, no such initiative is needed in downtown Easton. Elsewhere, leaders of the Easton Area Neighborhood Center and the Boys and Girls Club of Easton expressed support for this effort on the South Side, but after meeting with South Side residents, committee members felt there was insufficient public interest to proceed with a South Side Historic Conservation District at this time. Perhaps as progress in the West Ward continues, a further South Side effort will be attempted.)

 

The Committee worked through potential ordinance language with interested residents, and prepared a first draft ordinance for the West Ward. Committee members were all Easton residents (many from the West Ward) and included a historic preservation planner. Their initial draft was reviewed with the Easton Planning Commission, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Easton City Solicitors and others. Based on their comments and suggestions, the draft was revised into the document presented below.

 

The Committee is particularly grateful for the input provided by Assistant City Solicitor Jeremy Clark and the detailed recommendations from Planning Commission Chairman Charles Elliott, Esq. Mr. Elliott’s suggestions are incorporated in the revised draft, particularly his recommendation that the form of the proposed West Ward ordinance follow as closely as possible the format and contents of Easton’s very successful Downtown National Historic District Ordinance. In fact, most language in the West Ward proposal is identical to the Downtown ordinance, except for certain optional duties of the proposed West Ward Historic Conservation District Committee and, of course, the design standards developed by the residents of the West Ward itself. 

 

It should be noted that this draft ordinance has been prepared by volunteers, working at their own expense. No public funds have been requested or used. We wish to thank the Boys and Girls Club of Easton, College Hill Presbyterian Church and the Easton Area Community Center for making their facilities available for public meetings, and the many members of the public who came to these meetings and provided numerous insights into the needs of their neighborhoods.

 

We appreciate the opportunity to present this draft to City Council, and welcome Council’s input to make it the best possible document to help assure continued historic preservation and development efforts in the West Ward.

 

EASTON HISTORIC CONSERVATION DISTRICT COMMITTEE

Caron Anderson, Mary Arlia, Jim Bloom, Amy Boccadoro, Jeff Chaldny, Mike Cirasella, David Colley, Barbara Conover, Paul Felder, Lynn Fraser, Tom Jones, Eamon Kinsman, Terrence Miller, Peggy Palmer, Janet Robertson.

CODIFIED ORDINACES OF EASTON

PART XX00

WEST WARD

HISTORIC CONSERVATION DISTRICT

TITLE ONE    HISTORIC CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Art. XX01      Creation of Historic Conservation District

Art. XX02      Definitions Listed

Art. XX03      Delineation of Historic Conservation District

Art. XX04      Historic Conservation District Commission

Art. XX05      Design Guidelines and Signage

Art. XX06      Application Review Procedure

Art. XX07      Relief as a Result of Economic Hardship

Art. XX08      Obligation to protect against Decay and Deterioration of       Structures

Art. XX09      Enforcement provisions

Art. XX10      Miscellaneous

ARTICLE XX01

CREATION OF HISTORIC CONSERVATION

DISTRICT

XX01.01        Legal Authorization

XX01.02        Purposes

XX01.01        LEGAL AUTHORIZATION

a.   Pursuant to authority contained in the Act of June 13, 1961, Public Law 282, No. 167, as amended there is hereby created a Local Conservation Historic District (LHD) within the city of Easton.

b.  This Ordinance shall be known and may be cited as the West Ward Historic Conservation District Ordinance.

XX01.02        PURPOSES

It is the purpose and intent of the City of Easton to promote, protect, enhance, perpetuate, and preserve historic conservation districts for the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the preservation, protection and regulation of buildings, structures, and areas of historic interest or importance within the City of Easton; to safe guard the heritage of Easton by preserving and regulating historic conservation districts which reflect elements of its cultural, social, economic, political, and architectural history; to preserve and enhance the environmental quality of neighborhoods; to strengthen the city’s economic base by the stimulation of the tourist industry; to establish and improve property values; to foster economic development; to foster civic pride in the beauty and accomplishments of the City’s past; and to preserve and protect the cultural, historical, and architectural assets of the City of Easton which the City has determined to be of local, state or national, historical and/or architectural significance.

ARTICLE XX02

DEFINITIONS

XX02.01        Definitions

XX02.01        DEFINITIONS

 

For the purpose of this Ordinance, all words used in the present tense include the future tense. All words in the plural number include the singular number and all words n the singular number include the plural number, unless the natural construction of the word clearly indicates otherwise. The word “shall” is mandatory. The word “used” includes “designated, intended, built, or arrange to be used.”

 

a.   Alteration

Any act of process requiring a building permit(s) and any other act or process not requiring a building permit(s) but specifically listed in this article as a reviewable action, including without limitation the repair, replacement, reconstruction, demolition or relocation of any structure or object, or any part of a structure which is visible from the public way.

