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PSU Harrisburg student housing plan approved despite flooding concerns

By Laura Hayes


Posted 9/5/18

A split Lower Swatara Planning Commission gave the green light for the third phase of Penn State Harrisburg student housing at Campus Heights Village, with concerns over flooding leading to a 3-2 …

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PSU Harrisburg student housing plan approved despite flooding concerns


A split Lower Swatara Planning Commission gave the green light for the third phase of Penn State Harrisburg student housing at Campus Heights Village, with concerns over flooding leading to a 3-2 vote.

The final lot consolidation and land development plan was approved Aug. 23.

Some commission members also expressed concern over the condition of North Wood Street, which runs from Route 230 to where the new phase would be built.

In January, College Town Communities officials said this is the third and final part of the project. This part of the project calls for 14 buildings in seven clusters and a club house on 7.1 acres, including 84 units and 336 bedrooms.

According to Lower Swatara’s Planning and Zoning Coordinator Ann Hursh, the plan would combine 32 parcels bordered on North Lawrence Street, West High Street and Dauphin Street.

“We’ve talked about Wood Street and the problems with water on that street now since the first time you guys came here,” planning commission member Eric Breon said to College Town Communities officials.

He likened North Wood Street in a heavy rain to the Swatara Creek. Water, Breon said, runs down the street and forms a pool, which he estimated to be 6 inches deep, on Route 230.

“This is the last chance we’re going to have to control anything else that’s been damaging that area there and providing all that runoff [water],” Breon said.

Breon and Kimber Latsha voted against the plan.

Breon asked Lower Swatara staff if they felt this would address the water runoff. Township Engineer Andrew Kenworthy said the plan addressed all the requirements, including collecting and controlling the storm water.

“It’s certainly not making it any worse. I would say it is on the side of improvement vs. making it worse,” Kenworthy said.

Larry Grybosky with C2C Design Group — the engineering and design firm behind Campus Heights Village — said they were catching a lot of the runoff water coming off the fields, which was then being piped into a basin and controlled. College Town Communities’ attorney Ambrose Heinz pointed out that there were other properties between Campus Heights and Route 230.

We can control what is on our site and what is coming from above us, Heinz said.

Breon asked whether they planned to improve North Wood Street.

“The traffic isn’t coming from those six property owners that are on Wood Street today. The traffic is going to come from those college kids up in there, down Wood Street to that light,” Breon said.

Plans did not call for improvements to North Wood Street, and Breon said he felt like the township was accepting the burden to repair that road, which he argued will deteriorate more quickly.

Planning commission member Dennis Fausey echoed Breon’s sentiment.

“I would like to see them take care of that. It makes sense,” Fausey said.

During previous phases of the project, Campus Heights has improved their side of the road, Township Solicitor Peter Henninger said. The other side of the road, south of their property, belongs to those property owners.

Both Henninger and Grybosky said if there were developments on the southern properties, they would have a responsibility to improve their side of the street as well.

Grybosky said he would take the concerns back to his client to see if improving North Wood Street was something they would consider.

Latsha said if the property owners were willing to consider improving the street, he wanted the motion to make it a stipulation “that they bring something back here as part of that consideration as to what they may or may not do.”

Fausey countered, “They’re in compliance. All I can ask is that they consider and maybe help us out here.”

Township staff didn’t note any major concerns with the plan outside of vacating some of the streets in between parcels that will be combined and annexing two small triangle pieces of property left over from one of the previous project phases.

Township solicitor Peter Henninger said that before the plan can be recorded some items — such as documents to vacate the streets — would need to be approved by him and other staff members.

According to Matthew Genesio, CEO and co-founder of College Town Communities, they hope to break ground on the project next summer. Construction is estimated to take two years, he said. 

“We hope to get final land development approval from the Board of Commissioners in the next month or so. Then we'll need to complete various legal and financial procedures throughout the winter in order to finalize the process and be able to break ground next summer,” Genesio said. 

Genesio said they own most of the townhouses on Gina Lane, but are also equitable owners of all of the other properties. 

“We plan to officially purchase these properties in the second quarter of 2019,” Genesio said.