State College

Residents increase pressure on Ferguson Township leaders

A new petition has been submitted to the Board of Supervisors requesting them to deny the Cottages at State College proposed development that would occupy 32 acres of land at the intersection of Blue Course Drive and West Whitehall Road.

The Toll Brothers development has been under fire by township residents for several months, gaining a large share of attention after the board approved a tentative Planned Residential Development plan for the development in March.

The petition was brought to the board by township resident Pam Steckler during a standing-room only board meeting. Steckler said she represented a group of residents concerned with the township’s “most precious resource — water.”

The petition contained 418 signatures, Steckler said, from residents across all municipalities of the Centre Region.

“Virtually every person I have approached to sign was horrified this was happening,” she said.

The petition requested a rezoning of the parcels to house the development from R-4 to their original RA designation, saying the tentative plan was approved without full knowledge of its effect on local water supplies.

Residents have grown concerned about the effect stormwater runoff could have on the nearby Harter-Thomas wellfield, which supplies underground drinking water to the State College Borough Water Authority.

A recent petition requesting the denial of the tentative plan has already garnered more than 1,800 signatures.

Fellow resident Pete Buckland promised the board will face stiff resistance when it comes to the development, saying the units will bring more concrete, lights and drunken students to the township, creating more sinkholes, turbid water and general runoff.

PennTerra Engineering President John Sepp, project engineer for the development, defended the stormwater plan, citing his experience with developments across the state.

“As a registered professional engineer, I have a responsibility for the well-being of the community,” he said. “And I could not design a project that knowingly impacts the drinking water of the community.”

Sepp said that three other engineering firms and a geologist have reviewed the project with PennTerra, and all would bring up any significant problems if they arose.

Much of the concern has been developed without having information on the process, he said, adding that PennTerra has been working closely with the township and the State College Borough Water Authority to design the stormwater system to “eliminate any meaningful negative impact to the Harter-Thomas wellfield from this development.”

No voids or caverns have been found in the area of the development, he said. Stormwater mitigation techniques for the development include permeable liners, improved recharge capabilities and an action plan that will fix any sinkholes that may appear on the development property or adjoining property.

Supervisor Steve Miller, speaking for the board, said he shares the concerns about the water supplies, but decisions should be made on factual information.

Because the stormwater management and groundwater protections go beyond what is normally required, he said, he felt this plan is better than alternative plans that would only follow R-4 requirements.

He will continue to assess the information received, he said, saying “While I cannot tell you tonight how I will ultimately vote on this plan, I will carefully consider all of the information that is available and act in a way that I feel best represents the interest of the township and its residents.”