 

b.  Board

This refers to the West Ward Historic Conservation District Commission (WW  “HCDC”) as defined below.

 

c.   Building

Any enclosed or open structure that is a combination of materials to form a construction for occupancy and/or/use for human or animal habitation and is permanently affixed to the land, including manufactured homes.

 

d.  Building and/or Demolition Permit(s)

An approval statement signed by the Zoning or Code Administrator authorizing the construction, alteration, reconstruction, repair, restoration, demolition or razing of all or part of any building listed within the City of Easton’s Historic Resource Inventory. A request for a Demolition Permit must be accompanied with a clear statement of the intended reuse of the property.

 

e.   Building Permit(s) Application

The request filed by any person with the Code Administrator that seeks authorization (to erect, alter, reconstruct, repair, restore, demolish, or raze all or part of any building or structure listed within a Historic Conservation District that requires a Certificate of Appropriateness.

 

f.    Code Administrator

Municipal employee(s) or individual(s) retained by the City of Easton, designed by the City as the individual who enforces compliance of building and fire codes and issues the permit for the erection, alteration, reconstruction, repair, restoration, demolition or razing of all or a part of any building or structure within a Historic Conservation District.

 

g.  Certificate of Appropriateness

The approval statement signed by Easton City Council which certifies to the historical appropriateness of a particular request for the erection, alternation, reconstruction, restoration, demolition, or razing of all or a part of any building or structure within a Historic Conservation District and authorizes the issuance of a building permit(s) for said request.

 

h.   Completed Application

A completed permit or certificate of appropriateness application is an application which conforms to the submittal criteria for specific historic preservation projects, as determined by the West Ward Historic Conservation District Commission (HCDC).

 

i.    Demolition

The dismantling or tearing down of all or part of any building and all operations incidental thereto, including neglecting routine maintenance and repairs which can lead to deterioration and decay.

 

j.    Demolition by Neglect

The absence of routine maintenance and repair which can lead to a building’s or structure’s structural weakness, decay and deterioration that threatens and leads to causes for demolition.

 

k.   Emergency Demolition

The requirement of whole or partial building demolition on orders from the Code Administrator to ensure the public health and safety. Significant effort should be made to retain, reinforce and preserve the façade of any building considered for demolition.

 

l.    Erection

The result of construction such as a building, structure, monument, sign, or object on the ground or on a structure of building.

 

m.  Figure

The photographs and graphics in this Ordinance (Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.) are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended as requirements of the Ordinance itself.

n.   Reconstruction

The act of process of reproducing by new construction the exact form and detail of a vanished building, structure or object, or a part thereof, as it appeared at a specific period of time but not necessarily of original material.

o.   Signage

Any display, structure, device or object which incorporates lettering, logos, colors, lights, or illuminated gas tubes visible to the public from a building or structure, which either conveys a message to the public, or intends to advertise, direct, invite, announce, or draw attention to goods, products, services, activities, or facilities, excluding window displays, merchandise, and temporary signs.

 

p.  Structure

Anything constructed or erected, having a permanent or semi-permanent location on another structure or in the ground, including without limitation buildings, sheds, manufactured homes, garages, fences, gazebos, freestanding signs, billboards, antennas, satellite sending or receiving dishes, vending machines, decks, and swimming pools.

 

q.  West Ward Historic Conservation District Commission (HCDC)

The agency that advises the Easton City Council (applicants for Certificates of Appropriateness) on any request for authorization to erect, alter, reconstruct, repair, restore, demolish all or part of any building within the West Ward Historic Conservation District.

ARTICLE XX03

DELINEATION OF WEST WARD

HISTORIC CONSERVATION DISTRICT

XX03.01        Delineation of West Ward Historic Conservation District

XX03.02        The West Ward Historic District Map

XX03.01        DELINEATION OF WEST WARD HISTORIC CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Easton’s neighborhoods have evolved with historic boundaries, but official designations often overlap with different borders, including wards (voting districts), zoning districts (which generally but don’t always identify clearly distinct residential, industrial and commercial areas), the Downtown National Historic District, the College Hill National Register Residential District, public school attendance areas and so on.

 

The boundaries of the West Ward Historic Conservation District are everything in the City of Easton that lies west of the centerline of Sixth Street (extended to the Lehigh River on the south and the Bushkill Creek on the north); south and west of the Bushkill Creek; and the boundary between the City of Easton and Wilson Borough or the City of Easton and West Easton.

