“No trespassing” signs were posted at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Toll Brothers site on Whitehall Road.
Residents and members of the Nittany Valley Water Coalition have been camping out at the site since June 3 to protest the construction of Toll Brothers’ proposed student housing development, The Cottages at State College.
The signs state: “No trespassing. You are hereby notified that this property is not open to the public. You have no right to access, remain upon, or occupy this property and should vacate it immediately.”
Kelli Hoover said some members of the water coalition will be meeting with Penn State officials next week to discuss potential locations where Toll Brothers could build instead of on Whitehall.
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They’ll also meet with those officials and Toll Brothers representatives on Aug. 2, she said.
“We believe that Toll Brothers will be very interested in some of these potential sites,” said Hoover, a professor of entomology at Penn State. “I think it’s going to be up to Penn State to be cooperative. My concern is that they will put up roadblocks. And this action, at this time, suggests they’re escalating because they plan to put up roadblocks.”
Hoover, of Pine Grove Mills, is one of the 15 residents who filed suit against Ferguson Township for the Board of Supervisors’ November 2015 approval of the Toll Brothers development.
“The area where the protest is occurring is not open to the public, and the protesters’ presence on the site violates university policy and has not been consented to by Penn State,” university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in an email to the CDT.
Penn State policy also prohibits camping on university property, except in designated areas, Powers said.
“The university plans to continue its dialogue with members of the coalition, including arranging a meeting with the coalition and representatives from Toll Brothers in the next few weeks,” she said.
In a courtesy letter addressed to David Gray, Penn State’s senior vice president for finance and business, on June 28, Ferguson Township zoning administrator Jeffrey Ressler acknowledged the signs at the Toll Brothers site.
“It has come to our attention that there are signs and banners displayed on Penn State’s property that are in violation of the township’s Sign Ordinance,” Ressler said in the letter.
Ressler requested Penn State’s cooperation with bringing the property into compliance within 30 days.
Part of the reason the letter wasn’t sent until the signs had been up for just less than a month was due to jurisdiction, Township Manager David Pribulka said.
Signs were in the right-of-way along a PennDOT road in State College borough, he said, adding that the signs that triggered the letter are on property in Ferguson Township.
The township’s sign ordinance allows for temporary signs, but it limits their size and how many there can be, Pribulka said.
According to the letter, the ordinance also prohibits signs that are placed on the property without the property owner’s permission.
The response protesters have gotten from the community has been significant since the encampment began, Hoover said.
The water coalition has gotten thousands of signatures on petitions, distributed about 1,000 yard signs in the community and raised $42,000 toward legal fees and signs, she said.
There’s a strong commitment to the protest, Hoover said.
Hoover has notified the water coalition’s lawyer about the “no trespassing” signs.
She said the group hasn’t decided yet what they’re going to do in response to them.