State College

Huge S&A Home dirt pile legal, but neighbors not digging it

A bulldozer pushes dirt on a large mound near Bristol Avenue on Friday.
A bulldozer pushes dirt on a large mound near Bristol Avenue on Friday. CDT photo

A long-vacant lot next to Haymarket Park is slated for a mixed-use, 222 multifamily development, but it is home to a mound of dirt and rubble as tall as the two-story houses next to it.

The colossal dump of debris is legal, according to Ferguson Township Manager Mark Kunkle and Centre County Resource Conservation Manager Jim Coslo.

S&A Homes owns the property, and the township and county last year approved a permit for the site to be used for storage of dirt, but the size of the mound, so area residents say, is concerning.

“It’s clearly a concern, and I also can’t believe it’d be allowed,” Scott Milner, of Ferguson Township, said. “People can certainly be allowed to build what they want within the rules, but I can’t believe they’d be allowed to use their property for a landfill, and that’s how it’s being used.”

Milner also said he’s concerned about the safety of the site.

“I’d think it’d be an attractive nuisance for teenagers and middle-schoolers,” he said. “The sides are really steep. What if children try to climb it? And if, when the rain comes down, what if it comes down in a mudslide?”

Nearby resident Sara Caracappa said the truckloads of dirt are dumped every day from the early morning and sometimes into the evening.

“We knew with that land that there was a proposal to build on it, but this clearly doesn’t look like the start of a building,” she said. “It’s just a mound of dirt. We want to find out how big they’re building this and how long it’s going to be going on and what they’ll do with all of this dirt. ... I actually used to have a view of the mountain, and now it’s blocking that. Some people walk outside in their backyard and all they see is dirt.”

Residents said the dirt mound began last fall when excavation began for S&A’s Stonebridge Senior Apartments project, which is under construction.

“That foundation has long been dug, but more dirt keeps coming in from somewhere,” Milner said. “It just keeps getting taller.”

The permits approved by the township and the Centre County Conservation District don’t limit the amount of dirt that can be dumped on the site or how tall the dirt mound can be built. The township’s permit is in effect until Nov. 17, 2016, and the county’s permit will be in place until April 29, 2019.

S&A was required to submit and implement an erosion and sediment control plan, which was approved by the county, to ensure measures would be put in place to minimize the extent and duration of earth disturbance, maximize protection of drainage features and vegetation, minimize soil compaction and minimize increased stormwater runoff.

The company is not required to fence off the area.

“There’s no danger for it to cause a mudslide or anything like that,” Kunkle said. “There probably is a risk of curious children that might want to play on it. They could put a fence up, but that’s a private property and their decision.”

Whatever is happening on the site, residents aren’t happy.

“It’s gotten to a level of absurdity,” Caracappa said. “We’re not pleased.”

S&A representatives did not return requests for comment.