Penn State has given protesters occupying the Toll Brothers site “final notice” to vacate — but they say they’re not planning on going anywhere.
“No trespassing” signs were posted on July 20 at the 43.5-acre site along Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township, where Toll Brothers is slated to build The Cottages at State College, a student housing development.
The Nittany Valley Water Coalition has had a constant presence at the site for 120 days — moving in tents on June 3 — to protest the development, citing concerns about potential impacts to water quality.
“The more Penn State pushes against us, the more people want to push back,” said Kelli Hoover, a water coalition member and professor of entomology at Penn State.
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Coalition member David Hughes received the final no trespassing notification Wednesday in an email from Charima Young, the university’s director of local government and community relations.
A final paper notice, which has no letterhead, date or signature, was dropped off at the site Friday by Zack Moore, Penn State’s vice president for government and community relations, according to Hughes.
“Penn State has provided this camping group with ample notification on multiple occasions of our intent to enforce the no trespassing notice ...,” Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in an email. “We were giving the group sufficient time to comply, since camping under both township ordinance and university policy are not permitted on this property. They are choosing to violate the law.”
Hoover said she’s not sure why Penn State has “escalated” things now.
“We’re not going anywhere, and we’re not gonna remove anything from the site,” she said. “We feel that because this is a public university we have the right to be there.”
It’s not clear whether the university will send the police to the site or what the deadline is to remove the items, Hoover said.
“There are members of the Nittany Valley Water Coalition who are really attached to this, and should the police show up, they are prepared to be arrested,” said Hughes, an associate professor of entomology and biology at Penn State.
The water coalition has been in talks with university officials and Toll Brothers representative Charles Elliott about potential alternative sites for The Cottages at State College.
University officials have engaged with the water coalition dozens of times since the protest began, Powers said. They’ve proactively set up meetings and calls, and talked about the issues surrounding the property.
“We are committed to continuing this dialogue,” Powers said.
Toll Brothers is currently in a 60-day evaluation period for an alternative site it’s potentially interested in on West College Avenue, Hoover said.
The developer has been “wonderful,” Hughes said. Toll Brothers is doing its due diligence as a profit-focused company to understand whether the move would be economically viable.
A lawsuit filed by residents against Ferguson Township is also making its way through the courts. They’re waiting to see whether the state Supreme Court will hear their case.