Whitehall park decisions hinge on Toll Brothers litigation

The land where the Toll Bros. development is proposed to go along Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township June 23, 2016.
The land where the Toll Bros. development is proposed to go along Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township June 23, 2016. Centre Daily Times, file

The Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum heard an update on the Whitehall Road Regional Park as part of its meeting Monday night.

Pam Salokangas, Centre Region Parks and Recreation director, said there are still a lot of moving parts associated with the project.

Among them is ongoing litigation.

The Toll Brothers’ proposed development, Cottages at State College, has been a hotly contended issue in Ferguson Township. The Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors approved the final planned residential development plan for the Cottages in November 2015.

Residents were concerned about the potential for stormwater and construction runoff to threaten nearby Harter-Thomas Wellfields, which supplies State College with the majority of its drinking water.

A group of residents filed suit against the township, and county Judge Jonathan D. Grine ruled in July that the supervisors “committed an error of law by approving the final PRD plan,” as previously reported. The supervisors’ approval was vacated and reversed. Toll Brothers appealed the ruling in August.

The student housing development would neighbor Whitehall Road Regional Park.

Salokangas said the hearing for the Toll Brothers’ appeal is headed to court in March.

If the development moves forward, the Whitehall Road park working group will have to go back to planning, she said.

Peter Buckland, a Ferguson Township supervisor, pointed out that no matter which way the litigation goes, it could be appealed again.

Salokangas said if the litigation is delayed again, it might be necessary to consider delaying the park.

The working group identified three options for the park, with the favored plan being $825,591 more than the project budget of $4.8 million.

The overage comes mostly from off-site improvements having to do with intersection work, which could be affected by the Toll Brothers appeal outcome, Salokangas said.

Also, third-party sports groups are interested in supporting the park, especially with synthetic turf and field lighting, Salokangas said.

Those additions are not in the budget so funding would have to be raised privately to provide those extras, she said.

However, if outside groups raised money for the park, she said there’s a bit of an expectation of use and it would have to be defined what that would look like.

One of the next steps in the park process is for Stahl Sheaffer Engineering to meet with the state Department of Transportation to conduct a scoping study to identify the type of traffic impact study that will be required, she said.

She added that the working group won’t have anything more narrow to bring back to the general forum for several months, with the results of the scoping study and Toll Brothers litigation being important elements.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz