Easton Will Wait on Seizing Parking Lot
Council tables eminent domain vote after property owner agrees to meet with the city.
Easton City Council will wait three weeks before voting to condemn and seize a downtown parking lot.
Council made that decision Wednesday night after lot owner Scott Kindred said he would meet with city officials and try to work out a different arrangement, one that would possibly allow Kindred to keep his property and allow some public parking.
After the meeting, Kindred expressed cautious optimism about the vote.
"They're willing to talk, so I'm willing to listen," he said.
Initially, the city had wanted to take the N. Fourth Street lot by eminent domain.
Mayor Sal Panto said the city would use the parking lot -- which is now private -- as a public parking lot. The city's parking study identified the lot as a good place for another garage.
There's room for about 25 cars now, he said, with space for maybe 10 more if he demolished the bank's former drive-thru kiosk. The city has its own metered parking area right next to Kindred's property.
Kindred -- who took his cause to the Easton Facebook page, where it got several dozen responses -- thinks otherwise. There were also numerous comments backing Kindred on our story about the issue Sunday.
“You’re going to condemn a parking lot to make a parking lot," he told council, and suggested the city look at privatizing its parking.
That move, he said, would generate tax revenue and remove liability from the city.
“Is there a buyer? We'll talk to them," Panto said. "Bring them to the table and we’ll gladly talk.”
But later the mayor noted that private companies who have met with the city have threatened to raise rates to pay down debt for Easton's garage.
The exchange got a little tense at one point.
“I’m trying to bring people into Easton, you’re trying to chase them out," Kindred told council.
"That's not true," Councilman Roger Ruggles said. "I respect you...When you say we’re trying to push people out of Easton…that’s not true."
Panto said he wants to work with Kindred, and praised him for maintaining his properties.
"You’re one of our better landlords," the mayor said. "We’re not looking for a fight.”
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 13.