Fifteen plaintiffs, including me, successfully sued Toll Brothers last year in Centre County court. The lawsuit targeted the developer for a zoning violation with its planned luxury student housing project at Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive.
Toll Brothers appealed the decision to Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court and, in a blow to our community’s environmental health and social well-being, won.
Apparently, we lost the case because of a technicality, not because Toll Brothers had done everything right. I maintain there is no doubt it had broken the law in siting a stormwater basin on land zoned for rural agriculture. Nevertheless, it currently has a green light to proceed with the project without even having to correct its flawed design. Even worse, the basin will be close enough to a fracture in the underlying bedrock that, if it leaks, could contaminate State College’s water supply.
This is not justice. Once again a corporation, a distant one with no emotional connection to the landscape, uses its wealth and political power to trample a community, destroying its natural beauty, threatening its drinking water, and degrading its quality of life.
This is an attack on democracy on the local level, and a victory for big money. Yet Ferguson Township, where the development is proposed, passed a referendum in 2012 for the adoption of a Community Bill of Rights, including the rights of “natural communities and ecosystems” to “exist and flourish.”
It is time for common citizens to unite in asserting these rights.