Urbanization Or Overdevelopment? Patton Township Building Project At A Crossroads
Susan Buda works at the Park Forest preschool and lives in the adjoining Park Forest neighborhood in the State College area.
On most days, she bikes to work.
“It’s actually harder to drive here because it really is just such a short distance," Buda said. "I like riding my bike and walking. It’s very stress relieving and calming. And it’s a great neighborhood to do that in, too.”
But Buda said she is wary a development plan would change the neighborhood.
The proposed Patton Crossing development would include a new grocery store, a hotel and both commercial and residential buildings. The 28-acre project sits on the side of North Atherton street, one of the main roads in the State College area. The land borders the main entrance into Park Forest, although there is a strip of student housing between the development and the neighborhood.
Buda said, among other things, she is concerned that Patton Crossing would be heavily developed and invite unwanted traffic to cut through the neighborhood.
“By putting an entrance or an exit into a neighborhood, you’re encouraging people to use that neighborhood, so we just feel that the commercial traffic should go into the commercial street,” she said.
But before the development can happen, a new zoning code would have to be created to allow the construction of the mixed-use development.
Since the developers submitted their zoning request to Patton township last March, opposition among Park Forest residents has grown. About 250 people signed a petition asking the township to deny the request.
In late 2017, residents, developers and township staff formed a committee to try to come to some consensus.
Doug Erickson, manager of Patton Township, has been moderating the committee meetings.
“I think one thing that everybody is more or less in agreement on is that the site will develop in some way, whether it’s under the current zoning law or under something new,” he said.
Although, several roadblocks remain in the discussion.
“Main items that weren’t at consensus were maximum height of buildings," Erickson said. "Developers originally asked for something up to 85 feet; currently they say they can live with 65 feet. The residents preferred less than that.”
The committee also hasn’t agreed on what the distance should be between the development and the existing properties. Another problem is whether to allow traffic access between the site and the neighborhood.
Erickson said, overall, the residents find the proposed project too dense and believe it’s out of place. He said similar conversations happened in the past, like when Wegmans grocery store was put in.
“Patton Township is evolving. There’s clearly a suburban community today and I think areas like Patton Crossing are some of the first steps towards a more urban form," he said. "We’re not gonna be a downtown but it’ll be something different than what we currently have.”
According to documents published by the township, developers Ara Kervandjian, Bob Poole and Heidi Nicholas have said they could’ve built student housing under the current zoning code, but thought this plan would be more beneficial to the community.
They developed one of the downtown high rises, the Metropolitan.
They have not returned requests for comment.
Susan Buda’s husband, Tony, is one of the residents on the committee. He hopes the discussion and planning of the project can go beyond zoning, and extend to bringing affordable housing and providing sustainability for the area.
“We’re not trying to stand in the way of growth or the township, or anybody or any residents reaping the benefits of that growth. That’s good. But there are other things that need to be considered,” he said.
Because the committee couldn’t come to a consensus, each side is going to present its position to Patton Township’s Board of Supervisors at Wednesday night's meeting. The board will decide whether to create a new zoning code allowing Patton Crossing to be built.