Report on NVWC-Toll Brothers Meeting

Press Release from NVWC:

Toll Brothers identifies alternative sites for student housing

Nittany Valley Water Coalition (NVWC) held a follow-up meeting with Charles Elliott of Toll Brothers developers on Wednesday, August 16 to discuss Toll Brothers’ recent review of alternative State College sites for student housing.

On August 2, NVWC presented Toll with detailed information about PSU lands suitable for building closer to campus.

NVWC has been leading a community effort to pressure Penn State, the current landowner, and Toll to relocate a planned development on Whitehall Road to a site that does not risk local water safety. The current 44 acre site is located uphill from the Thomas-Harter wells.

Elliott and his team have now ranked several PSU properties with respect to zoning and infrastructure and identified several as viable alternatives if township officials and PSU officials will facilitate a “land swap” and any needed approvals.

The top ranked site is located on West College Avenue in front of the Blue Course golf property. Elliott stated that while further corporate economic and structural viability assessments are needed, the alternative site was attractive for its proximity to campus and downtown amenities.

Concerned citizens have occupied the Whitehall Road site continuously for 75 days and will continue community efforts to stop the Whitehall development.

Incoming PSU students and their families will be informed of the issue with a water and flyer distribution on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a citizen appeal is pending in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

For additional information, contact Terry Melton, terrymelton321@gmail.com, 814-883-8154, or visit nittanyvalleywatercoalition.org

 

NVWC Meets with Toll Brothers Today

Press Release from NVWC

Nittany Valley Water Coalition meets with developer Toll Brothers today, August 16, at State College Borough Building at 1 pm for a follow up discussion on a potential land swap.

Pursuant to the previous August 2 meeting in which NVWC members presented alternative PSU properties for Toll Brothers’ Campus Living to locate their planned luxury student housing, Charles Elliott of Toll returns to State College to discuss these options.

NVWC has been opposing the planned development on Whitehall Road on PSU land for over two years due to the development’s location over the area watershed near the Thomas-Harter wells.

Penn State will make in excess of $13 million on the land sale.

An appeal by local farmers and concerned citizens is pending in the case in Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Moving In Weekend

Moving in weekend is hard work! We will be providing Nittany Valley Water Coalition water to parents and students moving into the dorms on campus during moving in weekend. We will be letting everyone know about Nittany Valley Water Coalition’s battle to prevent luxury student housing from being built over State College’s watershed. Look out for our bicycles and trailers with water dispensers and, of course, our signs–which will make our bikes stand out!

Fed Up with Penn State’s Lack of Concern About Our Community

Does this sound familiar? No wonder the community is fed up with Penn State’s behavior and utter lack of concern about our community.

“Campuses expand across cities, often choosing to bank land, awaiting its appreciation, rather than invest in services and infrastructure that would aid the local community.”

When Universities Swallow Cities

The College That Ate a City

 

Reporting on August 2 NVWC-TB-PSU Meeting

Mainstream Media Coverage:

Compiled post-meeting reports by Kelli Hoover and David Hughes:

The August 2, 2017 meeting between Nittany Valley Water Coalition, Toll Brothers and Penn State representatives was positive and productive.

Kelli Hoover, David Hughes and Dave Stone represented the Nittany Valley Water Coalition.

Charles Elliott, Managing Director for Toll Brothers, represented the student housing developer.

Representing the land seller Penn State were Kurt Kissinger, Associate Vice President for Finance and Business; Rob Cooper, Director of Energy and Engineering for Office of Physical Plant; Charima Young, Director of Local Government and Community Relations; and two representatives from communications, including Lisa Powers, Director of News and Media Relations.

David Hughes started off with a presentation on the positives and negatives of the Toll Brothers proposed site. He pointed out on a map all of the sinkholes at the site in comparison to other parts of the region and why it was a good idea for Elliott to consider another location.

