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Hilltop Residents Voice Concern Over Potential Sale of Land

by on December 06, 2012 10:26 PM

One man stood before the College Township Council and said only two constants are left in his life: working at Penn State and his residency at Hilltop.

The latter, however, is in jeopardy, as the current property owner has told Hilltop residents that they have until Feb. 28 to leave the Hilltop Mobile Home Park community.

The landowner intends to sell the land at 1275 Pennsylvania Ave. to a developer, who wants to rezone the property. If the land is sold, it could leave many families in the lurch – even homeless.

In November, the developer had planned to come before the council on Thursday night with the rezoning request. However, the hearing has been postponed indefinitely – a move some believe has to do with the opposition.

Council has the option of denying a hearing for the zoning request outright – which received cheers at the meeting on Thursday night – but it has yet to be an agenda item at all and my not be until January or February.

Even if the re-zoning hearing does not come before council until after the Feb. 28 deadline, residents will still have to evacuate if the property is sold.

Residents were still able to address council on Thursday night, despite it not being a hearing. Each individual expressed support for the community, telling a unique story of how they came to be a part of a community they now can't imagine leaving.

Originally constructed in 1940 as a community for World War II veterans who were able to go back to school because of the GI Bill, Hilltop is a mixed-residence community providing affordable housing to families, students and individual residents working and living in College Township.

Mary Lou Martin, a Hilltop resident for more than a decade, said she, along with at least five of her neighbors, are veterans themselves.

"It's ironic that it started for veterans, and now, we're being told to leave," she said.

There is space for 147 homes in the community. Matthew Rooke, a spokesman for the Hilltop Residence Association and design engineer, said a mobile home community is critical for the township.

"It could be a six-, nine-month process for this to go through ... we don't have that amount of time," Rooke said.

"A diverse community is a strong community," he said.

Rooke urged council to publicly support Hilltop.

"Do something now that would at least indicate your public support to remain a manufactured home community," he said.

Many residents were not pleased with the alternative — looking for land elsewhere to re-start the co-op. They said there's no reason to push a community farther away from the heart of State College.

Council was sympathetic, though there was nothing members were able to do on Thursday night.

"I don't want to go through a rezoning request any more than anyone does on this council," said David Fryer, council chairman. "I wish we could take a vote tonight, but we can't."

He suggested Hilltop residents taking any action they can while there's still time.

"If you can negotiate your way out of the sale of that land up there – it doesn't surprise me that there's a passionate plea here. I'm sorry, but you know, it's really, at this point, not in our hands yet," Fryer said.



Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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