College Township Council advances Hilltop Mobile Home Park rezoning proposal

The much-debated fate of the former Hilltop Mobile Home Park site could be decided by next month.

Township Council voted Thursday to send a rezoning proposal for the land on to a public hearing slated for May, despite comments from a number of residents asking to again delay that decision.

Councilman Lynn Herman said the township has to move forward with the rezoning request. He said the public hearing will do that while also giving residents who oppose the current plan another chance to present their opinions.

How to rezone the mobile home park has been the subject of contentious redevelopment proposals since it closed in February 2013.

Council appeared close to setting a public hearing last month, but instead asked staff to make further adjustments to proposed changes to the township’s gateway commercial zoning district, which is being eyed for the land.

At the hearing, council will consider whether to rezone the land from a mobile home park designation to gateway commercial, which can accommodate both commercial and residential developments.

At the same time, township staff has proposed modifications to the gateway commercial zoning district to limit possible residential density, and to build in buffers around surrounding neighborhoods and Thompson Woods, among other things.

Both density and protection for Thompson Woods continue to be points of concern for residents who have regularly attended council meetings.

Any changes to the zoning district will have to be approved at a separate public hearing. There will be a third public hearing about whether future developers and the township can discuss extending Puddintown Road through its intersection with East College Avenue and into the Hilltop property.

All three public hearings have been set for May 15.

Councilwoman Carla Stilson voted against moving forward with the public hearings, saying more time is needed to explore additional options for the land, like some combination with R-1 residential zoning.

“We have a great start, but more time is needed to look at the zoning,” she said. “ ‘I’m not ready for that, and I think most people in this room aren’t ready for that.”

Also at the meeting, longtime councilman and current Chairman Dave Fryer announced he is stepping down from the panel.

Fryer, who has served on council for 18 years, said at the meeting that he and his wife are moving to a retirement community in Huntingdon County.

Fryer will step away from the panel after the May 15 meeting, and council will be tasked with finding a member to serve out the remainder of his term, which runs through 2015.

Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh said council would likely discuss the timeline for finding a replacement at its next meeting.

“I felt my passion wane over the last few months,” Fryer told council. “Finding a replacement is probably good for council.”