Boeckel’s response to Costello

CRPA Principal Planner Mark Boeckel’s response to Mike Costello’s Sept. 20 email.

Mr. Costello,

Thank you for your email.

I am not aware of any one individual or agency having been tasked by the Centre Region elected officials to cumulatively assess all potential challenges related to the current rate of growth in the Region.

Longer term planning and budgeting to accommodate forecast growth is incorporated into the individual capital improvement programs and budgets of the municipalities and authorities that provide public services in the Region.

The municipalities and authorities communicate on a regular basis with each other to plan for region-wide improvements and often coordinate efforts where practicable.  Specific improvements required to serve new development are assessed during the land development review process.

When a new project is proposed, Staff from the Centre Region municipalities, the COG, public service providers, and State agencies (when applicable) attempt to quantify the impacts that individual projects will have on the overall system and identify necessary improvements to address those impacts. While new development can create unforeseen challenges, those charged with reviewing new development proposals attempt to proactively quantify potential impacts and necessary mitigation based on the best information available.

I’d also like to address your comment regarding the Centre Region Comprehensive Plan, the Regional Growth Boundary (RGB), and its relation the current rate of growth in the Centre Region.

The Regional Growth Boundary was first established in the 2000 Centre Region Comprehensive Plan as a growth management tool. The 2013 Comprehensive Plan states that the majority of future growth in the Region should be directed to areas within the boundary. This allows areas outside of the boundary to retain their rural character with lower development densities while ensuring that public services are concentrated within the boundary, avoiding costly extensions to serve unplanned growth.

This boundary was not established with an urban services capacity in mind, but rather as a location where urban services to meet future development would be provided.  Much of the area included in the RGB in the 2000 Centre Region Comprehensive Plan was already developed and utilizing urban services or was zoned for such development. The Centre Region elected officials have only approved several minor expansions to the RGB since it was first identified in the 2000 plan.

Other than the period just after World War II, the Centre Region’s population has generally grown at a rate of one to two percent annually. It may be fair to say that the current amount of construction in the Centre Region is unprecedented.  Based on available data, the current population growth rate appears to be consistent with historic population growth rates in the Region.

If you have any further questions, please let me know.

Regards,

Mark

 

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Some very good questions

from Mike Costello to Mark Boeckel, Principal Planner, Centre Region Planning Agency:

Dear  Mr. Boeckel,

I’m just a local guy with a very generalized inquiry about current growth rate in the region. I think it’s fair to say this rate is unprecedented and I was just wondering if there was anyone tasked with identifying the resulting challenges and then formulation of a plan to tackle them? If so could you please foward this email to this individual.

This email assumes of course that there is general acknowledgement that the Centre Region Comprehensive Plan and the associated Regional Growth Boundary in the context of full build-out, is not designed as a solution to this unprecedented growth rate.

This email also assumes that even the most experienced urban planners would not be able to foresee, with any degree of certainty, the demands on all our urban systems once all the current projects already approved  come online.

Yours truly, Mike Costello

Updates will be posted when available.

Slab Cabin Run Initiative Has Reached Its Goal!

From Deb Nardone, Executive Director of ClearWater Conservancy:

It’s with great joy and SO much appreciation that I send you this email.  Thanks to generous community support, ClearWater Conservancy has reached our fundraising goal of $2.75 million for the Slab Cabin Run Initiative.

We are finalizing the legal agreement with the Meyer and Everhart families and all 300 acres will be permanently conserved by the end of September.   

I am so humbled by the engaged and passionate support of our great community.  Together, we had the foresight to proactively conserve an important gem in the heart of a growing town while protecting our drinking water, improving our trout streams and preserving this gorgeous landscape.  This achievement means so much for our community, the next generation, and all those who love this place.  It would have never happened without you.

THANK YOU.

You’ll likely hear more about this in the upcoming days and weeks as we make this news public.  But starting today, you can pass by the beautiful landscape along University Drive and know that you played a vital role in its conservation.

To celebrate this significant achievement, please join us on Saturday, October 7th for a fun and family-friendly evening at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in State College.  Guests can take in a gorgeous view of the property we’ve all worked so hard to conserve, listen to great music, enjoy food and drink from our local partners and celebrate what our great community can do together.  This event is free, but we do appreciate your online RSVP by October 1.

I wanted you to be among the first to hear this really exciting news.  Thank you for playing an important part in this impactful project.  A thousand thanks for all you do!

NVWC Open Letter to PSU Trustees

Following sent to Board of Trustees on Sept. 10, 2017, ahead of the board’s meetings this week, at which, by the by, the trustees will not allow public comment:

Dear President Barron and Trustees,

Today is the 100th Day that community members are occupying Penn State Land to object to the proposed student housing development on West Whitehall Road. We are writing to bring you up to date on this important matter as you approach your Board meeting on 9/14 & 9/15.

As of today’s date, Penn State still plans a land sale of 44 acres to Toll Brothers Campus Living for a 1093-bed luxury student housing development. A citizen appeal to block the development based on a zoning ruling is pending with the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. The objection of the community to this sale is based on risks to our water supply because the site is located over geology with the highest  concentration of sinkholes in Center County and these  are close to wellheads that supply the majority of State College’s drinking water. This is considered prime agricultural land; development in this area would increase the frequency of flooding of agricultural fields owned by three farmers who live downslope of this parcel, which is why they joined our lawsuit.

