On Tuesday, Penn State officials and Nittany Valley Water Coalition members met at the State College Municipal Building. NVWC representatives proposed seven Penn State-owned properties that they believe could be suitable alternatives to the 43.5 acres on West Whitehall Road in Ferguson Township where the Toll Brothers’ proposed student housing development, The Cottages at State College, is slated to be built.
“It was a very good, productive meeting, and all parties were really coming to the table with a fair, open mind and hoping to help one another,” said David Hughes, a NVWC member and an associate professor of entomology and biology at Penn State.
Representatives from the water coalition, Penn State and Toll Brothers are set to meet next week to discuss various options.
“Land sales and planned residential developments are complicated legal transactions. As we’ve stated many times, Penn State entered into a binding agreement of sale with Toll Brothers for the Whitehall Road parcel in 2012. That said, if the developer is interested in a different parcel of Penn State-owned property that we can make available for purchase for off-campus student housing, we are open to that discussion,” Zack Moore, Penn State’s vice president for government and community relations, said in an email.
Moore said they’re in the process of evaluating the sites identified in Tuesday’s meeting.
Hughes said he was “very heartened” that Penn State is willing to listen and give feedback.
The water coalition isn’t against development, Hughes said, adding that they understand that the Toll Brothers need to have a return on its investment so far.
“We’re not out waving signs saying ‘don’t do this.’ We’re saying, ‘do it, but do it in a better way, a smarter way,’ ” Hughes said.
The site occupation came in response to a Commonwealth Court decision in May that vacated county Judge Jonathan D. Grine’s July 2016 ruling that the Ferguson Township supervisors had “committed an error of law” in approving the Toll Brothers’ final planned residential development plan. Residents filed a lawsuit against the township after the supervisors made that decision in November 2015.
Despite the “no trespassing” signs stating that the property should be vacated immediately, protesters say they’re not going anywhere.