XX03.02        THE WEST WARD HISTORIC DISTRICT MAP

The West Ward Historic Conservation District shall be set forth in a map and shall be located in the office of the Code Department made available for public inspection, and contained herein. (Exhibit A)

Figure 1

ARTICLE XX04

WEST WARD HISTORIC CONSERVATION

DISTRICT COMMISSION

XX04.01        Creation and Membership of the Historic Conservation District Commission (HCDC)

XX04.02        Powers and Duties of the HCDC

XX04.03        Additional Powers and Duties of the HCDC

 

XX04.01        CREATION AND MEMBERSHIP OF THE HISTORIC CONSERVATION DISTRICT

                      COMMISSION (HCDC)

 

The West Ward Historic Conservation District Commission, hereafter referred to as the HCDC, is hereby established to be composed of seven (7) members appointed by the Easton City Council as follows:

One(1) member shall be a registered architect and/or historic preservation planner

One(1) member shall be a licensed real estate broker

One(1) member shall be a code administrator

Four(4) members "At Large" appointed as follows

    One(1) "At Large" member

    Three(3) "At Large" members

“Registered Architect, Real Estate Broker and At Large” members shall be persons with demonstrated interest, knowledge, ability, experience or expertise in restoration, historic rehabilitation, or neighborhood conservation or revitalization who have interest in the preservation of the Historic District(s) and who preferably are property owners who reside in the West Ward Historic Conservation District.

a.   The initial terms of the first members shall be so fixed that no more than two (2) members shall be replaced or reappointed during any one calendar year. Vacancies on the HCDC shall be filled within one hundred and twenty days (120). However, every member shall continue in office after expiration of the term until a successor has been appointed. Their successors shall serve for a term of three (3) years. The position of any member of the HCDC appointed in their capacity such as: registered architect, historic preservation planner, licensed real estate broker, building inspector, planning commission member, etc. who ceases to be so engaged shall be automatically considered vacant. An appointment to fill a vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term.

 

b.  It shall be the duty of each HCDC member to remain conscious of and sensitive to any possible conflict of interest (including but not limited to financial considerations) that may arise by virtue of his or her membership on the board. A member, promptly upon determining he or she has a conflict relative to any matter brought, shall disqualify themselves from participating, in any manner, publicly or privately, in the presentation, discussion, deliberation, or any voting on any such manner, including temporarily absenting themselves from the room in which the discussion is being held.

 

XX04.02        POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE HDCD

The powers and duties of the HCDC are as follows:

 

a.   Advisory

The HCDC shall give recommendations to the Easton City Council as to the advisability of issuing any Certificate of Appropriateness required to be issued in accordance with the said Act of June 13, 1961, as amended, and this Ordinance.

 

b.  Board Rule Making Power

The HCDC may make and alter rules and regulations for its own organization and procedure, provided that they are consistent with the laws of the Commonwealth and all provisions of this Ordinance.

 

c.   Removal of Members

Any board member may be removed for misconduct or wrongdoing, unlawful execution of this Ordinance, chronic absenteeism, or failure to perform his or her responsibilities pursuant to this Ordinance, or for other just cause by a majority vote of the HCDC. Said member shall be given notice of when the HCDC plans to consider such action, and given an opportunity to be heard at such meeting, if the board member elects, prior to action.

 

d.  Annual Reports

The members of the HCDC shall make an Annual Report to the Easton City Council, which shall include:

1.  any recommendations for changes in the Ordinance;

 

2.  the number and types of cases reviewed;

 

3.  the number of cases for which a Certificate of Appropriateness was either approved or denied;

 

4.  the number of HCDC meetings which each member attended;

 

5.  historic preservation-related training which each member attended;

 

6.  a narrative summary describing the state of preservation in the West Ward Historic Conservation District with recommendations its policy, goals, and objectives for the Easton City Council;

 

7.  a summary of any comments and recommendations made relating to public improvements projects, and 

 

8.  a budget request for the twelve-month period beginning at the start of the City of Easton's fiscal year.

e.   Compensation

The HCDC may employ secretarial and professional assistance, and incur other necessary expenses with the approval of the Easton City Council. No member of the HCDC shall be compensated for his or her services to the HCDC.

 

f.    Meetings

The HCDC shall meet publicly at least once a month provided there is activity requiring the HCDC’s attention. Further, the HCDC may hold any additional meetings it considers necessary to carry out its powers and duties indicated in this Ordinance. Such meetings shall be open to the public. A majority of the HCDC shall constitute a quorum and action taken at any meeting shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of the members. All public meetings shall be recorded by audio/visual tapes and all proceedings shall be documented in Meeting Minutes. These Meeting Minutes shall be prepared for review and approval at the following monthly meeting of the HCDC. Further, the agenda for each Public Meeting shall be posted on the City of Easton website for the general public no less than two weeks prior to the scheduled Public Meeting. During the conduct of each Public Meeting, the general public will be asked by the Chairperson for comments about each individual proposal for review prior to its presentation and after committee discussion of the project.

