State College

Ferguson Township considers open space vote

As concern for development on rezoned parcels dominates local discussion, supervisors have shown interest in trying to preserve portions of the township.

Discussions of the Cottages at State College PRD plan have led to a renewed interest in an open space referendum, supervisors said. Referendum discussions have taken place in the past, Supervisor Steve Miller said, and now seems like the time to finally get one on the ballot.

The referendum would ask the residents of Ferguson Township if they want to provide funding for the protection of open space and sensitive areas, he said. Miller referred to a similar referendum passed last year by the voters of Patton Township.

The Patton referendum allowed for a 0.6 mill property tax increase, providing funds to borrow $3.5 million for the purchase of undeveloped land for open space.

A 1 mill property tax increase in Ferguson Township would generate about $550,000 a year, Miller said. Staff would need to discuss what would be an effective amount, determining what increase would actually be needed.

Discussions would need to begin soon, he said, as the referendum must be advertised 13 Tuesdays before the November general election — meaning it would have to be drafted no later than Aug. 4. Miller suggested staff look into the Patton referendum and other similar ballot measures to find what process needs to be followed.

Supervisor Elliott Killian said he would oppose the referendum if it was for recreational activities. If a referendum were passed in the township, it should be used to acquire land and keep it protected.

Vice Chairman Drew Clemson was open to the referendum as well, saying it puts the responsibility on the taxpayer.

“If you don’t mind your taxes going up, it can work,” he said. “It worked in Patton.”

Resident and supervisor candidate Laura Dininni suggested exploring an alternate path by rezoning parcels needing protection from residential agricultural to natural resources, a path that wouldn’t involve raising taxes.

State game lands, such as those within Patton Township, carry the natural resources designation.