Local

Pa. Supreme Court won’t hear residents’ appeal in Toll Brothers lawsuit

The land where the Toll Bros. development is proposed to go along West Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an order denying a petition for allowance of appeal from 15 plaintiffs seeking to stop the Toll Brothers’ proposed student housing development.
The land where the Toll Bros. development is proposed to go along West Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an order denying a petition for allowance of appeal from 15 plaintiffs seeking to stop the Toll Brothers’ proposed student housing development. Centre Daily Times, file

A lawsuit that’s been working its way through the courts since December 2015 is at its end.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order denying a petition for allowance of appeal from 15 plaintiffs seeking to stop the Toll Brothers’ proposed student housing development, The Cottages at State College.

“The Pa. Supreme Court apparently did not think the import of the case had broad enough implications statewide,” one of the plaintiffs, Kelli Hoover, said in an email Saturday.

“This was not a surprise to us since the Pa. Supreme Court only takes about 5 percent of the appeals submitted to the court,” she said. “Nor did we depend on this outcome for fighting this development.”

The development is slated to be built on 43.5 acres along West Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township.

The Nittany Valley Water Coalition, which had members occupying the Toll Brothers site for 124 days over the summer before being evicted by landowner Penn State, has been in talks with Toll Brothers and the university about alternative sites for the development.

The water coalition and other area residents have expressed concerns about potential impacts to water quality if the development was constructed on the plot of land along Whitehall Road. A Toll Brothers representative told the CDT in May that the developer worked closely with the township, state Department of Environmental Protection and water authority to develop a project that exceeded current regulation and responded to the concerns that were raised.

The original suit was filed in response to the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors’ approval of the final residential development plan for The Cottages in 2015.

It contended, among other things, that placing a stormwater management facility, as the final PRD plan did, in the 5.5 acres of agricultural-zoned land is not a permitted use.

In January 2016, Springton Pointe LP, an intervenor on behalf of Toll Brothers, filed a motion to quash the residents’ land use appeal. That motion to quash was denied by county Judge Jonathan D. Grine in March of that year.

The land use appeal went before Grine in July 2016.

He ruled in favor of the residents, writing in his decision that “the Board of Supervisors committed an error of law by approving the Final PRD Plan.”

Grine’s order reversed and vacated the supervisors’ approval of the development.

Springton Pointe LP filed an appeal in August 2016, and that case was heard by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in March.

The court ruled against the residents on May 17, vacating Grine’s decision and remanding the matter to the Centre County Court to enter an order quashing the land use appeal.

The residents “lost their right to challenge the Board’s interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance as allowing this use of the RA zoned land when they failed to challenge the grant of Tentative Plan approval,” the court ruled.

Feeling that decision was made on a technicality, the residents decided to try their luck with a petition of allowance of appeal to the Pa. Supreme Court, filed on June 16, which was ultimately denied.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

  Comments