 

g.  Training

HCDC members and support staff shall be encouraged to attend a minimum of eight (8) hours annually of seminars, conferences, webinars or workshops related to historic preservation and HCDC administration.

 

XX04.03        ADDITIONAL POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE HCDC

 

a.   To conduct a historic survey and updates of buildings, structures, objects and monuments for the purpose of determining those of historic and/or architectural significance and pertinent facts about them; action in coordination with the City of Easton’s Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, and other appropriate groups and to maintain and periodically revise the detailed listings (resource inventories) of historic resources and data about them, appropriately classified with respect to national, state and local significance in accordance or consistent with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s “Cultural Resource Management in Pennsylvania: Guidelines for Historic Resource Surveys” and the criteria and practices for listing on to the National Register of Historic places.

 

b.  To formulate recommendations concerning the establishment of an appropriate system of markers for selected historic and/or architectural sites and buildings including proposals for the installation and care of such historic markers.

 

c.   To formulate recommendations concerning the preparation and publication of maps, brochures and

descriptive material about West Ward historical and/or architectural sites and buildings.

 

d.  To cooperate with and advise the Easton City Council and the City’s agencies in matter involving historically and/or architecturally significant sites and buildings (such as appropriate land usage, parking facilities and signs, as well as adherence to lot dimensional regulations and minimum structural standards.) To formulate recommendations concerning changes to the City of Easton Comprehensive Plan as it relates to retention of historic resources within the West Ward.

 

e.   To cooperate with an enlist assistance from the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and other agencies, public and private, from time to time, concerned with the preservation of historic sites and buildings within the West Ward.

 

f.    To advise owners of historic buildings regarding rehabilitation, repairs, maintenance methods and technologies, adaptive use, economic and tax incentives and other historic preservation strategies.

 

g.  To promote public support in the purpose of the Ordinance by carrying on educational and public relations programs.

 

h.   Historic Preservation Easements

On both an immediate, annual and long-term basis, the HCDC can create and then manage a Historic Preservation Easement Program. This undertaking shall meet all current Federal/IRS requirements applicable to Historic Preservation Easements. This is not a mandatory program, but shall be based on individual property owners’ interests and motivations. The overseeing of Historic Preservation Easements shall be the responsibility of the HCDC and by the professional staff of the City of Easton’s Planning Department.

 

i.    Landmark Buildings and Structures

On an annual basis, the HCDC can undertake the honorific landmarking of exceptional historic buildings and structures within the District. Landmarking is intended to draw attention, understanding and appreciation by the general public. In addition to acknowledging architectural or engineering history, such landmarking may also involve historic events and noteworthy individuals.

 

j.    Technical Assistance Incentives and Grants

In cooperation and coordination with the City of Easton, and on an annual and long-term basis, the HCDC may seek to foster and create technical assistance incentives and grants for property owners who propose to restore and/or historically rehabilitate historic building stock and/or encourage de-conversion of former single-family dwellings from multi-unit dwellings back to single-family dwellings.

 

k.   The HCDC will consider and explore the following:

1.  A Public History Initiative that engages the West Ward’s residents to serve as a resource for continuing research, gathering and sharing of family, business and institutional histories; historic events; and important individuals and ethnic groups of the West Ward. This effort should involve public and charter schools, Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society, Marx History Room of the Easton Public Library, and Lafayette College.

 

2.  A proactive and participatory Public Archeology Program for the tangible remains of prehistoric and historic archeology within the West Ward. Potential partners may include public and charter schools, Lafayette College, Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Society for Pennsylvania Archeology.

ARTICLE XX05

DESIGN GUIDELINES

XX05.01        Design Guidelines

XX05.02        Renovation of Existing Buildings and Structures

XX05.03        Renovation of Existing Porches

XX05.04        Preservation and Renovation of Existing Fences

XX05.05        Recommended Improvements to Existing Buildings or Structures

XX05.06        New Buildings and Structures

XX05.07        Demolition

 

XX05.01        DESIGN GUIDELINES

 

In determining the recommendations to be made to the Easton City Council concerning the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness, the HCDC shall consider only those matters that are pertinent to the preservation of the historical and/or architectural aspect and nature of the building, site, area, or district, certified to have historical significance, based upon conformance to the following:

 

a.   Unless otherwise noted, these regulations shall apply only to portions of structures visible from public rights-of-way (streets). They do not apply to the facades, additions or fences of structures facing alleys (except for principal structures fronting on an alley) or to the side or rear facades of structures that are not visible from public rights-of-way or portions of such facades that are more than 20 feet from public rights-of-way.

 

b.  If any section, subsection, provision, regulation, sentence, clause, phrase or word in this chapter or the zoning district boundaries as shown on the Zoning Map shall be for any reason declared to be illegal, unconstitutional or invalid by any Court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect or impair the validity of the remaining provisions of this chapter or the Zoning Map.

 

c.  Council intention upon declaration of invalidity. Council hereby declares that it would have adopted this chapter and each section, subsection, provision, regulation, sentence, clause, phrase and word thereof and each zoning district boundary of the Zoning Map, irrespective of the fact that any one or more of the sections, subsections, provisions, regulations, sentences, clauses, phrases, words or boundaries may be declared illegal, unconstitutional or invalid.

 

d.  In establishing these regulations, every effort was made to avoid requirements that would place undue burdens on property owners. A number of potential design standards that are desirable but not mandatory have therefore been omitted. For the benefit of property owners, many of these standards are described in Articles as “Recommended Improvements.” These items are NOT required under this Ordinance.

 

XX05.02        RENOVATION OF EXISTING BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES

Renovation of existing buildings and structures. The intent of this section is to preserve or restore the original architectural features of buildings as much as possible.

a.   Original opening dimensions for doors and windows shall not be enlarged or decreased.

Figure 2

b.  Veneers and sidings intended to “simulate” brick or stone shall not be permitted. Synthetic slate or materials intended to simulate wood or metal are permitted.

XX05.03        RENOVATION OF EXISTING PORCHES

 

Porches on many West Ward homes are important historic design elements. In general, they should be preserved as they were built, although occasionally it may be necessary to enclose one to provide additional living space. Modifications to existing porches are permitted as follows:

 

a.   Front porches and side porches that face a street shall not be enclosed pursuant to 595-15.F.14.

 

b.  Existing porch enclosures to be altered except by glass or screens that leave intact the original elements of the porch — the open space, the railings, columns and roof.

 

c.   When columns and railings need replacement, they shall be replaced with the same materials as the original or materials that are similar in appearance to the original. Wrought iron or aluminum columns shall not replace wooden elements. Wooden railings and columns shall be painted. While the restoration or exact replication of elaborate wooden details such as cornice moldings or railing spindles is encouraged, it is not required.

 

d.   Notwithstanding other provisions of the codified ordinances to the contrary, pursuant to the International Building Code section 3407.1, Historic Buildings, existing porch railings may be replaced with railings of a height not less than the existing railings, unless the Building Code official determines that such replacement with railings of a height less than 42 inches constitutes a distinct life hazard because of specific conditions of the building, including but not limited to the porch height above existing grade. Section 3407.1 states: “The provisions of this code relating to the construction, repair, alteration, addition, restoration and movement of structures, and change of occupancy shall not be mandatory for historic buildings where such buildings are judged by the building official to not constitute a distinct life safety hazard.”

Figure 3

XX05.04        PRESERVATION AND RENOVATION OF EXISTING FENCES

The West Ward has an exceptional number of historic cast iron fences, in front, side and rear yards. (Many such fences in other communities were melted down for scrap drives in wartime.)

 

a.   Existing cast iron fences shall be preserved insofar as possible, and shall only be removed when property lines are altered or when repair and restoration is demonstrated to be physically unfeasible.

 

b.   When the removal of a cast iron fence is required and the owner has made no provision for its relocation, sale or storage, it shall be offered for architectural salvage or made available for re-use in another location, preferably within the West Ward neighborhood.

Figure 4

XX05.05        RECOMMENDED IMPROVEMENTS TO EXISTING BUILDINGS OR STRUCTURES

The following are recommended but NOT required under these Design Guidelines:

a.   Window and door openings that have been added, removed or modified from their original sizes and/or locations should be restored to their original placements and sizes if possible. Replacement of windows and doors with original materials, designs and window configurations is encouraged but is not required.

 

b.  Original materials such as brick, stone, slate, wood, etc. should be repaired whenever possible or replaced with similar materials.

 

c.   Original architectural features such as cornices and moldings should be repaired whenever possible or replaced with similar features. Property owners should seek to uncover such features that may have been encapsulated in order to expose and restore them, and also to prevent entrapment of water that can cause or hasten their deterioration.

 

XX05.06        NEW BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES

 

The intent of this section is to help ensure that new buildings and structures are compatible with their surroundings.

 

a.   Design Standards.

Note that these standards do not regulate architectural style, but shall be followed for all principal new structures and accessory structures viewed from public rights-of-way;

1.   Materials.

Predominant materials shall be brick, stone, wood, glass and other materials common to structures built in the neighborhood prior to 1950, or new materials developed for purposes of energy efficiency (such as solar collectors or materials with an R-value at least equal to standards provided in the most recent tables in www.energystar.gov. All commonly used roofing materials are permitted. Synthetic slate or materials intended to “simulate” wood or metal are permitted. Veneers and sidings intended to “simulate” brick or stone shall not be permitted. The use of vinyl or aluminum siding is permissible on single or duplex residential structures or accessory buildings only; its use on other structures is not permitted.

