The College Township Council tabled a motion Thursday that could possibly see a 63-acre tract of agricultural land rezoned as R-1 single-family use.
Known as the Everhart tract, the area is located south of University Drive near the State College Assembly of God church. Almost 7 acres east of Campbell Road of the total 157 acres is already zoned as R-1.
According to a presentation by township senior planner Mark Holdren, the proposal for redevelopment is only looking at what is hypothetically possible for the land. No actual land development plan exists yet.
The existing 7 acres of R-1 zoning has the potential to hold 22 to 39 dwellings, according to Holdren. With the proposed 63 acres added and rezoned, that number jumps to 233 to 398 potential houses with almost 368,000 square feet for nonresidential use such as churches or schools.
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According to a report prepared by Holdren, rezoning the area represents “a logical extension of the adjoining R-1, single-family residential zoning district.” The infrastructure in place could handle the potential influx of new residents, with the State College Borough Water Authority and the University Area Joint Authority maintaining the capacity to provide and treat any water needs.
Holdren did point out that the area in question is, however, outside of the regional growth boundary and would require an expansion of the boundary prior to rezoning.
The proposal before the council is only the second step in a three-stage process, Holdren said. The rezoning request was first reviewed by the township Planning Commission, which voted 4-3 to deny the request. It now requires review by the council and will then have to pass a regional review process due to the growth boundaries.
The proposal was not well-received by the residents in attendance. Some questioned the need for the rezoning, while others described the impact on the existing residents in the area.
Dennis Schmidt, of Ronan Drive, described how the proposal and subsequent recommendations for the rezoning “makes it seem like the (township) staff is advocating for rezoning rather than providing a careful assessment of the pros and cons.”
Schmidt also went on to describe the troubles that would be faced by those who live near the tract, which would include an increase in traffic, more complex sewer problems, new stormwater runoff issues and a loss of prime farmland.
“What need is this rezoning designed to answer?” he asked.
Robert Edwards, a State College resident, addressed in a memo to the council that the soil in the tract is “prime agricultural soil and soil of statewide importance — a finite resource, as previous evaluations have noted.”
Vice Chairwoman Mary Shoemaker noted that due to the number of comments made, it was clear that more discussion was needed in order to come to an informed decision. Due to time constraints at the meeting, further discussion would have to be put off.
“In order to have an appropriate time ... for council to have enough time to understand what the decision is, tabling it is a good idea,” said Councilwoman Carla Stilson.
“I hope (tabling the request) is not discouraging to those of you who who want us to veto it outright,” Shoemaker said, “and of course to the Everharts who want to use this property because it’s their property and the way they want to have it developed for their retirement.
“But I think so that we can investigate it more and give it the right amount of attention, I’m going to ask for a motion to table.”
The motion to table the request was approved unanimously.