State College Borough Council discusses student housing issues

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

by Lauren Boyer
September 21, 2010
STATE COLLEGE — A study presented at Monday’s Borough Council meeting recommends increasing rental permit fees and decreasing the number of unrelated residents per rental house.
This month, the borough released a Sustainable Neighborhood Report, which offers steps toward limiting what it deems “studentification” of areas near campus.
Between May 2009 and June 2010, the zoning office issued six new permits authorizing single family homes to be used as student homes — an increasing trend in the borough, said Planning Director Carl Hess, who presented the report Monday night.
Currently, three unrelated people — typically students — can occupy these newly converted homes. The report recommends decreasing this number of unrelated occupants to two.
In 2009-10, the borough counted 683 violations for offenses like disorderly conduct, noise and liquor at rental houses, compared to 300 reported in 1994.
According to the Centre Region Council of Governments website, annual rental permits in State College currently cost $42.50 per house, apartment, townhouse, duplex or mobile home.
The report recommends raising these fees by $50 per unit to recover costs of staff time spent on ordinance enforcement of these properties.
The implementation of a “Good Neighbor School” may soon be proposed by borough staff, the report said.
When borough police arrest a student, the Penn State Office of Judicial Affairs receives notice of the apprehension.
Borough staff is exploring asking Judicial Affairs to require first-time offenders for summary offenses like public drunkenness and criminal mischief to attend a “Good Neighbor School,” which would train them on the impact of the offenses on the neighborhood.
In other business, Mayor Elizabeth Goreham recommended the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts take over the role held by the Art in Public Places Committee. Council delayed action on the suggestion for a future meeting.
Goreham, the committee’s chairwoman, suggested the festival group accept the role of inventorying and surveying public art and establishing a process for adding more artwork.
About $1,500 of the committee’s leftover money would go toward the group, Goreham said. Originally, the borough gave the committee $5,500, the remnants of State College’s Centennial Fund.
The committee, Goreham said, spent most of the funds paying for the design and painting of a mural on the side of McLanahan’s Downtown Market on South Allen Street.
“What some people think is gorgeous and beautiful other people think is terrible,” Councilman Tom Daubert said. “What’s going to be the process to decide?”