Residents voice opposition to proposed Park Forest development

The former Penn State Mobile Home Park on North Atherton Street has proposed plans to be built into Patton Crossing.
The former Penn State Mobile Home Park on North Atherton Street has proposed plans to be built into Patton Crossing. adrey@centredaily.com

Residents of the Park Forest neighborhood voiced their opposition to a proposed mixed-use development Wednesday during a Patton Township Board of Supervisors meeting.

The development, presently called Patton Crossing, would rest along 1752 N. Atherton St. on the site of the former Penn State Mobile Home Park, according to development plans. The property was purchased in 2012 and the park closed in 2013.

The board had received a request to develop the property in March, the CDT previously reported. The conceptual plan reportedly included several commercial properties, residential space and a hotel, and would require the area to be rezoned under a yet-to-be-determined mixed-use overlay district.

Robert Poole, of Atherton Street Associates, presented the concept to the supervisors Wednesday. The new development would include several one-story commercial buildings, such as a grocery store and restaurant; two story buildings with commercial on the bottom and office space above; three-to-five story commercial and residential buildings; a central plaza; parking decks; and an 80-foot hotel at the south end.

The main idea, Poole said, was to develop an area where residents could “live, work and play,” allowing them the ability to live in the residences, work in the nearby offices and enjoy the central plaza without having to leave the development.

The property is currently zoned R-3 — medium density residential — with 200 feet along North Atherton zoned C-1 — general commercial, according to township documents.

Supervisors would first need to rezone the area as C-2 — planned commercial, the proposal said. Township planning commission then proposed a new mixed-use overlay district that would permit residential uses in the C-2 zone and change some regulations, such as setback requirements and maximum building heights.

According to supervisors, the development would encompass about 30 acres. The development would include two additional parcels to be added to the overlay — a less-than-one-acre parcel at the intersection of Park Forest Avenue and North Atherton Street, and a 2.1-acre parkland parcel along Park Forest Avenue.

It was the parkland parcel, along with a proposed entrance/exit along Park Forest Avenue, that rubbed local residents the wrong way. Multiple attendees spoke to the board about their concerns that additional in and out traffic would create hazards along Park Forest Avenue, with one resident presenting a petition she said had garnered 60 signatures against the development.

Park Forest resident Ken Walsh outlined his opposition to the loss of 2.1 acres of green space, describing the importance of the “verdant green forest” that greeted residents as they entered Park Forest and the change it represented turning from the commercial face of North Atherton to the Park Forest area.

“We don’t need this,” he said. “The community doesn’t need this.”

Other residents expressed their dismay in the prospect of losing the forested parcel, as one resident said he would not be opposed to the overall plan as long as it didn’t encroach on this territory.

“Let them do what they want on their property,” he said. “On township property, absolutely not.”

Supervisors had tentatively planned on setting a public hearing for the rezoning of the property and the adoption of the mixed-use district for mid-November, but agreed that, with the public’s input, more time would be needed to more extensively examine the proposed overlay. The supervisors agreed to establish an as-yet undetermined work session to discuss the overlay, with the potential to set a public hearing by mid-December.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews