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Four Businesses File Lawsuit to Stop Summers on Allen Pedestrian Plaza

by on February 13, 2020 4:01 PM

An association formed by four downtown businesses is suing State College Borough Council in an effort to void the decision approving the Summers on Allen project.

The complaint was filed on Feb. 7 by attorney Faith Lucchesi on behalf of Allen Street Stores Expecting To Survive (ASSETS), an association of four Allen Street businesses: Connecting Point Computers, Cuts by Christy, Rapid Transit Sports and Woodring Floral Gardens. They are seeking an order to stop plans for a street closure and temporary pedestrian plaza from May 11-July 3 on the 100 block of South Allen Street, arguing that council violated the borough's home rule charter in approving the proposal during its Jan. 13 meeting.

Council initially voted down the proposal on Dec. 16 by a 4-3 margin. Two of the no votes left council at the start of the new year and at an organizational meeting on Jan. 6, Councilman Evan Myers, who had voted in favor the first time, asked to have it put on the following week's agenda.

On Jan. 13, after two more hours of public comment and discussion, the newly seated council voted 4-3 to approve Summers on Allen.

Connecting Point, Rapid Transit and Woodring had all expressed their opposition, saying that closing the street to vehicles would be damaging to their businesses. Lucchesi also spoke against the proposal on behalf of several businesses during the Jan. 13 meeting. While a few individual community members spoke against the proposal, the vast majority of public comment at meetings in the fall and winter was in favor. 

Lucchesi argues in the complaint that the Dec. 16 decision should have been the final say in the matter. According to the charter, Lucchesi wrote, a failed vote can only be reconsidered upon a motion by a council member who voted with the prevailing side. The argument contends Summers on Allen could only have been brought back to the table if one of the four members who voted against it in December had motioned to reconsider.

"The January vote was not held in accordance with the governing procedures," the complaint states.

ASSETS is asking the court for a writ of mandamus to "force the Borough Council to formally and permanently recognize the validity of its [Dec. 16] vote consistent with the voting rules that govern this council..."

Borough Solicitor Terry Williams, however, said at the Jan. 13 meeting that it was valid to consider the proposal again because it was a new matter before a new council, not a reconsideration.

"Here it’s a new council, and the council has asked to put this on the agenda for further consideration. It’s not a reconsideration. It’s a consideration of a new matter,"  Williams said. "Yes, you [previously] heard a lot about it. It’s like the budget. The minute you have a new council one of the first things you can do is address the budget to modify it. In my opinion it is a legitimate exercise that all councils have regardless of the nature of the action."

Organizers Groznik PR and Centre Foundation provided a list in the fall that indicated 20 of 22 affected businesses approved of the Summers on Allen proposal.

Community brainstorm sessions to discuss ways to use the plaza are scheduled for Saturday and Tuesday, and Brad Groznik said that planning for Summers on Allen will continue unabated.

"We trust the borough followed the law in approving Summers On Allen. The only thing this complaint will accomplish is wasting time and taxpayer money on addressing its pointless claim," Groznik said. "There will be no interruption in our planning and we look forward to a successful project."

Centre Foundation Executive Director Molly Kunkel also said she believes the borough took proper action in approving the proposal.

 

"We stand by the borough leadership and the council in its decision to approve Summers On Allen," Kunkel said. "This complaint is an unfortunate distraction to a project that is overwhelmingly supported in the community."

 



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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