Lafayette gets involved in expansion lawsuit between residents and Easton

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The most recent designs for the college’s McCartney Dorm Project. (Photo courtesy of Roger Demareski)

Claire Grunewald

Lafayette has been granted permission to intervene in the civil lawsuit between four College Hill residents and the City of Easton. In May, the City Council approved the zoning changes needed for Lafayette to build its new dormitories to accommodate a growing student body. The residents sued the city to challenge the approval, saying that the process was not legal. The college filed its petition to intervene in the suit on Oct. 10 and it was approved two days later by Judge Anthony Beltrami.

According to the official petition filed in the Northampton County Civil Court docket, the college petitioned to intervene because they felt that their interests were not properly represented. The documents themselves aren’t viewable online but can be obtained at the Northampton County Courthouse.

“Although the City of Easton and the Easton City Council are parties, they have no property rights at stake in this appeal,” the college’s attorneys wrote in the petition.

Additionally, the petition states that neither party objects to the college’s intervention in the appeal.

Preventing the progress of the McCartney Street Dorm project would be problematic for Lafayette, the petition states, as the college continues to increase its student body population. The college already had to accommodate an over-enrollment by about 30 students for the class of 2022, the largest first-year class ever.

The college addressed this concern within their appeal, recognizing that a court ruling in favor of the college hill residents “would also prevent Lafayette College from adequately accommodating its student population.”

Vice President of Finance and Administration Roger Demareski signed a verification on behalf of Lafayette College verifying that accuracy of the statements made within the petition are “true and correct to the best of [his] knowledge.” Demareski declined to comment on the petition or this verification, because, he said, he can’t comment on active litigation. President Alison Byerly, too, declined to comment for the same reason.

The original procedural appeal against the city was filed by the residents on June 8 and a hearing on the appeal has been scheduled for Nov. 27.

As stated in the petition, if permitted to intervene, the Lafayette “intends to participate in all aspects of this statutory appeal,” which will include filing a brief of the merit of the appeal by Nov. 22 before the upcoming hearing.

Attorneys George J. Kroculick and Meredith E. Carpenter will be repressing Lafayette College in the suit. Kroculick, along with James Preston, attorney representing the College Hill residents, and William Murphy, attorney representing the City of Easton, did not respond for comment.

On the other end of things, the college has continued moving forward with it’s land development plan to take place in the contested zone. Demareski said the college submitted its land development plan to the Easton Planning Commission in early October and is going before the commission with this plan at the Nov. 7 planning commission meeting.

“We’re moving forward. The ordinance, although the process is being challenged,  it’s the current law. We’re submitting our project under the current law, and we’re going to move forward,” Demareski said.

Demareski added that he knows from speaking with Mayor Sal Panto and the city’s attorneys that they are “extremely confident that they did everything in the proper way.”