A precedent for more intentional and sustainable development

A group of residents has filed a lawsuit against the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors to stop the Cottages from being constructed. The Centre Daily Times reports this:

The first phase of litigation will likely return the plan to the new Board of Supervisors for a new vote in 2016, the release said.

Three new supervisors will be taking seats on the board in January and were elected “in response to widespread public opposition to this development and the supervisors who supported the plan,” the release said.

“We fully expect the Toll Brothers and Penn State to fight back, but we are prepared to stand together,” the release said, adding that the development puts water safety at risk by building on top of the wellhead protection areas.

Unless this is quickly resolved, I will likely be on the receiving end of this lawsuit as a new supervisor. I can’t elaborate on the specifics because I don’t know what they are. As you probably know, I have opposed the project since I first learned about it, primarily because of my concern over sprawling development and its rezoning to bring storm water services from outside the parcel into the parcel. That storm water basin sets a terrible giveaway precedent. I have said things to this effect a number of times in public such as at the League of Women voters event and several times on this blog (most comprehensively here with backtracking links).
If the Toll Brothers had designed this planned residential development to be cutting edge green, would the reaction have been different? Imagine that it were proposed to be LEED Gold or its rough equivalent in Green Globes or another green design evaluation system? What if there had been really strong provisions for onsite low impact storm water development, habitat creation (they’re cutting down a woodlot), carbon sequestration (they’re cutting down a woodlot), and such? All things being equal, the community feeling on this could be different.
However this lawsuit pans out, the fact that it has been filed shows us something about the area. People here have an increased consciousness about land development and environmental integrity, particularly the role of land in water purification, beautification, and agriculture. It’s incumbent upon the new board of supervisors–dare I say the entire COG region–to see this project as something that should drive us toward increased conservation of land for the purposes of protecting, preserving, and extending ecosystem services. There are regulations, incentives, and actions (some of which have been taken) that we could and should enact to prevent this kind of rancorous debate and to protect ecosystem services, the regional growth boundary, and agricultural land. Note: this debate is occurring in a township with Community and Environmental Bill of Rights with high-quality land that serves us all.
Time will tell what this lawsuit will mean for this particular parcel. I take it as a precedent for more intentional and sustainable development.

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