A lot has happened since the Toll Brothers’ student housing development received final approval in November 2015.
A lawsuit filed by residents against Ferguson Township has been working its way through the courts. Protesters have occupied the site for 62 days over concerns, including potential impacts to water quality, with no intention of leaving despite the “no trespassing” signs that were posted July 20.
On Wednesday, the Nittany Valley Water Coalition met with Penn State and Toll Brothers representatives at Old Main on Penn State’s campus. NVWC representatives proposed seven Penn State-owned properties that they believe could be suitable alternatives to the 43.5 acres on Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township where the Toll Brothers’ development, The Cottages at State College, is slated to be built. The water coalition had met with Penn State officials on July 25 to propose the sites.
“We were very excited by this meeting, and coming out of it, we are more excited. We have been met with a very favorable response by (Toll Brothers Campus Living Managing Director) Charles Elliott,” said David Hughes, a NVWC member and an associate professor of entomology and biology at Penn State.
The water coalition has spent more than 1,000 work hours looking into local zoning regulations and speaking extensively to local officials in regard to the alternative sites, Hughes said.
He said the water coalition feels that great progress was made in the meeting and that everybody involved is looking for a win-win-win situation.
“Penn State and Toll Brothers Apartment Living are actively listening to the coalition’s feedback and ideas. We are committed to the evaluation of all concerns,” according to a statement from Toll Brothers.
This will be a long process, Hughes said, and it’s a complicated issue with many parts moving all at the same time.
“We appreciated the opportunity to meet and have a good candid discussion,” Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in an email. “No immediate decisions have been made. We understand Toll Brothers needs to evaluate the conversation that occurred, and to the extent that it involves the university we would need further time to discuss and communicate.”
Hughes said water coalition members are working on this issue because the community wants them to.
Community support has come in the form of more $40,000 donated and an “inordinate number of car horn beeps” as people drive by the site, he said.
“Thousands of people in our community are behind us,” Hughes said.