State College neighborhoods ready for first planning meetings

In College Heights, residents are concerned about maintaining their neighborhood while, in Greentree, residents are interested in the issue of rebuilding or renovating the nearby high school.

The two neighborhoods are the first in the borough that will meet with Planning Department staff as part of development in 2013 of a broad neighborhood plan to determine common issues in the nearly dozen neighborhoods. Some have individual plans, mostly from the 1990s, and all will be incorporated in the new plan.

The work on the new plan will start with SWOT meetings — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — for each neighborhood, in the first quarter of the year. College Heights meets on Tuesday at Church of Christ, 405 Hillcrest Ave., and Greentree on Thursday at Our Lady of Victory Church, 820 Westerly Parkway, both at 7 p.m.

Greentree sits between Westerly Parkway and Blue Course Drive, and is bordered by Orchard Park and Holmes-Foster Park, in close proximity to State College Area High School. Because the neighborhood is mostly built out and doesn’t have a problem with an abundance of students renting there, so the ongoing high school project may be high on residents’ radar.

“I definitely know there will be neighbors interested in that issue,” said Greentree Neighborhood Association President Susan Rogacs. “There might be a question or two about students moving into the area.”

This will be the first time Greentree is included in a borough neighborhood plan, and Rogacs said she likes the idea. However, she’s unsure the broad plan, inclusive of all the neighborhoods, is the best way to do that.

“Each neighborhood is unique,” she said. “So the problems in College Heights won’t necessarily be the problems here. We need to zero in on the problems right here in Greentree.”

College Heights and some other neighborhood residents have been more passionate in their calls for change, such as better communication and enforcement of ordinances. College Heights Association President Donna Queeney said she’s heard some residents discussing concerns and hopes many will show up at Tuesday’s SWOT meeting.

College Heights sits north of Penn State and its golf courses, on the north side of Park Avenue, and on both sides of North Atherton Street. Queeney said she’s not sure residents know about the 1995 neighborhood plan, but that the new plan could be a useful tool.

“I think we have a great borough staff and I think they truly want to do what is right for the neighborhoods,” she said. “If they are able to develop the plan and keep it in front of people, and abide by it and look at it, then I think it has great potential.”

Queeney said she hopes people will attend the meeting and express their concerns. In general, she’s hearing that those include maintaining rental properties in the neighborhood, future use of the College Heights School site, and the future land uses along Atherton Street at the edge of the neighborhood.

The rental properties and students who live there have been a concern to residents since the 1995 neighborhood plan. Queeney said there’s an issue of people purchasing homes and putting their child’s name on the deed, along with other student renters. She said some of those homes are not well maintained.

“We value the students,” she said. “I think what we don’t value is the rental property owners and rental property management companies that don’t maintain the homes that they rent to students.”

For more information on the meetings or neighborhood plan, contact the Planning Department at 231-7109 or mailto: planningdept@statecollegepa.us.