New housing development sees progress with Spring Township rezoning approval

Berks Homes is one step further in the planning process for its proposed development — a project that would bring 300 residential housing units to Spring Township.

With the board of supervisors unanimously approving a change request at its Wednesday meeting, the Hartle tract on Valentine Hill Road was rezoned from agricultural to R-3. The project, located behind the Berks Homes Amberleigh Development off Benner Pike, proposes a mix of townhouses and duplexes.

With some residents voicing concerns about the project, developers said they are willing to work with the community, as they are still in the early planning stages.

“Everything is still subject to change at this point in time,” said developer Matthew Harlow, of Engineers and Landscape Architects Group, Inc.

Harlow said the developers want to work with residents throughout the planning process, saying that they want to preserve some of the wildlife at the site and create recreational space that will benefit the entire Spring Township community.

The intent of a R-3 district is to provide high-density residential development opportunities, ensure diversity of housing types and to meet minimum standards for health and safety by protecting against hazards and nuisances, according to zoning guidelines. The piece of land was zoned R-4 from 1992 to 2004, Harlow said.

Harlow said developers have been looking into public concerns about safety, suburban sprawl and the overall environmental impact of the proposed construction voiced by residents during a public hearing last month.

Although a traffic study has not yet been conducted, Harlow said developers have been evaluating traffic patterns and speed limits near the site. No official data has been collected yet, as Harlow said the developers wanted to wait until school was in session to get a more accurate account that would include school bus traffic.

“(We) have done some analysis, and (we) haven’t seen anything we can’t overcome or won’t overcome,” Harlow said.

Harlow anticipates school buses will be able to travel throughout the development, as they will have more room to navigate.

Harlow said sprawl should not be a concern for this development, calling it the “antithesis” of suburban sprawl. He added that the county reviewed the proposed plans and supports it moving forward as it complies with the Nittany Valley Regional Comprehensive Plan.

Two points of entry would be located on Valentine Hill Road. As the project develops, township Manager William MacMath said developers and the township will work with PennDOT to examine and evaluate traffic patterns and safety measures.

“We understand traffic is the biggest issue here,” Harlow said.

Resident Anne Brooks said she was concerned about two elevated storm water management ponds causing “a severe flooding issue” for residents who live in the Amberleigh development.

MacMath said the outflow from the ponds will not affect residents and their placement is preliminary.

“We’re very sensitive to neighborhoods,” Harlow said. “We’ll work through the sketch plan through public hearings (and) public input.”

Supervisor David Capperella said he supports the proposed development. Moving forward, he said he will work with developers to assure concerns about traffic and safety are resolved.

“Let’s face it, people like the proximity and easy access to State College,” Capperella said, adding that this project could give residents a chance to reshape how their community is developed.

With the rezoning approval, Harlow said the the next step is to develop a detailed sketch plan, but an official presentation date has not yet been set.

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.