State College open house to showcase neighborhood plan

mcarroll@centredaily.comFebruary 11, 2014 

— Highlands residents want better management of rental housing and incentives to encourage homeownership in their neighborhood.

Residents in College Heights are worried that North Atherton Street is a barrier in their community, dividing the neighborhood and creating problems for pedestrians and leading to noise and traffic.

Proposals to address those problems and more are packed in a draft version of the State College Neighborhood Plan, which borough planning officials have been developing over the last year with input from residents.

To address neighbors’ concerns in the Highlands, goals include expanding programs and incentives to increase homeownership and affordable housing and to attract long-term residents, young professionals and families.

For College Heights, one of the goals means working toward addressing neighborhood-scale transportation and safety and transit opportunities.

Residents will have one last chance to comment on the plan Thursday at a neighborhood open house in Borough Council chambers.

“They can see how their input shaped the plan, and we can see if they have any last minute ideas before (the plan) is submitted to council,” said borough planner Meagan Tuttle.

The plan seeks to “provide an accurate evaluation of the neighborhoods’ conditions and to develop a series of recommendations that will guide neighborhood-level planning activities in order to achieve” goals, according to the document.

It features SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — for each neighborhood, as expressed by those in the community.

It will give the borough a unified plan for its neighborhoods, a first.

Some of those have neighborhood plans from the 1990s and early 2000s, and others have never had plans on the books. The Planning Commission decided in 2012 to work updates for all the neighborhoods into one, more comprehensive, plan.

Tuttle said planners sat down with residents in each neighborhood to gauge what they saw as issues, and later how to address those issues and in what priority.

The result is the document that will the focus of a neighborhood open house at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Tuttle said she hopes the Planning Commission can finish the plan by the first week in March. It will move on to council sometime after that, perhaps as early as April.

“A lot of people were interested in sharing their ideas about strengths and opportunities,” Tuttle said of the process. “We worked with some that had never had a plan before. They were really excited to share.”

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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