By Irene Miller
“Anyone considering volunteer service on the Planning Commission should be prepared to think long-term, so 10 or even 15 years out from now,” Keough recently shared with attendees at the CBICC’s new series ABC Essentials: The Future’s Blueprint. “We look at the big picture, so it’s not about a single issue or saying ‘don’t put that there.’”
Stolinas referenced several of the active ABCs that Ferguson Township residents can serve on before focusing on a deeper conversation about the two that he works most directly with: Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board.
“These two ABCs are connected,” Stolinas told the audience. “Planning is advisory, while Zoning is quasi-judicial – the decisions made stay with the land.”
Pine Hall is a proposed development just off Blue Course Drive that would serve as a town center, including a place-making space, hotel, cinema, grocery store, and several types of housing. Per a township ordinance, this includes 10% affordable housing, which equates to 102 units.
“The developer was up-front with us during a charrette that it would include some student housing, but it would also include an eco-village with houses made of environmentally-friendly materials and solar panels,” said Stolinas. “The place-making space would serve as community gathering area for celebrations, like the 4th of July.”
Before a plan is implemented in the community, it is reviewed by many people and from many angles.
Alpha Fire Company, CATA, Centre Region Council of Governments, and lighting engineers are just a few of the professional and technical reviews that take place. When members of the current Planning Commission look at a plan, they are thinking from the perspectives of a farmer, business owner, former supervisor, and resident.
The discussion also touched on some of the tools and resources that both township staff and members of the Planning Commission rely on to guide the look of the community’s future.
Zoning maps show which parts of the township are zoned for agriculture, commercial/office, downtown district, forest, industrial/office, mixed use, parks/recreation/conservation, public/institutional, residential, and transportation/communication/utilities.
“Harner Farm is a recent example,” Stolinas noted. “It was originally zoned as Rural Agricultural (RA) and designated ‘Mixed Use’ on the 2013 Ferguson Township Future Land Use Map, but after the owners requested it be rezoned, there will now be some residential R-1 Single Family and General Commercial.”
Keough pointed out the many preserved farms on the map. “Ferguson Township made a decision many years ago to preserve farms and we now have the highest number of them in the county.”
One of the quarterly “Coffee & Conversation” sessions that Ferguson Township hosts around the township is held at Baileyville Community Center. This is typically the most well-attended event and allows many area farmers to discuss how ordinances are affecting them.
Other maps that are routinely consulted show things like parks, bike paths, and the regional growth/public sewer boundary.
If a decision is made by the township that another party disagrees with, then they can appeal it to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Members of this board review the decision and compare it to the pertinent code or ordinance. A variance may be issued to the land parcel in question by the applicant. Or, a suggested edit to the code may be voiced for future consideration.
Appeals are routinely heard regarding topics like flood plain issues, storm water management, and acceptable uses of land.
“The State College Borough Water Authority recently came before the Zoning Hearing Board,” Stolinas shared with the attendees. “Originally, their plan called for a water treatment facility to be built in very close proximity to the flood plain and riparian buffer, but it has since been moved outside of it.”
On rare occasions, the Zoning Hearing Board will also hear validity challenges.
For residents wishing to serve on a Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, or any other ABC, please contact your local municipality.
In Ferguson Township, the Planning Commission’s meetings occur twice a month, are open to the public, are broadcast by C-NET, and minutes can be found on the township’s website.
There are seven members and three alternates, serving for staggered four-year terms:
- Lisa Strickland, Chairperson (term expires 12/31/2021)
- Bill Keough, Vice-Chairperson (term expires 12/31/2019)
- Rob Crassweller, Secretary (term expires 12/31/2019)
- Jerry Binney, Member (term expires 12/31/2023)
- Erik Scott, Member (term expires 12/31/2019)
- Ralph Wheeland, Member (term expires 12/31/2021)
- Jeremie Thompson, Member (term expires 12/31/2019)
- Shannon Holliday, Alternate (term expires 12/31/2021)
In Ferguson Township, the Zoning Hearing Board’s meetings occur monthly, are open to the public, and minutes can be found on the township’s website. There are five members, serving five-year terms, as well as three alternates:
- Michael Twomley, Chairperson (term expires 12/31/2023)
- Michael McNeeley, Vice-Chairperson (term expires 12/31/2022)
- Susan Buda, Secretary (term expires 12/31/2021)
- Irene Miller, Member (term expires 12/31/2019)
- Swamy Anantheswaran, Member (term expires 12/31/2020)
- Stevie Rocco, Alternate (term expires 12/31/2021)
To join view a schedule of all the ABC Essentials’ sessions – sponsored by Maher Duessel, please click here!