From Kelli Hoover
The Nittany Valley Water Coalition is going to take Penn State at its word that the land we occupied for 127 days to protect it from development will be farmed for winter wheat under a lease agreement, but we will also keep a close eye on the site in case Penn State was lying and we need to remobilize quickly.
It is also possible that Penn State and/or Toll Brothers might terminate the farmer’s lease early, so vigilance is needed.
The timing of this lease agreement is not a coincidence given that the same grower was kicked off this land five years ago by Penn State when the university entered into negotiations with Toll Brothers to purchase the land.
So this 44 acres sat fallow for five years until the goals of the Nittany Valley Water Coalition occupation garnered so much public support that Penn State was feeling the pressure to do the right thing.
We’re going to continue participating in the land swap discussions with Toll Brothers and Penn State. Charles Elliott of Toll Brothers indicated last week that they need a few more weeks to complete their land use design proposal.
And we’re going to take a breather to regroup and reassess for two or three weeks until there’s new information on the farming plan or the land swap.
Time will tell and we will be watching.
Today we were finally forced to leave our occupation site after 127 valiant days. We had been keeping stuff on the neighboring church but we knew that wouldn’t last and they were gracious in their hospitality.
We are glad we will be replaced with winter wheat. And we are waiting patiently for the decision by the Toll Brothers on the other site on West College/Blue Course.
We wish to state that we, NVWC, do not condone the vilification of any members of the three parties involved (NVWC, Toll Brothers and Penn State). It does not help to single out individuals or allow for views by others to be posted on our website/FB page and thus approve such views.
Clearly this is a heated situation but we will ensure that going forward our official platforms do not focus on individuals but stick with the discussions of the principal parties.
Press Release from Nittany Valley Water Coalition:
Today was a dark day for town-gown relationships when Penn State called the Ferguson Township Police to evict community members who have been staging a 124-day long occupation at the Toll Brothers proposed development of the Cottages on Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive.
The Nittany Valley Water Coalition is committed to protecting the wells that supply two-thirds of State College’s water.
These wells are beside the proposed development site and are connected to the site by subsurface water flow and an intermittent stream.
Although we are saddened that Penn State chose to evict us by sending the local police force, we are happy for the land’s short term future.
We have learned that our camp will be sown with winter wheat which will not be harvested until next June! The power of soil to act as a natural filter leading to recharging of the wells with clean water is well known.
So, while we are sad to have been denied our First Amendment rights, we are happy with farming. We hope that Penn State, a Land Grant school, will realize that the future of this site is better as farming and not as hundreds of luxury cottages.
By Kelli Hoover
At 9 am this morning, Penn State University ordered the forcible eviction of peaceful protestors on land we have been occupying to protect our water supply from development.
Zach Moore of Penn State arrived at the site in a Ferguson Township police car to oversee the removal of all persons and property of the Nittany Valley Water Coalition (NVWC).
The NVWC has occupied the proposed development site on Whitehall Road near Blue Course Drive to protect it from development for four months now as we negotiate with Penn State and the developer for an alternative location for this development on PSU-owned land.
Ferguson Township police maintained a presence at the site all day and asked anyone who arrived at the site to leave by order of Penn State.
Just heard that Penn State is planning to lease the proposed development site to a local farmer for a winter wheat crop, that would be harvested in June 2018.
So, at a minimum, if the lease agreement goes through, there won’t be any residential development activity on the site between now and next summer.
Nittany Valley Water Coalition members are glad to hear the land will be used for agricultural purposes.
-Posted by Katherine Watt
Following is the text of a notice printed on plain white paper and hand-delivered Friday, Sept. 29 to David Stone, Nittany Valley Water Coalition activist, at the Whitehall Road site, by Zack Moore, PSU Vice President of Government and Community Relations.
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY NOTICE AGAINST TRESPASS
This property is owned by the Pennsylvania State University.
However, it is not open to the public.
You are hereby notified that you are not allowed, licensed or privileged to place any personal property on this property.
Should you fail to adhere to this Notice, any personal property you have placed on this property will be subject to removal by the University.
THIS IS YOUR FINAL NOTICE.
There are a lot of strange things about this document.
- It’s not on any letterhead: not Penn State, not a municipal police department, not a county sheriff, nothing.
- It’s unsigned and unattributed. Not signed by Zack Moore, nor by PSU VP for Finance and Business David Gray, nor by PSU President Eric Barron, nor by PSU Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Dambly. No way to know who wrote it.
- It’s not dated.
- It doesn’t cite any federal, state or local law or authority to support the assertions contained within it. Nor does it cite any internal Penn State administrative directives or policies.
- Most intriguingly, it walks back from the demands and threats stated and/or implied the prior day’s email thread. There is no reference to Penn State’s demand that the protestors themselves leave the site or risk arrest and imprisonment. The notice only asks that protestors remove their stuff, which consists of some folding chairs, coolers, canopies and signs, or risk having their stuff taken away by parties unidentified.
- In the first two sentences, it makes an attempt to separate the notion of Penn State as a public university from the notion of Penn State’s land as open to the public.
- Further, it carefully avoids asserting that protestors have no “right” to be on the site with their personal property, by stating only that the protestors are not “allowed, licensed or privileged” to have their stuff with them.
Nittany Valley Water Coalition activists don’t think Penn State has a legal leg to stand on.
And, based on the peculiar form of this alleged “notice against trespass,” it appears Penn State executives know the same thing.
They’re just hoping to bluff their way through and intimidate the water coalition into compliance based on innuendo and Penn State’s powerful reputation, even though Penn State has no legitimate authority to impose its will in this case.
BERNIE HOFFNAR’S RESPONSE
In response to the Penn State notice, water coalition activist Bernie Hoffnar spent a few minutes yesterday on his own computer, with his own printer, to produce a similar unsigned, undated, non-letterhead, legally-unsupported document, which he then handed to David Stone last night as a rebuttal:
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY NOTICE TO CANCEL THE NOTICE AGAINST TRESPASS
This property is owned by the Pennsylvania State University and the State of Pennsylvania and its citizens. The property is open to the public as it has been in the past.
You are hereby notified that you are allowed and privileged to keep any personal property on this property that you wish.
This is our final notice to you.
-Posted by Katherine Watt