By Rob Bell |PA NJ Radio
Opponents are calling it “Finkletown.”
And at Thursdayʼs “exploratory courtesy meeting” to get feedback from residents of Lambert Lane and Coryell Street, the only people in the room in favor of Rachel Finkleʼs proposal for a 12-unit rental building on the Delaware Canal at the intersection of those two roads in Lambertville were property owner Rachel Finkle and her architect, Michael Burns.
Finkleʼs proposed building would be 35 feet tall, with a dozen 850-square-foot one-bedroom units on three floors. It would be limited to those age 55 and older, to take advantage of Lambertvilleʼs lenient code, which allows just one half parking space per unit for “55 and older” buildings. Limiting parking on the property is a must since the lot is only one quarter of an acre in size.
Thatʼs six parking spots for 12 apartments, a notion that did not sit well with the 30 attendees, and even prompted Finkle herself to say it wasnʼt sufficient parking for the property, but it was legal.
The proposed building itself is rectangular, and located in Lambertvilleʼs historic central business district. There would be a paved driveway running from the Coryell Street side of the property terminating behind the building by the railroad tracks, and the building itself would have a flat roof, and be “modern” looking,” according to Finkle.
“Like a tenement building in Cleveland,” responded Richard Green, whose residence faces directly across the street.
Each unit would have a balcony about two chairs wide, four apartments to a floor, with interior fire escapes and HVAC connections. At 35 feet tall, it would be about the same height as the antique stores on Lambert Lane by the New Hope-Lambertville free bridge.
Addressing the audience, Burns said that with their current plan, no variances would be required. He said there are no front or side property setback restrictions, and in his design the front of the three story building would be just five to 13 feet from Lambert Lane, north to south, and include a sidewalk, and perhaps a wall, with two entrances for the two front ground floor units.
Burns said there is a setback requirement of 10 feet from the railroad tracks running parallel to the canal, and the city would require pavement od the narrow driveway to the six accompanying parking spaces.
At the meeting, Finkle said she wants to change the status of the relatively small lot, which she inherited, from its “worst use” – currently an empty lot with trees — to its ”best use,” to maximize profit. She asserted that the proposed apartments would not be “low-income housing,” but rather a potential second home for people for weekend getaways.
The design of the building was roundly criticized by attendees concerned about how it fit into their community. Other concerns cited included the planʼs lack of landscaping, inadequate parking, and overall congestion to the
area. Some residents wondered about the volume of garbage generated, the buildingʼs effect on the canal walkʼs view, its proximity to the railroad tracks, and whether the renters would use their apartments on Airbnb as sub-rentals.
“Since my family has been in Lambertville for over 100 years, I donʼt want to do anything to disrespect
Lambertville,” said Finkle, adding that she was open to the idea of amending the look of the building, and would take residents’ other concerns into consideration going forward.
When asked if Finkle was going to try for government financing, Burns indicated that it was too early to think about financing. Burns said whatever final plan they come up with will have to go through at least four different agencies for approval, including the DEP and the town’s historical society, adding that the city will have the last word on what will happen to the property.
Resident Peter Parker asked if they had considered other building designs, like townhouses, for the lot. Burns answered in the affirmative, but said they were not available for review.
Burns said he hoped that “the building positively impacts neighboring property values.”
(Full disclosure: I am a resident of Lambert Lane, and will be directly affected by whatever is done to the property.)