Whitehall Road Area – Sinkholes and Depressions – Circled Project Area

Kelli Hoover presented information about Penn State-owned land in Ferguson, College and Patton townships that might be suitable for building student housing, including information water coalition representatives had gleaned from supervisors and staff in those municipalities.

Elliott said he wished stakeholders had had this conversation back in 2012 when Toll Brothers was first looking into State College as a location to build student housing. He also commented that he had looked at other locations in the region but had been told that the travel time by bus from the West Whitehall Road site was shorter than from locations off North Atherton. Elliott also said at the time (5 years ago) there were a lot of complaints from locals about traffic on North. Atherton.

Hughes said that Elliott’s initial reaction seemed “frosty” but that he seemed to warm up as Elliott noticed how much work had been invested by water coalition members; Hughes estimated that more than 1,000 hours of volunteer labor have been put into the campaign, including research on legal issues, water risks and zoning codes.

Water coalition representatives offered their help in talking with municipalities to help gather information and see the process through if any of these other sites may work out.

The meeting finished about 10 minutes early (ran from 11:00 to 11:50 a.m.) and Elliott stayed behind to talk with Penn State representatives without water coalition representatives present.

Hoover, Hughes and Stone went out and talked to the press. Nittany Valley Water Coalition is hoping there will be follow-up in the near future.

 

Protest at Old Main – Noon on Monday

From Kelli Hoover:

Monday, July 31, at 12 p.m. on the front steps of Old Main, the College Dems have organized a protest against the Toll Brothers development on our watershed and are delivering a letter to President Barron and the Board of Trustees.

They have notified the press and are asking Nittany Valley Water Coalition supporters to come out and support them with signs and our voices.

We have plenty of signs at the occupation site and we will bring them, so come out and join us.

We will also have flyers to hand out as well and extra yard signs to distribute. Or make and bring your own signs.

Nittany Valley Water Coalition has a meeting scheduled for THIS WEDNESDAY (August 2) with Toll Brothers and PSU representatives to discuss land swap options: a different location for the development,

We need to up the pressure to get PSU to negotiate with us in good faith. This protest will help.

PLEASE JOIN US AT NOON MONDAY ON THE FRONT STEPS OF OLD MAIN.

We are making progress and we need that extra push.

REPORT: Water Coalition Meeting with Penn State Reps, July 25, 2017

This report is based on information provided by Terry Melton, Kelli Hoover and Mark Huncik to Katherine Watt after the meeting.

Four Nittany Valley Water Coalition representatives met with five Penn State representatives on Tuesday, July 25, in Room 242 of the State College Borough Building, from noon to 1 p.m.

NVWC representatives included Kelli Hoover, Terry Melton, David Hughes and Mark Huncik.

Penn State representatives included Kurt Kissinger, Associate Vice President for Finance and Business; Zack Moore, Vice President for Government and Community Relations; Charima Young, Director of Local Government and Community Relations; Steve Watson, Office of Physical Plant, Director of Campus Planning and Design; and Rob Cooper, OPP, Director of Energy and Engineering.

Although NVWC had asked during a prior meeting for Penn State representatives to provide information on possible alternative sites for the Toll Brothers project, and the Penn State officials had verbally agreed to do so, they did not provide that information ahead of the July 25 meeting.

However, the NVWC representatives prepared thoroughly for the meeting, and presented a report (7.25.17 NVWC Report for PSU Execs) that assembled information on eight “University Planned District” parcels identified in the most-recent UPD District Plan, adopted by some but not all of the regional municipalities in Spring 1999. 1999 UPD District Plan

At the July 25 meeting, Penn State executives offered information on current uses at each site and answered questions about whether or not student housing is an allowable use. According to Hoover, in Penn State “lingo,” non-student housing means student housing not owned by the University.