2.   Height.

New buildings shall be subject to the limitations defined in the Easton Zoning Code OR shall not be greater in height than fifteen feet above the average height of the existing buildings on the block fronting the proposed structure, whichever is less. Building height not defined in the Easton Zoning Code shall be defined as the average height from average grade (where the structure meets the ground) to the average height to the top of the cornice or roof line (excluding projections such as steeples, towers or turrets) of the facades of buildings on the block fronting the proposed structure.

 

3.   Scale.

As established by size and proportion of openings, massing, projections and recesses, ratio of wall to openings, range of materials and other architectural features, scale shall be compatible with surrounding buildings located on the same block, the block directly across the street and any other buildings within 150 feet of the proposed structure and clearly visible from the street directly in front of that structure.

 

4.   Applicant shall graphically demonstrate how the design of the proposed structure relates to its surroundings based upon the requirements of these standards. 

Figure 5

b.  Recommended Improvements to new buildings, structures or additions. The West Ward Historic Conservation District is intended to promote not just historic preservation and compatible development, but construction that furthers other neighborhood objectives. Greater flexibility in design, density, parking or other requirements of this and other Easton codes may be permitted for projects that demonstrably offer community benefits in terms of any or all of the following:

1.   Environmental design of buildings and sites in conformance with LEED, Green Globes or similar standards such as Urban Ecology.

2.   Site design that promotes development of open spaces for active or passive community use and absorption of ground water.

3.   Encouraging and fostering the preservation or construction of affordable housing.

c.         New Additions.

1.   Additions shall be located so as to have the least possible visual impact from public rights-of-way: where sufficient land within a property exists (within zoning setback requirements), additions shall be located at the rear or on the sides towards the rear of the property.

2.   Additions that are larger or higher than the structures to which they are attached, or are attached to structures built after 1950, shall be subject to the provisions of Article IV. Particular attention should be paid to compatibility with attached structures.

3.   Additions to structures built before 1950 that in the opinion of the reviewing body retain much of their original character, shall be subject to the following:

i. Design shall employ materials, scale and proportions similar to the original structure to which it is attached. Within those standards, it is not required that the architectural style be similar to the original structure, and the introduction of other historic styles (not part of the original existing building) is discouraged. Additions of a contemporary architectural style are permitted, provided that they employ materials, scale and proportions similar to the original structure to which they are attached.

ii. Applicant shall graphically demonstrate how the design of the proposed structure relates to the original building to which it is attached.

Figure 6

d.  New Fences and Walls.

Traditionally, fences or walls in front yards have been short enough so people could easily talk over them. A height of 36-42 inches is recommended, but in keeping with other Easton codes, fences up to four feet high are permitted at the front and sides of a property, six feet high at the rear.

1.   Permitted fence or wall materials (property frontage only) are brick, stone, wood, ornamental iron, ornamental aluminum or steel designed to look like iron, vinyl designed to look like wood or iron, stucco over concrete block, capped with brick or stone.

2.   Stockade (solid) fences over 42 inches high, walls of manufactured block materials larger than standard concrete masonry units or chain link fences are not permitted adjacent to front yards or side yards of corner properties abutting public rights-of-way. Exceptions may be made for stockade fences around swimming pools.

3.   Interior side yard or rear yard walls or fences may be of any common fence material.

4.   The finished side of fences shall face the exterior of properties.

XX05.07        DEMOLITION

Among the most valuable features of the West Ward are its many historic buildings, which give the neighborhood its unique character, much of its affordable housing, and a vital connection to its past. The purpose of this Article is to protect these important structures. The demolition of any existing building or portion of a building constructed before 1950 shall be a last resort, only after the applicant can either:

a.   Demonstrate that no other viable alternatives for reuse of the building exist. This would include:

1.   An analysis of the building's adaptive reuse feasibility;

2.   Evidence that no feasible reuse has been found within a twelve-month period;

 

3.   Evidence that no sales or rentals for a market price within fifteen percent of the value of the property as determined by an independent market appraisal have been possible during a twelve-month period of significant marketing, such as continuous presence on a multi-service, weekly advertisements on websites or in newspapers of general circulation, etc.;

 

4.   Relief of economic hardship, or

 

5.   Demonstration by the City of Easton’s Building Code Official and a Certified Engineer that the building or structure is a public safety threat.

b.  In such rare cases where the HCDC recommends and the Easton City Council approves demolition of a historic building or structure, a good faith effort shall be made by the City of Easton and the owner(s) to remove said building or structure to a proximate site. If moving a building or structure slated to be demolished is economically or practically infeasible, the owner is encouraged to salvage architectural features of said building or structure for use within the City of Easton. In all cases the Code Administrator shall have the authority to issue an Emergency Demolition Order to maintain the public health and safety.

c.  On Compliance with Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances       

All other City of Easton laws and ordinance shall be complied with, including the zoning and subdivision ordinances.

