Borough Council voted 4-3 to enact an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance. The amendment reduces the area permitted for non-owner-occupied housing in the Signature Development Project overlay in the Commercial Incentive District.
The non-owner-occupied section allows developments to have up to a residential floor-area ratio of 5 and commercial FAR of 1 when the required conditional use permit is granted by council. The FAR standards set the amount of usable square footage in a building in relationship to the size of the lot. The higher the FAR, the greater the density.
The amendment limits the non-owner-occupied housing section to apply to two areas. The first area is bounded by parcels in the CID that are located east of McAllister Alley, south of Calder Way, west of Garner Street and north of East Beaver Avenue. The second area is bounded by parcels in the CID that are located east of Garner Street, north of Calder Way, west of Hetzel Street and south of East College Avenue.
The area had previously included a section on the west side of downtown, where the Fraser Centre and the Metropolitan sit.
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“Student housing has turned into a racket,” said Councilwoman Theresa Lafer, who voted in favor of the amendment.
This needs to be a diverse community, she said.
Students and Penn State might be the “economic engine, but if all you have is an engine, nobody else is on the train. There’s nothing there, and you’re going no place for no good reason,” Lafer said.
Council members Evan Myers, Catherine Dauler and Janet Engeman voted against the amendment.
Myers said the borough needs to do a thorough zoning rewrite, which is getting started, and it needs to be done as fast as possible.
“I’m very concerned about making these kinds of changes ... because the fact that we don’t allow a piece of zoning to stay in place for very long causes people to rush to develop properties because they’re concerned that we’re gonna change it tomorrow, or the next day,” Myers said.
In other business
▪ Council approved a license agreement to permit outdoor dining areas within the public right-of-way along the 100 block of South Allen Street. Bill Pickle’s Taproom, 106 S. Allen St., plans to expand a deck into the sidewalk, allowing 5 feet of clearance from the street.
▪ Council adopted a resolution establishing a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Queer Advisory Committee.