The parcels identified by NVWC representatives include:

  • UPD 3 – 28 acres along College Avenue at/near old OW Houts buildings, south of west campus along to the corner of College Avenue and Blue Course Drive.
  • UPD 4 – 91 acres along College Avenue at/near old OW Houts buildings, south of west campus along to the corner of College Avenue and Blue Course Drive.
  • UPD 7 – 395 acres east of Overlook Heights, west of Fox Hollow Road, north of campus, south of I-99.
  • UPD 9 – 420 acres east and west of Porter Road near PSU sustainability facilities (MorningStar house, community gardens) and pig farm, north of Centre Furnace Mansion.
  • UPD 11 – 584 acres east of Overlook Heights, west of Fox Hollow Road, north of Campus, south of I-99.
  • UPD 12 – 26 acres along East College Avenue near the Lifelink building past Hampton Inn.
  • UPD 14 – 1,111 acres east of Fox Hollow Road, north of I-99, across from The Villages.
  • UPD 15 – 108 acres east of Fox Hollow Road, north of I-99, across from The Villages.

Penn State objections

According to Melton, Watson pointed out that rezoning would be needed for each of the proposed parcels

Kissinger stated that, because Penn State has a sales contract with Toll Brothers, Penn State executives can’t look like they’re trying to undermine the contract by proposing alternatives.

Kissinger repeatedly used the term “program” in relation to Toll Brothers proposed housing developments, and stressed uncertainty about whether parts of UPD would “fit” the Toll Brothers program, since some UPD areas have multi-use zoning (including non-residential or commercial uses along with housing).

Penn State executives expressed concern that neighbors in the areas around the alternatives might object to student housing in their neighborhoods, and also expressed concerns about environmental impacts on the Big Hollow water wells near UPD 7.

Moore expressed concern about preservation of natural settings (forested areas) in the parcels identified, particularly UPD 14, comparing removal of trees as contradictory to “preserving nature.”

Water coalition rebuttals

Nittany Valley Water Coalition representatives acknowledged that rezoning would be needed, and said they would support rezoning in an alternative site to promote sustainable, community-respecting development.

Water coalition members pointed out the hypocrisy of Penn State’s position on threats to University water wells and forests as contrasted with the University’s willingness to put the public Thomas and Harter water wells, Slab Cabin Run, and nearby farm fields and forest groves at risk.

Water coalition members noted that there is already student housing in most of the alternative neighborhoods.

Regarding the existing contract, NVWC representatives emphasized that Penn State’s role at this time is simply to identify parcels that the University would consider for a land swap.

Whether Toll Brothers executives accept the land swap offer – to foster positive community relations in the Centre Region – is up to Toll Brothers executives.

At end of meeting, NVWC shared the online PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources map, showing documented sinkholes and depressions in the Centre region, including multiple documented sinkholes in the Whitehall Road/Blue Course Drive property near the intermittent stream and swale.

Although the Penn State executives did not put anything in writing, they verbally agreed to examine the list prepared by NVWC and identify parcels that are feasible from Penn State’s perspective and parcels that are not feasible, including the feasibility of subsections of larger parcels. For example, if one portion of a 500+ acre parcel is not a practical choice, other sections of that same parcel may be workable.

Melton said Penn State executives agreed to forward the information by email to NVWC representatives by Friday, July 28, ahead of the scheduled August 2 trilateral meeting between Hoover, Hughes and Melton (representing the water coalition); Kissinger, Cooper and Young (representing Penn State) and Charles Elliott, Managing Director of Toll Brothers.

Melton said she anticipates Penn State will put forward at least two or three alternatives in their July 28 email, and commented of the July 25 meeting, “It went as well as could have been expected.”

Centre Daily Times reporter Sara Rafacz interviewed meeting participants afterwards, and interviewed Hughes on camera for a forthcoming CDT video report.

Ferguson Township Ordinances and Penn State Administrative Directives – UPDATED

Cited in the June 28, 2017 letter to PSU’s David Gray from Ferguson Township Zoning Administrator Jeff Ressler and/or in Kurt Kissinger’s email to NVWC’s Kelli Hoover and David Hughes, and/or possibly relevant.

