The State College Borough Council officially announced its intent to adopt a zoning change ordinance to the Hamilton Avenue and Westerly Parkway shopping centers at last night’s regularly scheduled meeting.
The change — a topic of discussion for the past year and a half — was met with mixed response at the Feb. 4 public hearing, where concern by State College citizens was expressed over the ordinance’s potential effect on nearby neighborhoods by allowing up to 60 percent of any redevelopment to be for multifamily residential use.
Council president Don Hahn said he felt that the change is restrictive to redevelopment and will likely not stimulate any changes to the shopping centers.
“The idea of redevelopment is to encourage people to take these centers in different directions and expand retail,” Hahn said.
Hahn also said he felt the incentives that would allow redevelopment to include an additional fourth story — including building a green roof or parking structure — would not benefit the borough.
Council member James Rosenberger said the he feels the zoning change will be both “positive and profitable” for the borough and the shopping centers in question.
In response to questions from council, Planning Director Carl Hess said that once the zoning change takes affect the new regulation would only apply to redevelopment, not existing structures.
A second vote, expected to take place in March, is required before the change will take effect and disallow any residential-only redevelopment, State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said.
The Centre County Comprehensive Plan, a document that provides “a general roadmap for how the Centre region will develop,” was also discussed with the intent of returning comments and concerns to the Centre Region Council of Governments, Rosenberger said.
Hahn said he opposed one of the plan’s goals to mix Penn State student housing with non-student housing and that housing opportunities for students should be a priority of the borough.
“The reality is that Penn State is the major economic engine of this region, and the students are basically their customers,” Hahn said.
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said that he felt that further discussion of the comprehensive plan is needed before comments are returned to CRCOG.
Council also discussed its 2013 legislative priorities – a set of lobbying points that the Borough will bring to the attention of state and federal legislative bodies.
Goreham said that these priorities are lobbied both directly by the borough with the state legislature and through the Pennsylvania Municipal League.
Some of the priorities have been on the list “for years,” including expanding local fiscal authority and levying a tax on the sale of alcohol, Goreham said.
Council member Catherine Dauler said that it is important to remember that some of these priorities, such as supporting the National League of Cities legislative agenda, are shared priorities with other cities and municipalities.
“We can’t expect that every recommendation be tailor-made for the borough,” Dauler said. “We share a lot of common concerns with other communities in the state and country.”