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Lawsuits, developments top municipal stories in 2016

The most-read municipal story of the year was the ongoing efforts of the Toll Brothers to build a development near the Harter-Thomas Wellfields and the residents of Ferguson Township to stop it.
The most-read municipal story of the year was the ongoing efforts of the Toll Brothers to build a development near the Harter-Thomas Wellfields and the residents of Ferguson Township to stop it. Centre Daily Times, file

Lawsuits against townships and new development projects topped the municipal stories of 2016 in Centre County.

Toll Brothers

In November 2015, the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors approved the final planned residential development plan for the Toll Brothers’ Cottages at State College — a 264-unit development covering 32 acres at the intersection of West Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive.

Residents argued that the development would threaten nearby Thomas-Harter Wellfields, which supply State College with the majority of its drinking water.

A group of residents filed a lawsuit against Ferguson Township. Judge Jonathan D. Grine ruled in favor of the the residents in July, vacating the decision made by the Ferguson Township supervisors regarding the Toll Brothers.

“The court finds land zoned for RA cannot be used as an accessory for stormwater facilities serving a primary use which is not permitted in the RA district,” the ruling said, “and therefore the Board of Supervisors committed an error of law by approving the final PRD plan.”

Springton Pointe LP — an intervenor on behalf of the Toll Brothers — filed an appeal of the decision in August. The appeal continues to make its way through the Commonwealth Court.

Left turn prohibition

In January, the Patton Township Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to prohibit left turns from Park Forest Avenue onto North Atherton Street.

By October, work began to implement measures to prohibit left turns at the intersection.

Traffic studies in 2008 and 2015 both recommended the prohibition.

The state Department of Transportation reviewed the 2015 study and told Patton Township that the prohibition would be a condition of all permitting required for the development project on the 1900 block of North Atherton Street.

Nittany Valley Sports Centre

While the plans for the Nittany Valley Sports Centre were approved in 2014, it wasn’t until this year that the ball really started rolling.

In January, the Patton Township Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a master plan for the facility and the parcel on which it sits.

The center is planned for the intersection of Fox Hill and Bernel roads and the land is being graded for the parking lot and eventual building.

Patton Township Manager Doug Erickson said one of the property owners reported they’d like to open by the end of 2017. The proposed 81,216-square-foot center would feature turf fields and a gymnastics training area.

College Township v. Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless filed a lawsuit against College Township on June 28 after College Township Council denied a communication facility plan from the company earlier that month. Verizon had sought to install an antenna array along Cortland Drive.

The proposal called for the replacement of an existing utility pole with a new metal pole of the same height, plus an additional 15 feet for the array at the top.

The proposal was denied by council June 2 after several weeks of discussion between council, Verizon representatives and residents of Cortland Drive. Arguments regarding the antennas primarily revolved around whether the replacement of an existing utility pole with a new metal pole supporting the antennas constituted an “in-kind” replacement.

Bellefonte waterfront revitalization project

The Bellefonte waterfront revitalization project was completed in July.

The project, which includes a walkway along Spring Creek, ended up costing about $6 million.

The borough received $2.7 million from the state Office of Budget as part of a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant.

It is anticipated that the borough’s Industrial Development Authority would sell the property, though the borough is not sure how much it could sell for.

The waterfront could be developed into a mixed-use area, which could include a hotel, housing, restaurants, retail stores and offices.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

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