Figure 7

d.  Financial Feasibility

The HDCD shall consider the financial feasibility of its recommendations in response to a request for a certificate of appropriateness or building permit for the erection, reconstruction, alteration, and restoration of a building or structure. Financial feasibility shall be determined on the basis of an unreasonable cost for repair or replacement in-kind of whole or part of a building or structure. The HDCD will assist the property owner to find and recommend cost effective and appropriate materials.

The applicant shall submit a minimum of three (3) estimates from bona fide contractors and vendors substantiating his or her claim that the financial feasibility or repair in-kind is financially burdensome relative to the financial value of the building or structure. The board shall determine as to the conditions of said architectural feature based on its inspection, photographs or report from the building inspector or preservation staff or consultant. No substitute material shall be approved which is inappropriate, incompatible, or is destructive or has the potential to be destructive to the original fabric of the building or structure.

ARTICLE XX06

APPLICATION REVIEW PROCEDURE

XX06.01        Application Review Procedure

XX06.01        APPLICATION REVIEW PROCEDURE

The application review procedure is as follows:

a.   Upon receipt of a completed application for a building permit(s) or a certificate of appropriateness for work to be done in the District, the Code Administrator shall act in accordance with the procedures being followed in that office, except those procedures that are modified by the following requirements:

1.  The Code Administrator shall determine shall determine whether the work proposed needs to be forwarded to the HCDC staff for administrative approval review. If not, he or she shall forward copies of the completed application for a building permit(s) together with copies of any plot plan and building plans and specifications filed by the applicant to the HCDC.

2.  The Code Administrator shall not issue a building permit(s) for any erection, alteration, reconstruction, repair, restoration or demolition of all or part of any building in the District until the Easton City Council has issued a Certificate of Appropriateness. If the Code Administrator or his or her representative issues a building permit(s) without a COA due to an administrative or clerical error said building permit(s) shall be voided.

3.  The Code Administrator shall require applicants to submit a sufficient number of additional copies of material required to be attached to a completed application for a building permit(s) of Certificate of Appropriateness so that the information needed to make the determination set forth in Section 600 (G) 1-8 will be available.

4.  The Code Administrator shall maintain in his office a record of all such applications and final dispositions of the same.

b.  Board Review of Applications

Upon receipt of a completed building permit(s) or Certificate of Appropriateness application under the jurisdiction of this Ordinance the HDCD shall consider such at its next regularly scheduled meeting or special meeting The Board may require an applicant to produce supportive materials as it sees fit to render its decisions.

c.   Notification of Applicant of the HDCD Meeting

The owner of record or his or her representatives applying for a Certificate of Appropriateness and/or building permit(s) shall be advised of the time and place of said meeting and be invited to appear to explain his or her reasons at least fourteen (14) days before the HDCD meeting. The HCDC may invite such other persons as it desires to attend its meeting.

 

d.  Design Guidelines

In determining both oral and written recommendations to be presented to the Easton City Council concerning the issuance of a COA authorizing a permit for the erection, alternation, reconstruction, repair, restoration, demolition, or demolition by neglect of all or part of any building within the District, the HCDC shall consider and apply the Design Guidelines set forth in Section 500 and 501, and such design guidelines developed by the HCDC pursuant to and congruent with the objectives of this Ordinance.

 

e.   Time Frame for Board Decisions

The HDCD shall render a decision and recommendation on any application for a building permit(s) under its review no later than twenty (20) working days after the hearing/meeting provided for in Section 401 of the Ordinance and shall submit in writing to the Easton City Council recommendations concerning the issuance of a COA.

 

f.    Application Disapproval by the HCDC

If the HCDC decides to advise against the granting of a COA, it shall so indicate to the applicant for a building permit(s). The disapproval shall indicate to the applicant the changes in plans and specifications, if any, which would protect (1) the distinctive historical character of the historic district and (2) the architectural integrity of the building or structure. The HCDC shall withhold its report for five (5) days to allow the applicant to decide whether or not to make the suggested changed in his or her plans and specifications. If the applicant determines that he or she will make the necessary changes, he or she shall so advise the HCDC, which shall in turn advise the Easton City Council accordingly.

 

g.  Contents of the Written Report

The written report to the Easton City Council concerning the HDCD’s recommendation of the issuance of a COA shall set out the findings of fact that shall include but are not limited to the following matters:

1.  The exact location of the area in which the work is to be done.

2.  The exterior changes to be made or the exterior character of the structure to be erected.

3.  A list of the surrounding structures with their general exterior characteristics and urban historic context.

4.  The effect of the proposed change upon the general historic and architectural nature of the district.

5.  The appropriateness of the exterior architectural features of the building which can be seen from a public street or way.

