The State College Borough Water Authority was hesitant to give a stamp of approval of the controversial Cottages at State College planned residential development proposal during a work session Tuesday with the township Board of Supervisors.
The board announced in June plans to discuss with SCBWA the Toll Brothers development and its potential impacts on nearby well fields that provide drinking water to about 75,000 residents.
Interest has continued to grow regarding the 286-unit development that will sit on 32 acres opposite Blue Course Drive. Residents have been vocal in their disapproval of the stormwater management plan, saying runoff is in a prime location to flow down into the well fields and a Slab Cabin Run tributary.
Authority members educated the board and the public on an overview of the authority’s system, including the seven well fields and reservoir controlled by the SCBWA. The greatest threat of contamination comes from transportation-related sources, hydrogeological consultant David Yoxtheimer said, followed by agricultural activities, sanitary sewers, on-lot sewage and commercial/residential development.
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Source water protection Chairman Jason Grotinni said that while personally he thinks there is minimal water quality risk with the development, he thinks the project could set a precedent.
“This is the first time the water authority has been brought in to look at a development in my six years with the board,” he said. “We build a lot of crummy, cookie-cutter developments across this community that make our greater community look a little less interesting.”
He said he was both excited and disappointed in the community involvement regarding the project, saying that while it’s good to have a room full of residents who are concerned about what’s going, prior to this project, no members of the public have shown any interest in water issues.
“There’s room for improvement with everything we do as a community and representatives,” he said.
Ultimately, the board was still seeking an answer on the Cottages project, Supervisor Steve Miller said, saying “We have a plan on the table that has reached the point where we have to vote yes or no on it, and there are a lot of implications either way.
“The real question we need to know is, is there a significant risk of this development ... to the well fields?”
SCBWA Vice Chairman said there is no scientific way the authority can say whether or not to build the development. But, he said, the authority is much less concerned about the plan than they were two to three months ago.
“The risk is still there,” he said. “It’s less than it was, but there’s always going to be risk. We live in an area where whatever you put on the surface will get into the ground.”
While the township is concentrating more surface activity in one area than the authority would like to see, he said, the alternative may be even more activity because the parcels have already been zoned R-4.
Township Manager Mark Kunkle said the deadline for review and comments has been extended to Sept. 22, giving the developer more time to address review points. However, he said, the board can act before that deadline.