State College

Ferguson Township supervisors streamline approval process for planned development

The Board of Supervisors approved a variance for a proposed planned residential development near the intersection of Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive that would, as Vice Chairman Drew Clemson said, eliminate a step in the approval process on paper.

The variance was approved unanimously. Chairman Dick Mascolo was not in attendance.

According to township Manager Mark Kunkle, the township code of ordinance dealing with PRDs requires a “pre-final” submission plan following the approval of a tentative PRD plan.

This pre-final plan includes technicalities not normally found on the tentative plan, he said, including water, sewer and utility services, road designs and traffic controls.

The pre-final submission plan provides for a 90 day review period, he said. Following the pre-final submission, a final PRD plan is submitted with up to 45 days allowed for review.

The applicant requested to bypass the pre-final stage, opting to submit a final plan for review, he said. In order to give the township adequate time for review, 45 days would be added to the final review allotment of 45 days for a total of 90 days for review.

The board approved a tentative plan for The Cottages at State College development on March 2. Developer Toll Bros. submitted a final development plan on March 6, Kunkle said.

The plan has come under fire by township and some State College residents because of its proximity to the Harter-Thomas wellfields, which provides drinking water to the borough. Residents have complained that potential stormwater runoff could enter the recharge area and contaminate the wells.

Township resident Bill Hechinger said the development would be built on the steepest part of the watershed, resulting in the maximum amount of runoff to the recharge area.

“The review should be as long as possible,” he said. “The risks are greater to me than being sued by some corporation.”

According to Kunkle, the pre-final review phase may not be authorized under the PRD review code, which is dictated by state law.

By case law, he said, it wouldn’t be upheld as a step that the municipality can insert into the PRD process.

Township resident Laura Dininni said during comments that the township shouldn’t be bullied by threats of litigation.

Ultimately, the board voted in favor of the variance.

“I’m disappointed right now,” Dininni said. “My next step is to strategize with a growing group of people that are interested in this issue.

“I thought I’d make more headway here. I’m really disappointed.”

Clemson said the issue was discussed at length, and said fellow Supervisor Steve Miller made the best point back on March 2 that something will be developed there eventually.

“I’d rather have it be something more conducive to community living than those cookie-cutter, four-story garden apartments that are more dense,” he said.

The plan will next go before the Zoning Hearing Board.