6.  The general design, arrangement, texture, and material of the building and the structure, and the relation of such factors to similar features of buildings or structures in the district.

7.  The opinion of the HCDC (including any dissent) as to the appropriateness of the work or project proposed as it will preserve or destroy the historic character and nature of the district. 

8. The specific recommendations of the HCDC based on findings of fact as to the issuance by the Easton City Council or its refusal to issue a COA.

h.   Notification of Applicant by the Easton City Council of their Consideration

Upon receipt of the written report from the HCDC as provided in section g. of this section, the Easton City Council shall consider at the next regular scheduled or special meeting, the question of issuing to the Code Administrator a COA authorizing a permit for work covered by the application. The applicant shall be advised by the City of Easton of the time and place of the meeting at which his application shall be considered. The applicant shall have the right to attend this meeting and be heard as to the reason for filing this application.

i.    Design Guidelines

In determining whether or not to certify to the appropriateness of the proposed erection, alteration, reconstruction, repair, restoration, or demolition, of all or a part of any building within the historic district, the Easton City Council shall consider the same factors as the HCDC set forth in Sections 500 and 501 above.

 

j.    Approval by the Easton City Council

If the Easton City Council approves the application, it shall issue a COA authorizing the Code Administrator to issue a building permit(s) for the work covered.

 

k.   Disapproval by the Easton City Council

If the Easton City Council disapproves, a written reason(s) shall be given to the Code Administrator and the applicant. The disapproval shall indicate what changes in the plans and specifications would meet the conditions for protecting (1) the distinctive historical character of the district and (2) the architectural integrity of the building or structure.

Upon receipt of a written disapproval of the Easton City Council, the Code Administrator shall disapprove the application for a building permit(s) and advise the applicant. The applicant may appeal this disapproval to the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas within the time specified by law.

 

l.    Final Notification by the Easton City Council

In either case (whether of approval or disapproval) the City of Easton shall notify the applicant of its decision within five (5) days of its meeting at which the application was considered.

ARTICLE XX07

RELIEF AS A RESULT OF AN

ECONOMIC HARDSHIP

XX07.01        Relief as a Result of an Economic Hardship

XX07.01        RELIEF AS A RESULT OF AN ECONOMIC HARDSHIP

When a claim of unreasonable economic hardship is made due to the effect of this Ordinance, the owner of record must present evidence sufficient to prove that as a result of the HCDC’s action, he or she is unable to obtain a reasonable return or a reasonable beneficial use from a resource. The owner of record shall submit by affidavit to the HCDC some or all of the information below at its discretion, which may include but not be limited to the following:

a.   Date the property was acquired by its current owner.

 

b.  Price paid for the property (if acquired by purchase) and a description of the relationship, if any, between the buyer and the seller of the property.

 

c.   Current professionally appraised market value of the property.

 

d.  Current equity in the property.

 

e.   Appraisals of the property obtained with the previous two (2) years.

 

f.    All appraisals obtained within the previous two (2) years by the owner or applicant in connection with purchase, offerings for sale, financing or ownership of the property, or state that none was obtained.

 

g.  All studies commissioned by the owner within the previous two (2) years as to profitable renovation, rehabilitation utilization of any structures or objects on the property for alternative use, or a statement that none were obtained.

 

h.   Form of ownership or operation of the property, whether sole proprietorship, for-profit or nonprofit corporation, limited partnership, joint venture or other.

The HCDC may require that an applicant furnish additional information relevant to its determination of unreasonable economic hardship.

 

Should the HCDC determine that the owner’s present return is not reasonable, it must consider whether there are other uses currently allowed that would provide a reasonable financial return and whether such a return could be obtained through investment in the property for rehabilitation purposes. The HCDC may choose to recommend to the City of Easton that special economic incentives be developed to assist the owner of the resource in maintaining it and obtaining a suitable economic return or achieving a reasonable beneficial use.

 

The HCDC may seek the assistance of an appropriate local, statewide or national preservation organizations in developing solutions which would relieve the owner’s economic hardship. If the HCDC chooses to explore such options, the HCDC may delay issuing a COA for demolition on the basis of economic hardship for a period of ninety (90) days in addition to time periods otherwise applicable.

 

Should the applicant satisfy the HCDC that he or she will suffer an unreasonable economic hardship if a COA is not approved, and should the HCDC not be able to develop with the City of Easton or appropriate local, statewide and national preservation organization a solution which can relieve the owner’s economic hardship, the HCDC may recommend a COA for demolition.

West Ward Historic Conservation District