Planning commission rejects the Cottages (plus small budget news)

A lot has happened in the last week. Here’s a quick rundown. Last week I was elected to be a supervisor for Ferguson Township (FT). Thank you all for voting. Now we are in the phase of preparing and doing groundwork.

Monday night the FT Planning Commission (FTPC) held meetings to decide their recommendations on the final three items of the Toll Brothers Cottages planned residential development for “luxury” student housing. I was in an airport at the time, returning from Ohio. So my information is secondhand from multiple sources. The FTPC meetings don’t run on CNET btw. There was an hour of public comment and an hour during which the engineer on the project answered questions. From what I gather, citizens gave passionate and well-informed comments and the engineer faced some hard questions.

The FTPC rejected a proposal that would sever a piece of the Cottages property and give it to an adjacent landowner. This strip is in the State College borough and that gives the borough some sway the Toll Brothers may not want. If I were them, the fewer people with say the better.

The FTPC also voted down rezoning the five acres for storm water retention and impoundment basins such that it would bring those within the growth boundary. It sets a lousy precedent to put the stormwater basins outside of the growth boundary and then try to redraw lines because the developer and landowner won’t do what they ought to do. It shows they don’t want to color inside of the lines and so we will just let them make a different picture for bad reason. This little piece of extra sprawl puts another little head on the hydra of development on that agricultural land and its small woodlots. For all the talk of protecting the regional growth boundary, the plan as is just treats it as a convenience.

Finally, by voting down the previous two items, the FTPC couldn’t vote to approve the PRD. There was a large cheer and much rejoicing across the community. No matter the outcome, it was gratifying to be heard.

But you should know that current FTBoS still plans to vote next Monday, November 16th despite the PC’s recommendation. The PC has no authority, but are rather a suggestive and advisory body. I suppose it is the BoS prerogative, but I think it’s a bad idea to vote on it when it’s been rejected by the PC. Might there still be a way to reconsider? I have ideas but I’m not going to put them all here.

That we have gotten her indicates a history of, shall we say, less-than-ideal decisions. I will be at the meeting on Monday and will provide my last citizen comments on the matter knowing fully well that the FTBoS will very likely approve the development.

If you have followed this issue and want something different, then come on Monday. No matter how this vote goes, we must witness the vote. Compel our government from the BoS to the management to the planners to the PC to bring our community values of peace of mind into our decision making. Ferguson township’s people passed a Community and Environmental Bill of Rights. It may have little legal authority but it has enormous symbolic significance that should guide our policy making. How about we commit to making that a genuine part of our decisions from here on? I will.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the supervisors and supervisors-elect had meetings to go over the proposed budget. I’ve already written about Tuesday before. Wednesday also had some nuggets, especially getting first insights into how the township funds agricultural easements, our new planner’s views on the same plus green building, sustainability, and low impact development.

I’ll place another update on climate change actions in the Centre Region and Penn State separately.

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