State College Council Advances Domestic-Partner Registry Concept
State College Borough Council agreed Monday to advance a domestic-partner registry, an initiative that would allow unmarried borough couples -- including same-gender couples -- a way to document their relationships.
"We should do this mainly because it advances justice, and it's the best we can do as a governing body," council member Peter Morris said.
No one on the council opposed the measure at the group's Monday work session. Only council member Tom Daubert was absent.
"It seems to me that this is a practical ordinance" for those who, at some point, need official documentation to confirm they've been in a committed relationship for some time, council member Theresa Lafer said.
In Pennsylvania, the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg have passed similar measures. Advocates have said such a registry is particularly useful for unmarried couples who need to prove the duration of their respective relationships at key moments. Those key moments include when employers need documentation for benefits eligibility and when hospitals need documentation under dire medical circumstances.
"This gives (unwed couples) something to point to, (to show) that at a point preceding the problem, they registered," borough solicitor Terry Williams said.
Morris and the late borough Mayor Bill Welch, who died in 2009, originally requested that the council consider the creation of a domestic-partner registry. Participation in the registry would be wholly voluntary.
A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for the council's Aug. 1 meeting. The council is tentatively expected to vote on the measure at that meeting, as well.
In other news at Monday's council meeting and work session:
- The council received an update on the planned Fraser Centre complex, to be built at Fraser Street and West Beaver Avenue. Several years behind schedule, the project has occupants lined up for 70 percent of its anticipated square footage, developer Jack Kay told the council.
Kay, the president of York-based Susquehanna Real Estate, said that construction on the project can begin once the effort reaches the 80 percent-occupancy threshold. In effect, he said, that means the 11-story plans need to secure one more floor's worth of occupancy commitments before work can begin.
Kay voiced optimism that work can begin by the fall.
"I am feeling much more optimistic about it based on the expressions of interest" that Susquehanna has fielded recently, he said. Kay said the project has gained some occupancy commitments and lost others in the past several months. The overall amount of committed space in the project is about where it was three months ago.
Kay also noted that a hotel concept is no longer part of the Fraser Centre plans. Roughly four floors of the complex would be dedicated to a planned cinema and related uses, including dining; one floor, to other commercial uses; three floors, to condominiums; and two floors, to office space, he said.
Other space would be devoted to mechanical and technical needs in the building. Original plans had called for five floors of residential uses, but changing market conditions compelled the development group to reallocate two of those for office space, Kay has said.
- Bill Elmendorf, chairman of the borough Tree Commission, said he believes the new tree-planting efforts expected on the 100 block of West Beaver Avenue will leave a "very attractive" street-scape.
On that block, earlier this summer, a subcontractor working on the Fraser Street realignment project mistakenly cut down seven street trees. An initial plan to fix the error called for three strategically located, sizable trees. Now, though, the borough is weighing whether perhaps five trees should be positioned there, Elmendorf said.
"I'm not trying to get out of anything," he said. Rather, Elmendorf said, the borough's overall approach to planting street trees has steadily evolved, focusing on more effective spacing among trees and on the use of trees better suited to an urban environment. He said the replacement trees on West Beaver Avenue will be relatively large in diameter -- at some four inches apiece.
- The council effectively finalized a draft of a proposed inclusionary-housing ordinance. It would require any new development of six or more dwelling units to include a 10 percent allocation of workforce-oriented housing. Developers could pay an in-lieu fee to the borough in order to avoid incorporating the inclusionary housing directly into a new development. The borough would then put that money toward inclusionary housing elsewhere in town. A public hearing on the proposal is anticipated for Aug. 15.