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Ferguson Township Supervisor Tells State College Borough Council to 'Mind Their Own Business'

by on June 01, 2015 10:00 PM

The Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors doesn't want unsolicited advice from the State College Borough Council.

For the past several weeks, the Ferguson supervisors have been considering a proposed Toll Brothers student housing development that some residents fear would contaminate nearby drinking water wells.

Last week, the State College Borough Council sent the Ferguson supervisors a letter suggesting they hold a public meeting about the development and the water safety concerns.

"From our experience in State College Borough, we have found that conducting an open discussion with citizens in a town hall meeting format is beneficial to the citizenry...and the overall success of the project in the long run," council members wrote.

In a sharply worded response, Ferguson Township supervisor Steve Miller fired back at borough council on Monday night. Miller said he initially thought the letter was invitation to attend a joint meeting with council, but he was upset once he realized “they were simply presenting a course of action for us to follow.”

“I appreciate that the mayor and council would like to help us avoid the appearance of being untutored in the fine art of governance,” Miller said, “… but on the whole, I suspect that it would be better for everyone if they were to mind their own business.”

Miller went on to invite the borough council to a joint town hall meeting to discuss an underlying issue of the proposed housing development: the balance of urban density and suburban sprawl.

In Miller’s view, restrictions on urban density in the State College borough can often push sprawling developments into Ferguson Township and other surrounding municipalities. The trick is to balance density and sprawl against each other, and municipalities need to work together to make that happen.

“This project is a symptom indicating that the current interaction between density and sprawl is out of balance and may not be stable,” Miller said. "Several people have asked me why this project is not being proposed someplace closer to the university."

Ferguson Township resident and board of supervisors candidate Laura Dininni said she thought the State College Borough Council sent its letter “in good faith,” but supported Miller’s idea for a town hall meeting with council. She said that representatives from Penn State and other local governments would also need to be present to have a full and honest dialogue.

“Every stakeholder in this issue should be invited,” Dininni said. “Why leave them out?”

Ferguson Township also discussed a second possible town hall meeting, this time with the State College Borough Water Authority.

The water authority received a splash of public criticism last month, when area residents turned out in force to protest the proposed Toll Brothers housing development. Planning a special joint meeting would allow the authority and the Ferugson supervisors to delve deeper into this controversial topic, township manager Mark Kunkle said.

Kunkle said the supervisors will meet with the water authority before the August 5 deadline to approve or deny the development. Additional details will be made available after a meeting date and agenda are finalized.

But some residents were still concerned that they wouldn’t be able to join the conversation, both literally and figuratively.

“Do we really have a voice here?” asked Penn State graduate student Azita Ranjbar. “How can we productively engage in this process and not have our concerns sidelined?”

 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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