State College

Ferguson Township supervisors mull flood plain conservation variances for new water treatment plant

The Board of Supervisors on Monday night discussed 10 variances requested by Gwin, Dobson & Foreman Inc. on behalf of the State College Borough Water Authority.

The variances, if granted, would allow for the water authority to construct a new filtration plant at the Nixon/Kocher wellfields, 3062 Ernest Lane.

A pilot study was successfully conducted last year at the Nixon/Kocher wellfields “to evaluate a micro-membrane and granular activated carbon filtration system,” as previously reported. The water authority also plans to update its Woodside Drive plant, though construction wouldn’t begin there until Nixon/Kocher is completed. The two projects would cost about $40 million.

Ferguson Township staff recommended that the board remain neutral on seven of the 10 requested variances and oppose the remaining three.

The three variances that staff recommended the board oppose included two that Ray Stolinas, township planning and zoning director, said would be better addressed by a zoning ordinance amendment process.

The third, variance No. 10, deals with floodplain conservation, Stolinas said.

The project is located in Flood Zone A on the Flood Insurance Rate Map prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said, meaning it’s an area subject to inundation by the 1 percent annual chance flood.

An elevation study would be needed to determine exactly where the floodplain boundaries are, Stolinas added.

The water treatment facility is proposed outside of the floodplain buffer, with the exception of an access road, he said.

Steve Jackson, Ferguson Township’s liaison to the water authority, said the time a FEMA map revision would take is a concern for the water authority.

The board voted to oppose the three variances, 3-2, after Supervisor Laura Dininni proposed a failed amendment to the motion that the supervisors should remain neutral on all 10 variances.

Of all the entities that have a vested interest in protecting the region’s drinking water supply, she said, it’s the water authority.

The board has made “big deals” of things like floodplain conservation in the past, Supervisor Peter Buckland said. The water authority should be held to the same standards.

A Zoning Hearing Board meeting is scheduled for March 28 to consider the zoning variance application. Ultimately, the decision to approve or deny the variances lies with the Zoning Hearing Board, but the Board of Supervisors will be represented by special counsel at the hearing on the variances it opposes.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The board adopted an ordinance to amend the posted speed limit on Blue Course Drive. The speed limit will drop from 50 mph to 45 mph between West College Avenue and Teaberry Lane/Circleville Road.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

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