College Township Council approves Retreat transportation agreement

An agreement in the works since August 2012 to mitigate traffic impacts around a new student housing complex was approved Thursday by the Township Council.

The move was one of several discussion items this week related to The Retreat, the development under construction on Waupelani Drive and set to open this fall to a potential 587 residents. The Retreat II, a second phase of the student housing complex, is planned for across the street, on a long-vacant strip of land behind the Westerly Parkway Plaza.

The transportation agreement for the main project will be in place because, while most of the property sits in College Township, the street access to it is in State College. One of the project stipulations during a lengthy approval process was that developers pay the township $100,000 to mitigate transportation impacts around the site. Because those will happen in the borough, the municipalities have spent months working out an agreement.

Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh recommended approval of a streamlined agreement drafted by the borough, and based on a previous draft completed by the township. Likely impact areas targeted in the document are all of Waupelani, South Allen Street from Easterly Parkway to Whitehall Road, Easterly from Allen to Pugh Street, Westerly Parkway from Allen to Sparks Street and O’Bryan Lane.

The one project named in the agreement for initial completion is to add a left-turn green arrow to the South Allen and South Atherton Street traffic light, aiding traffic from Allen onto Atherton. The earliest any project would happen is 2015, according to borough Public Works Director Mark Whitfield.

The borough has begun compiling its Capital Improvement Program for 2014 to 2018, which could include projects to use the remaining funds.

“We have some ideas about how we want to spend that money,” Whitfield said, and the Borough Council will have an opportunity to prioritize those during the CIP process.

Township Council members agreed with Brumbaugh on Thursday and unanimously approved the document, with Chairman Dave Fryer absent. They agreed to add language noting one of the likely impact areas is the “existing” O’Bryan Lane.

That addresses the future possibility that the borough will vacate the current O’Bryan Lane and extend Plaza Drive through the Westerly shopping center, connecting it to a new driveway proposed on the Retreat II plan, which lines up with the driveway to the main Retreat.

The concept doesn’t currently exist on any borough plan, but Retreat developers are aware of it because the borough required a centered driveway to meet that potential future alignment.

That has been an issue of concern for the borough Planning Commission, which continued discussion on both Retreat projects Wednesday afternoon. Last month, commission and Design Review Board members offered feedback and criticism on The Retreat II, and staff attempted to address some commission questions Wednesday.

Most of Wednesday’s discussion centered around stormwater concerns. Engineer Don Franson explained the underground systems planned for both projects. At that main Retreat, that involves a series of 12-foot-diameter pipes and layers of varying sizes of stone and fine sand. Across the street, a different type of system will hold, then discharge the water because Franson said the soils don’t allow for infiltration.

With the additional development, Commissioner Mike Roeckel expressed concern that the systems would prevent flooding at the nearby high school. Franson and engineer Amy Kerner said there are no guarantees, but that they have confidence in the systems and that they meet engineering specifications.

Commission Chairman Evan Myers has expressed concerns about the O’Bryan Lane/Plaza Drive issue, particularly because the borough has avoided reconstruction of O’Bryan for about a decade while the State College Area School District has considered a new high school design. He also wants to see the public involved in that discussion before the issue takes on a life of its own.

“We don’t want that without involving the citizenry,” he said. “The fact is they’re putting it off for some plan that may happen in the future. It seems a little bit crazy.”