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Development, growth on minds of Patton Township candidates

With the buzzing of business on North Atherton Street and development phases chugging along in Toftrees and Grays Woods, growth is an ongoing issue in Patton Township and on the minds of the three men running for two seats on the Board of Supervisors.

Incumbents Elliot Abrams and Josh Troxell face political newcomer George Downsbrough Jr. Abrams ran as a Democrat in the primary and also was nominated on the Republican ballot, Downsbrough is running as a Democrat and Troxell a Republican.

If the new owners of the former Penn State Mobile Home Park site ask the township to rezone the site for redevelopment, Abrams said he suspects the board will request the same process followed for the Trader Joe’s Plaza, which involved discussions between the township, landowner, developer and local nonprofit organizations to include workforce homes next to the desired commercial development.

Related to the level of growth in the township, Abrams said officials have to keep tabs on revenues and expenses.

“Several years ago you could almost always count on growth from one year to the next,” he said. “That’s no longer the case.”

Abrams said the township has maintained a “pillow” in the budget to allow for a surplus at the end of the year, but said he doesn’t think that fund has been excessive.

“I like to keep that extra amount low because we shouldn’t take money from the taxpayers until it’s needed,” he said.

An issue the board might address to help residents is to make it easier for them to choose where to cross roads, like the busy North Atherton and Vairo Boulevard.

“On Vairo Boulevard, I think you really take your life into your own hands,” he said. “There’s no signage to let people know where it’s easiest.”

Abrams called that a “minor thing” but said it becomes major when it causes problems for people.

Downsbrough said he agrees with statements from the incumbents that the Woodycrest development model is a way to bring more low-income housing to the township, a need throughout the county.

“The trouble I see ... what we’re doing around here is closing low-income housing and we’re replacing it with moderate-income housing,” he said, noting that the population served by the Mid-State Literacy Council can’t afford that change. “Those people still have a right to live and work in the Centre Region.”

Downsbrough said Patton Township doesn’t have to provide the entire solution to the lack of more affordable housing, but should be part of the solution.

Downsbrough called the township a leader in zoning and providing parks and open space, and said he doesn’t have “big spending plans” and won’t increase taxes.

“I’m not interested in upsetting the apple cart,” he said. “I’m interested in contributing if the voters want me to be part of the administration.”

Troxell said the issue of regional growth probably will exist into perpetuity and that the big concern is managing it.

Other issues on Troxell’s mind are economic, under which he places affordable housing and the sustainability of the Alpha Fire Company as a volunteer organization. Troxell has served with the Alphas for at least three years.

Troxell cited a report given earlier this year to the region’s officials that outlined the increasing age of Alpha volunteers, declining numbers of volunteers across the state and the increase in required training hours.

“What does that look like moving forward” is the question, he said. “If we end up going paid, the tax implications are huge.”

Troxell said some pressure is relieved by making hires like the new training officer budgeted for next year. He said officials need more information so that fire service remains at the current level.

“Anything we can do to support the fire company and make it easier for people to volunteer makes it easier to sustain the long-term viability of the fire protection program,” he said.

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