Much to the chagrin of a majority of attendees, the Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously approved the controversial Cottages at State College final planned residential development plan.
The Cottages, as proposed by developer Toll Brothers, will encompass 32 acres at the intersection of West Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive. The issue is the proximity of the development to the Harter-Thomas wellfields, which provide drinking water to the State College Borough Water Authority.
Residents claim the potential for stormwater runoff could contaminate the wellfields and repeated their concerns and requests to deny the plan during an hourlong public hearing regarding the PRD plan.
Township resident Joseph Cusumano said while he was expecting the board to vote in favor of the plan, he hoped it could be the start of a different way of thinking about development that doesn’t focus on the economic value of a few players but rather on the wealth of the community.
“That water, do you have any idea what that’s worth?” he asked the board. “Ask Nestle, who’s going around buying water like that.”
Cusumano noted the public outcries heard over the months by the residents, which he said led to an election that saw three new supervisors elected this month. He asked that the new supervisors be given a chance to weigh in on the decision.
Supervisor-elect Peter Buckland spoke as well, saying that the people in attendance already feel as if they’ve lost something. Toll Brothers has lost the the trust of the community, he said, supervisors have lost the trust of the electors and residents are now worried that sprawl will begin to chew into the growth boundary.
“I hope this board tonight and the board elect will do everything it can to preserve the community and ecological integrity of this area,” he said, “and most importantly, the growth boundary.”
PennTerra Engineering President John Sepp, project engineer for the development, said the developers have responded to numerous requests and comments to the plan by both staff and the State College Borough Water Authority.
The plan before you is one of the cleanest plans I’ve ever presented to the Board of Supervisors for a job this size.
John Sepp, project engineer for the development
Supervisor Steve Miller said he’s repeatedly heard people say approving the plan is the “least bad” option. In his opinion, he said, this is a better option.
“By using the PRD, we negotiated with the developer to have a lot better controls over stormwater than we could require,” he said. “There is more green space and open space than is required under the R-4 ordinance.
“I think we have approached the best possible way to do this,” he said.
The final PRD plan passed with a unanimous 4-0 vote. Supervisor Janet Whitaker was absent.
During the public hearing, township resident Kelli Hoover presented the board with a letter from an attorney representing a group she is part of that opposes the development, telling the board they reserve the right to sue should the plan receive approval.
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After the decision, Hoover identified the attorney as Jordan Yeager, of Curtin and Heefner, who challenged the state over drilling rights in 2012. She said Yeager’s letter stipulates why this particular plan is open to a lawsuit.
“Yes, we will sue and will try to block this development,” she said. “And we will win, because the law is on our side.”