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State College Residents View Planning Commission's Draft Neighborhood Plan

by on March 20, 2014 8:39 PM

State College residents had an opportunity Thursday night to view the detailed results of the Planning Commission's analysis of the borough's neighborhoods.

For more than a year, the Planning Commission conducted research, including feedback from community forums, to determine recommendations the commission can make to Borough Council to improve the quality of life.

Some of the common themes in our neighborhoods include; enhancing neighborhood activity and community events; neighborhood transportation safety and variety of modes of transportation; and maintaining a high level of enforcement of the borough's ordinances related to property, behavior and occupancy.

Specifically, the plan will guide council when it comes to developing ordinances, policies and other measures according to Planning Commission Chairman Michael Roeckel.

"This is a very good way to inform the borough council of how they should be thinking about neighborhoods," Roeckel says.

Before handing the report over to council, the seven member commission held an "open house" Thursday night at the State College Municipal Building to give residents a chance to review the results.

Karl Mierzejewski, a resident of the Orchard Park neighborhood, participated in two community forums during the research portion of the project. He stopped by to check out the final results.

"The Planning Commission tried really hard. I don't have a single word of criticism," he says.

At the same time, he was disappointed by the lack of engagement by Orchard Park residents throughout the process.

"Here's a chance to actually influence the development of your community. It's hard to understand," says Mierzejewski.

Personally, Mierzejewski would like to see the borough draft business incentives for commercial improvements, particularly with the shopping center on Westerly Parkway, which he says has an outdated appearance. Ultimately, he says, businesses would benefit from the changes by drawing in more customers.

"The potential is there for businesses to make money," he says.

Luke Amory, president of Penn State's Off-Campus Student Union, and some fellow students also viewed the draft plan. Amory said he attended as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the relationship between off-campus students and the borough.

For his neighborhood, Holmes-Foster, Amory says he'd like to see apartment buildings upgraded. He also says he'd like to see more events jointly targeting students and permanent residents to bridge the gap between the groups.

"That's something we're trying to do by working together. It really helps with problems," he says.

Roeckel says students participated in the commission's community forums.

"We had some strong student input on the plan," he says.

Planning Commission member Scott Dutt, who lives in the College Heights neighborhood, says by reviewing the plan he wants residents to appreciate the ultimate goal of the commission.

"I hope that they take away a better understanding of what it is we are trying to do, which is to develop a plan for the future, both in and around the borough, as well as understand what our individual neighborhoods have to offer," Dutt says.

In 2012, the planning commission began updating the 1994 Highlands neighborhood plan and decided to develop neighborhood plans for each community in the borough. Thursday's event was the culmination of that effort. The next step is to review feedback make any necessary changes to the plan, and then present it to Borough Council.

Featured neighborhoods include College Heights, Highlands, Vallamont, Nittany Hills East & Penfield, State College South, Tusseyview, Greentree, Orchard Park, Holmes-Foster/West End, and Penn State's main campus.

View the draft plan HERE.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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