On August 2 we at the Nittany Valley Water Coalition (NVWC) presented Charles Elliott of Toll Brothers Campus Living with detailed information about PSU lands closer to campus in hopes that, in effect, a “land swap” could occur. Details on these properties were discussed in a prior meeting with PSU officials. We then held a follow-up meeting with Elliott on August 16th to discuss Toll Brothers’ preliminary review of these alternative sites for student housing.

Between the two meetings, Elliott and his team ranked several PSU properties with respect to zoning and infrastructure, identifying several as viable alternative sites if township officials and PSU officials facilitate needed approvals (and, obviously, agree to sell the land subsequent to a standard negotiation process). The top ranked site is located on West College Avenue & Blue Course Dr in front of the golf course. Elliott stated that while further corporate economic and structural viability assessments were needed, the alternative site was very attractive for its proximity to campus and downtown amenities. At this time, Toll Brothers and local engineering firm Penn Terra are performing due diligence examinations of the feasibility of low-rise “podium-style” student housing apartments on this 19 acre parcel, indicating they need about 60 days to complete their analysis.

In recent correspondence with Zack Moore (Vice President of PSU Government and Community Relations), NVWC asked Penn State to aid in expediting the process for Toll Brothers by performing their own due diligence on the West College property immediately.

In addition, NVWC has provided Toll Brothers with information regarding non-PSU-owned lands that local landowners are willing to sell them for high-density housing close to campus.

In support of this effort, concerned citizens have occupied the Whitehall Road proposed development site for 100 days as of September 10th and will continue community efforts to stop this development.

We understand that an alternative land sale to Toll Brothers is ultimately a Board of Trustees matter and that a vote in favor would be required. We encourage the Board to approve a land swap with Toll Brothers and hope that Penn State and the Board will engage with the community in a positive and pro-active manner on this critical community concern. Board participation, specifically open dialog and transparency in future interactions with the State College and PSU communities, will be critical moving forward.

Best regards,

Nittany Valley Water Coalition

And, some photos of the 100th day potluck…

 

 

 

Supreme Court finally makes a move.

On August 16, the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court scheduled a disciplinary hearing for outgoing Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, for November 29.

Incumbent Parks Miller was defeated on both sides of the ballot by challenger Bernie Cantorna during the primary election on May 16, and will be out of office effective January 2018 when Cantorna is sworn in, if she doesn’t resign or get removed from office before then.

The scheduling of the hearing rendered the underlying Petition for Discipline, filed February 22, 2017 by Disciplinary Counsel Anthony Czuchnicki, a public document at last.

2.22.17 DB Petition for Discipline SPM

The Petition for Discipline makes clear that, since at least 2013, the Disciplinary Board has been investigating Parks Miller for ex parte communications with Centre County judges (Lunsford and Grine), false statements to investigators, and unethical contact with criminal defendants.

And that the investigators found ample evidence supporting the allegations, despite Parks Miller’s false denials (also known as lies) and attempts to withhold and destroy evidence.

Disciplinary Board investigators found evidence that Parks Miller has repeatedly violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by:

  1. seeking to influence judges by means prohibited by law – 3.5(a);
  2. communicating ex parte with judges during proceedings without authorization by law or court order – 3.5(b);
  3. making false statements of material fact or law to a third person in the course of representing a client – 4.1(a);
  4. implying that she was disinterested in dealing on behalf of a client with a person not represented by counsel – 4.3(a);
  5. failing to make reasonable efforts to correct an unrepresented person’s misunderstanding of her role – 4.3(c);
  6. failing to make reasonable efforts to ensure that nonlawyers under her direct supervisory authority engaged in conduct compatible with the professional obligations of attorneys – 5.3(b);
  7. ordering, ratifying, and/or failing to avoid or mitigate conduct of nonlawyers that would be a violation if engaged in by a lawyer – 5.3(c)1; 5.3(c)2;
  8. knowingly making false statements of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter – 8.1(a);
  9. knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority, in connection with a disciplinary matter – 8.1(b);
  10. violating or attempting to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, and/or knowingly assisting or inducing others to do so – 8.4(a);
  11. engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation – 8.4(c);
  12. engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice – 8.4(d);
  13. knowingly assisting a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law – 8.4(f)

For background, please see the Centre County DA series compilation of reports published by Bailiwick News between Dec. 16, 2016 and May 13, 2017.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

While it’s great that there is finally some movement by the Supreme Court to actually address the rampant abuse of power conducted by Parks Miller since at least 2013, it’s tragic – and a shameful sign of the Supreme Court’s cowardice – that it’s taken them four years to take action.

Judges from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, but especially Centre County and Harrisburg judges, have known of the misconduct for years, let it slide, and sealed public records and public hearings that would have allowed citizens and journalists an opportunity to hold Parks Miller accountable.

As a result, many hundreds of people – criminal defendants, their families, victims of crime, whistleblowers and civil litigants subjected to Parks Millers retributive lawsuits – have been grievously harmed by the miscarriage of justice and abuse of power.

That suffering was preventable, but the Supreme Court judges did not act to protect those people’s rights.

The public burden of that failure to protect the integrity of the courts – the loss of trust in and credibility of the county and state judiciary – will linger long after Parks Miller is out of office, disciplined, disbarred and/or charged with crimes and tried.