State College

College Township Council sends duplex ordinance draft back to Planning Commission

While the long-debated ordinance allowing duplexes in single-family districts is not ready to go before a public hearing yet, council members agreed Thursday that the draft is getting better.

A proposal to add duplexes to R-1 zones was proposed in December, and since then it has been met with uncertainty by the Township Council. While some on the council remain optimistic that the units would promote affordable housing in the township, most feel the ordinance simply isn’t ready yet.

After failing a motion to move to a public hearing in February, the ordinance was again sent back to staff for retooling last month. Council members cited the fear that the duplexes wouldn’t be well accepted by the public, forcing duplex development away from neighborhoods and quashing the very purpose of allowing them into neighborhoods in the first place.

The most recent changes to the ordinance dealt with minimum and maximum lot sizes, according to senior planner Mark Holdren.

Only one duplex would be allowed on a lot less than 2 acres, he said. No proposed duplex can be closer than 500 feet to another duplex, and a rental permit may be issued if the owner of the adjoining unit or building itself occupies one of the units.

More than one duplex could be built on a lot 2 acres or greater, he said, given the density doesn’t exceed four dwelling units per acre. No individual or business would be permitted to own more than two dwelling units or a single duplex on the lot.

An issue of legality was raised whether owner occupancy can be a requirement in the ordinance, Holdren said. The township is still awaiting an answer from its solicitor.

Should the owner-occupancy requirement be approved, he said, rental of duplexes could be treated as an accessory use, where rentals of an additional part of a unit would be limited to three unrelated individuals.

Chairman Lynn Herman and Councilman Eric Bernier said their decision on the ordinance would rely heavily on the township Planning Commission’s reaction to the new additions.

Council voted unanimously to return the amended ordinance to the Planning Commission for review and recommendation.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews