State College

Harris Township supervisors, minus a member, to meet

Although the Harris Township Board of Supervisors is now short one member, the remaining supervisors and leaders of the township don’t anticipate any issues.

Supervisor Christopher Lee’s Oct. 2 arrest has reduced the board to four voting members. Despite Lee’s incarceration, he still holds his seat on the board.

“Under Pennsylvania Law ... Mr. Lee remains a supervisor until his case is adjudicated,” township Manager Amy Farkas said in an email. “If he is convicted, the board has the option of then petitioning the governor to remove him from office.”

Until the case is resolved, she said, the board will operate with four supervisors.

“He is, of course, innocent until proven guilty,” Chairman Charles Graham said.

Lee was arrested on charges of child exploitation, indecent assault and transporting a minor “with the intent that such individual engage in sexual activity,” child pornography and transmission of child pornography. A trial date is set for Dec. 1.

Vice Chairman Nigel Wilson said he doesn’t see any urgent need to have Lee vote on the present issues.

“The only way I see him participating would be through a conference call,” Wilson said, “which would be odd.”

Any tie votes on an issue would be considered a defeat for that issue, Farkas said, because there are no provisions for tie-breaking votes in a second-class township.

Budget work sessions are expected to begin this month, according to Farkas, with a tentative adoption in November and a final adoption in December. The outcome of Lee’s trial will determine whether he is able to be part of any budget votes.

“We’ll work to everyone’s satisfaction to pass a budget,” Graham said. “There are certain parts to be voted on before we vote on the final budget.”

A topic receiving residents’ attention is a proposed ordinance that would add recreational resort hotels to the rural districts.

Representatives of the Tussey Mountain resort approached the board last year about developing recreational facilities on resort property, senior planner Mark Boeckel said at the June board meeting. They showed interest in building a hotel on the property grounds .

The Planning Commission was ordered to draft an ordinance that would allow hotels in rural districts, Boeckel said.

Proposed amendments to existing rural zones include a requirement that outdoor recreational facilities permitted anywhere in agricultural/forest or commercial zoning districts be on lots of 10 acres or more; that recreational resorts on any parcel 50 acres or greater are within the growth boundary and sewer service area; and that 90 percent of the area is used as an outdoor recreational facility, with the remaining 10 percent for limited commercial facilities.

After being tabled several times, the ordinance was most recently sent back to the Planning Commission for retooling of the setback requirements. Several residents had expressed concern that 50 feet was not far enough for a hotel 35 feet or taller.

On Sept. 8 during its last meeting, the board said a minimum 100 feet would not be unreasonable. Continued discussion on the ordinance is scheduled for Monday.