Of great interest:

Is Penn State-owned land public land, free for use by the general public as citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or is it private land, subject to enforcement of trespassing laws against individuals through the police power of the state on behalf of the landowner?

I couldn’t find the Ferguson Township ordinance regarding permission of landowner required for signage placed on a property, cited in the letter as Ch. 19, Part 1, Section 6, #13, but have reached out to Jeff Ressler for clarification.

UPDATE – Revised ordinance, revised on June 5, 2017 (two days after the protest began on June 3, 2017) sent to me by Jeff Ressler:

1033 Amendment Signs and Billboards CH 19

Relevant phrase is on page 11,

“13. Signs erected without the permission of the property owner, with the exception of those authorized or required by local, state or federal government.”

Which then begs the question, is a peaceful public protest that includes signs “authorized” by Constitutional First Amendment rights?

Posted by Katherine Watt

 

Penn State’s pre-meeting letter

From: “Kissinger, Kurt”
Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017 at 10:23 PM
To: Kelli Hoover, Mark Huncik, Terry Melton
Cc: Charima Young, Zack Moore, Steve Watson, Rob Cooper

Subject: Penn State Lands

Good evening,

I’m sending the following information in advance of our discussion [scheduled for July 25] in order to provide some context to University-owned lands in College/Patton Townships referenced during our meeting last month. Within the general vicinity of Fox Hollow Road and the airport, there are a number of considerations that could influence the feasibility of finding a 46 acre area to accommodate the proposed land use.

As illustrated on the aerial image, much of the University-owned land around this area is limited due to several existing factors:

  • Big Hollow, which is a sensitive environmental/groundwater area
  • The Spray Fields/Living Filter, which are a critical water recharge aspect of the wastewater treatment process (eliminates the need for stream discharge)
  • Current and planned airport property and areas of FAA restrictions

Other factors that would need to be addressed with regard to potential development:

Zoning

  • University-owned land in this area is mostly zoned as part of the University Planned District – primarily UPD Subdistricts 11, 14, and 15.  Subdistrict 11 is generally described as follows: This Subdistrict contains the majority of the intense field related agricultural activities that take place at University Park and their support facilities. It is and will remain very open with building density and impervious surface being kept at low rates. Subdistrict 14 is generally described as: This Subdistrict contains some of the less intensely developed areas of the campus and is of predominantly agricultural use. And Subdistrict 15 is reserved for effluent spray fields.
  • These zoning subdistricts are regulated by general and designated uses.  One of the Designated Uses not permitted in these Subdistricts is “Non-Student Housing”, which is basically understood as housing not owned and operated by the University.  Use of any of these lands for the proposed housing use would require rezoning.
  • University owned land north of Fox Hill Road near Patton/Benner Township line is zoned Planned Airport District, Mixed Use Area (area from Fox Hill Road back 1200’ is defined as Non-Residential Area).  This zoning requires master plan approval and a mix of commercial uses along with residential use, therefore it would require rezoning to accommodate the uses as proposed.
  • Rezoning timeframe: College Township’s planner stated that for a simple and universally supported change it would take about 6 months.  A typical zoning is more in the range of a year, with more complex and controversial rezonings (such as the Hilltop Development on East College Ave) taking 2 years+.

Regional Growth Boundary

  • The desire to locate the proposed use within the RGB would eliminate sites beyond the Patton Township line (any areas from airport to the east in Benner Twp).

Proximity to Wells

  • The Big Hollow drainage way contains several wells.
  • The parcel immediately to the east of the land north of Fox Hill Road is the location of the Alexander Well Field.

Stormwater Management

  • Investments have been made along Fox Hollow Road to enhance important stormwater drainage and recharge areas.  This stormwater area is integral to a comprehensive approach to manage stormwater in the Fox Hollow Drainage basin.

