The Township Council voted Thursday to deny a zoning request that would see a portion of agriculture-zoned land rezoned to R-1 residential.
But the council is not done with the proposal just yet.
Known as the Everhart tract, a request by the property owners was brought before the council during the summer asking to have 63 acres of the total 157 acres rezoned in order to develop as residential housing.
The tract is located south of University Drive near the State College Assembly of God church. Almost 7 acres east of Campbell Road of the total acreage is already zoned as R-1.
The initial zoning request had been remanded to the Planning Commission, which voted 5-4 against the rezoning.
Following the rejection, the council began discussion on the tract, township Manager Adam Brumbaugh said, and came to the realization that some development could be done on the land under its current zoning.
“The concept we contemplated rather than rezoning to residential use,” he said, “was the fact the owner could use the existing rural preservation ordinance to arrange a densely packed development and preserve a portion of the site.”
According to a memo to the council by senior planner Mark Holdren, the revised concept for the Everhart tract would involve expanding the regional growth boundary and sewer service area to cover 35 percent of the land while leaving the remaining 150 acres zoned as agriculture.
Expanding the regional growth bounday presents a complication though. It would require supermajority approval of other Centre Region Council of Governments municipalities.
Under the existing agricultural zoning, only 35 percent of a tract can be developed with single-family homes, he said, leaving the remaining 65 percent as agricultural production or open space. With no expansion of the growth boundary or sewer system, this would allow for 58 dwellings, or 191 with the expansions.
This concept was approved unanimously by the Planning Commission, with a preference for expanding the sewer boundary.
PennTerra Project Manager Mark Toretti, who represents the Everhart property owners, said he reached out to the State College Borough Water Authority and verified that development can occur anywhere on the site with the option of using septic systems instead of expanding the sewer system.
But based on other recommendations, if any residential development was to happen, it would be better if it were on the sewer system.
Township residents pointed out that other township boards have taken steps to preserve open space within their townships.
Patton Township recently passed a referendum proposing a slight tax increase to help offset payments for a loan or bond used for the purchase of open space.
Councilman Rich Francke pointed out that Patton got lucky by finding a family willing to take less than the land was worth, combined with the fact the referendum passed with only 15 percent of the vote.
Francke also supported a land development plan be submitted along with the development of regional impact statement. Chairman Eric Bernier agreed.
“If the property owners are willing to work with us on the DRI, that’s a better chance to expand the sewer service area,” Bernier said.