State College

Ordinance approved to create new commercial zoning district in State College

A new, off-shoot commercial zoning district will add regulations to development in some areas of the borough after council approval Monday night.

The commercial CP-3 district, an off-shoot of commercial CP-2, would ensure commercial uses would remain in those areas during redevelopment. CP-2 allows developers to construct only residential buildings on parcels in that district, if they choose to do so.

Two examples currently moving through the borough approval process are a second phase of The Retreat, the student housing on Waupelani Drive and a small apartment building proposed for a site on South Atherton Street, adjacent to the Hamilton Square Shopping Center.

The affected commercial areas include the sites of the Westerly Parkway Plaza and Hamilton Square, as well as parcels across South Atherton from Hamilton Square.

The Planning Commission discussed the new zoning district for more than a year before sending it to the council. Members passed it 4-3, with Don Hahn, Sarah Klinetob and Peter Morris opposing it.

Hahn said, as he has during previous discussions on the ordinance, that he opposes the incentives offered and “the measures that would discourage retail development, including, I think, a mandatory setback, as well as the motor vehicle-oriented business restriction.”

Incentives given in the ordinance are great building height and density for residential uses, and parking requirement reductions, for adding a green roof, structured or underground parking or owner-occupied uses to a development.

The motor vehicle-oriented business provision limits the types of drive-through businesses allowed on a site. Banks and pharmacies with that feature would be allowed, but not drive-through restaurants or car washes.

Councilman Jim Rosenberger said he thinks the ordinance gives good balance and said he likes the comments made during a public hearing last month. At that time, residents and property owners expressed concerns about the Westerly Parkway Plaza, and its potential future with and without the new regulations, in particular.

“I like the protections that the ordinance gives in terms of mixing commercial with any residential development,” he said. “The building height is still much less than across Westerly Parkway.”

Councilman Tom Daubert previously moved the ordinance to a vote, and said it wasn’t because he approves everything in it, but because it’s a good compromise right now.

“If we find we need to make some changes in a year or two, we can do that,” he said.