State College issues zoning permit for section of Penn State natural gas pipeline

jvanderk@centredaily.comAugust 16, 2013 

— Borough planning staff approved a zoning permit for installation of a section of the new, 12-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline that will serve Penn State’s West Campus steam plant, according to a borough press release issued Friday afternoon.

The release said Columbia Gas, the utility installing the pipeline, applied for and received the permit on Aug. 8. It said the application met all zoning regulations for the University Planned District, a borough zoning district related to university facilities.

As explained in the release, the UPD contains sub-districts described by specific location within the greater district — essentially mini-zoning districts within the greater UPD that list additional items that must be addressed during development.

A section of the pipeline was determined to travel through a particular part of two sub-districts, where a zoning permit is required. The section will be near the intersection of Park Avenue and Shortlidge Road. Not all such areas required a zoning permit.

“Based on what we reviewed, it was our assessment that it looked like it was in sub-district 7 and sub-district 5 and it was only a segment of the overall line,” said zoning officer Anne Messner.

Messner said she doesn’t know how long the section of pipe is that will travel through that area. The pipeline also will travel through more of the borough’s UPD, but nowhere else will it require borough zoning permits.

After several contentious council meetings this spring, at which borough residents opposed the original pipeline route, taking the line along Bellaire and Prospect avenues and South Burrowes Street, the borough did not issue Columbia the permit necessary to install that line.

Penn State asked Columbia to re-evaluate alternate routes through campus.

Penn State trustees approved a new route in July, at an additional cost of $9.6 million. The route still originates from a current Columbia line near Porter Road, but follows a longer route through and around campus before arriving at the steam plant, at the corner of West College Avenue and Burrowes Road.

Penn State is converting the plant from coal to natural gas to meet federal air quality requirements by the start of 2016. Several borough boards are reviewing those plans.

Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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