State College

Ferguson Township supervisors approve development despite opposition

The Board of Supervisors has approved a proposal for a planned residential development despite pushback from the community and disapproval from the planning and zoning department.

Approval came in a 3-1 vote earlier this week, with Supervisor Janet Whitaker voting against the motion. Chairman Dick Mascolo was absent.

The development, known as The Cottages at State College, is located on three parcels totaling about 32 acres, Planning Director Maria Tranguch said. Two of the parcels are zoned as R-4 — multifamily residential — while the third is zoned RA — agricultural use.

Two of the parcels were brought under the growth boundary and rezoned as R-4 a number of years ago, Tranguch said, indicating the township’s plan to develop the properties.

The plan proposed a similar development as The Retreat at State College in College Township, she said. Two hundred and sixty eight cottage-style units would house more than 1,000 occupants at an average of four people per unit. The development would extend Blue Course Drive to the southeast, providing access and utilities for the proposed Whitehall Road regional park, which would be adjacent to the development.

The development is seeking several waivers, Tranguch said, including installing stormwater management facilities in the RA zone and subdividing the parcel to consolidate the lots, a move she said the Department of Environmental Protection strongly discourages.

The project is located in a well head protection area for two State College Borough Water Authority well fields, Tranguch said, raising concern about the possible impacts on groundwater resources and recharge areas.

“The Planning and Zoning Department believes the tentative planned residential development does not meet the intent of the PRD ordinance to a degree that would warrant waivers to all ordinance sections currently being requested,” she said. “(The department) recommends disapproval of the PRD plan due to the inconsistencies with best efforts to effectively plan and zone within the township.”

Residents voiced their disapproval of the plan, saying the township needs affordable, environmentally friendly housing in this area, and that more people means the quality of life will go down for the township.

Supervisor Steve Miller said regardless of whether the board approves the plan, something will be built on the properties.

“The question to me is whether this plan is better for the community than what would be built under straight R-4,” he said.

Whitaker said she was leery about putting a development so close to the well fields, saying that she was struggling with disrupting the whole area with stormwater drainage and retention ponds.

According to township engineer Ron Seybert Jr., the closest retention basin will be one mile away from a well field.

Vice Chairman Drew Clemson said the township will still have stormwater within a mile of a well field simply because the property is zoned R-4. Any development is going to cause some stormwater runoff.

According to Tranguch, the ordinance gives the township 90 days to review street, sanitary, water and stormwater plans to be approved by the township engineer. After that, a final PRD plan will be submitted.

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