Existing and Future Uses (beyond areas noted above)

  • Agricultural fields to the west of Fox Hollow Road are part of the equine research facility.  Taking these fields off-line would require relocation of their use, along with a possible need to relocate additional agricultural support, operations, and animal housing facilities.  This would necessitate additional financial and land development impacts for other locations.

We look forward to meeting with you and discussing these considerations in greater detail while listening to your ideas and suggestions in preparation for our meeting on August 2 with representatives from Toll Brothers.

Best,

Kurt

Posted by Katherine Watt

Further context – a timeline of Penn State executives’ and trustees’ actions

August 25, 1999 – Corporate Penn State buys land from RK Mellon Foundation and Mark and Marcia Bookman (50-50 joint owners, each selling their stake, for $1 and $99,307 respectively – 8.25.99 Deed 18.25.99 Deed 2

November 7, 2003, Penn State Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz submits application to Ferguson Township seeking Township upzoning of the land from RA to R4, and incorporation into Regional Growth Boundary. 11.7.03 PSU-Sweetland Application to Ferguson Township for Upzoning RA to R4 with Deeds Attached

November 2003 to October 2004 – Numerous area municipalities and planning agencies recommend Ferguson Township deny Penn State’s upzoning application, to protect the water, farmland and regional growth boundary. Representative sample: 3.29.04 Centre Region Planning Agency to Ferguson Township Re Whitehall Road Zoning Change

June 14, 2004– Penn State Assistant Vice President for Finance and Business Dan Simienski submits $1,000 application check to Ferguson Township for rezoning review process. 6.14.04 PSU Rezoning Check Cover Letter D. Sieminski to M. Kunkle

September 7, 2004 – Ferguson Township supervisors approve the upzoning by 3-2. Steve Miller votes “No.” 9.7.04 Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors Minutes

February 25, 2008 – Penn State files “declaration of access easements” with Centre County Recorder of Deeds, citing subdivision plan. 2.25.08 PSU Easements Six Lot FT Subdivision

February 27, 2008 – Penn State’s Gary Schultz, as owner, files subdivision plat plan, approved by Ferguson Township Planning Commission on or about February 7, 2008 and by Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors on or about February 14, 2008 (signed by Board Chair Richard Mascolo, husband of Centre Region Parks Authority Board Chair Sue Mascolo) at Penn State’s request, clearly showing road access from Blue Course Drive to Shingletown Road across the watershed, and linking development of adjacent public park to development of student housing complex. 2007 PSU-Sweetland Engineering Six Lot Subdivision

December 29, 2011 – Penn State commissions production of glossy full-page marketing booklet to solicit bids at a meeting in Hershey, from developers, to construct student housing on land rezoned – at Penn State’s request – in 2004 and subdivided – at Penn State’s request – in 2008. 2011 Whitehall Road Investment Prospectus

April 24, 2012 – Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray signs sales contract with Richard Keyser, Toll Brothers Vice President for Commercial Acquisitions and Development. 4.24.12 PSU-Toll Purchase and Sales Agreement

May 4, 2012 – Penn State Board of Trustees, led by Karen Peetz, President of Bank of New York Mellon, approves sales contract for $13.5 million. 5.4.12 PSU BOT Minutes (See page 10).

September 20, 2013 – Penn State Board of Trustees adds 5.5 acres to the planned sale, located outside the regional growth boundary and still zoned Rural Agricultural, to Toll Brothers, for the purpose of stormwater management basin construction. The minutes note that Karen Peetz is not present for vote, but in any case, the Board finds she has no conflict of interest under University bylaws, despite BNY Mellon’s Boston Company Asset Management being the seventh-largest investor in Toll Brothers. 9.20.13 PSU BOT Minutes (See page 11-12); 8.14.12 Toll Bros Peetz Reuters

July 7, 2017 – Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray, in a CDT editorial, states

“the University is not involved in the proposed housing development.”

Post by Katherine Watt