Further context – a timeline of Penn State executives’ and trustees’ actions

August 25, 1999 – Corporate Penn State buys land from RK Mellon Foundation and Mark and Marcia Bookman (50-50 joint owners, each selling their stake, for $1 and $99,307 respectively – 8.25.99 Deed 18.25.99 Deed 2

November 7, 2003, Penn State Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz submits application to Ferguson Township seeking Township upzoning of the land from RA to R4, and incorporation into Regional Growth Boundary. 11.7.03 PSU-Sweetland Application to Ferguson Township for Upzoning RA to R4 with Deeds Attached

November 2003 to October 2004 – Numerous area municipalities and planning agencies recommend Ferguson Township deny Penn State’s upzoning application, to protect the water, farmland and regional growth boundary. Representative sample: 3.29.04 Centre Region Planning Agency to Ferguson Township Re Whitehall Road Zoning Change

June 14, 2004– Penn State Assistant Vice President for Finance and Business Dan Simienski submits $1,000 application check to Ferguson Township for rezoning review process. 6.14.04 PSU Rezoning Check Cover Letter D. Sieminski to M. Kunkle

September 7, 2004 – Ferguson Township supervisors approve the upzoning by 3-2. Steve Miller votes “No.” 9.7.04 Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors Minutes

February 25, 2008 – Penn State files “declaration of access easements” with Centre County Recorder of Deeds, citing subdivision plan. 2.25.08 PSU Easements Six Lot FT Subdivision

February 27, 2008 – Penn State’s Gary Schultz, as owner, files subdivision plat plan, approved by Ferguson Township Planning Commission on or about February 7, 2008 and by Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors on or about February 14, 2008 (signed by Board Chair Richard Mascolo, husband of Centre Region Parks Authority Board Chair Sue Mascolo) at Penn State’s request, clearly showing road access from Blue Course Drive to Shingletown Road across the watershed, and linking development of adjacent public park to development of student housing complex. 2007 PSU-Sweetland Engineering Six Lot Subdivision

December 29, 2011 – Penn State commissions production of glossy full-page marketing booklet to solicit bids at a meeting in Hershey, from developers, to construct student housing on land rezoned – at Penn State’s request – in 2004 and subdivided – at Penn State’s request – in 2008. 2011 Whitehall Road Investment Prospectus

April 24, 2012 – Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray signs sales contract with Richard Keyser, Toll Brothers Vice President for Commercial Acquisitions and Development. 4.24.12 PSU-Toll Purchase and Sales Agreement

May 4, 2012 – Penn State Board of Trustees, led by Karen Peetz, President of Bank of New York Mellon, approves sales contract for $13.5 million. 5.4.12 PSU BOT Minutes (See page 10).

September 20, 2013 – Penn State Board of Trustees adds 5.5 acres to the planned sale, located outside the regional growth boundary and still zoned Rural Agricultural, to Toll Brothers, for the purpose of stormwater management basin construction. The minutes note that Karen Peetz is not present for vote, but in any case, the Board finds she has no conflict of interest under University bylaws, despite BNY Mellon’s Boston Company Asset Management being the seventh-largest investor in Toll Brothers. 9.20.13 PSU BOT Minutes (See page 11-12); 8.14.12 Toll Bros Peetz Reuters

July 7, 2017 – Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray, in a CDT editorial, states

“the University is not involved in the proposed housing development.”

Post by Katherine Watt

Context for the Eviction

On July 7, the Centre Daily Times published an op-ed by David Gray, Penn State Vice President for Finance and Business.

Gray wrote:

“…The university is not involved in the proposed housing development…”

That was but one of the false statements in Gray’s op-ed, and Nittany Valley Water Coalition members Kelli Hoover and Terry Melton rebutted it in their July 13 op-ed, citing evidence:

“However, in 2011 PSU produced a multi-page brochure to market this land to developers for student housing (files obtained by Right-to-Know filing).”

David Stone, Mark Huncik and I obtained the “investment prospectus” during a Right to Know review of documents held by the Ferguson Township Planning Department in December 2015.

It included two pages of handwritten notes, indicating that on December 29, 2011 – five months before the Penn State Board of Trustees (led at that time by conflicted BNY Mellon President Karen Peetz) approved the main portion of the land sale from Penn State to Toll Brothers on May 4, 2012 – there was a private meeting at the Hotel Hershey.

Attendees at that meeting appear to have included Craig Rickards, then-Manager of Penn State Facilities and Real Estate Services (now deceased); Michael Jordan, a “PSU Grad, and Assistant VP and Controller” at Toll Brothers; Richard Keyser, Toll Brothers Vice President for Commercial Acquisitions and Development; Charles Elliott, Toll Brothers Managing Director and Charles Vatterott, Executive Vice President of Development at Aspen Heights.

2011 Whitehall Road Investment Prospectus

We do not know why the investment prospectus was in the public Ferguson Township Planning Department files for the Whitehall Road/Blue Course Drive development, and we do not know who else attended the December 29, 2011 meeting.

What we do know is that someone produced the brochure to  help Penn State executives market the property to prospective student housing developers, and that Penn State’s David Gray subsequently signed a sales agreement with Toll Brothers’ Richard Keyser on April 24, 2012. We have a small portion of that document, also found during our Right to Know file review at Ferguson Township Planning Department in December 2015.

4.24.12 PSU-Toll Purchase and Sales Agreement

Penn State is exempt, by state law, from the Right to Know provisions that would enable citizens to shed light on these backroom deals.

Penn State executives have, in private meetings, repeatedly told NVWC representatives that the university cannot unilaterally withdraw from the 2012 sales contract to facilitate the execution of a land swap and protect the watershed and farmland.

Skeptical of that assertion, and wanting to be fully prepared for upcoming meetings with Penn State and Toll Brothers executives, NVWC representatives have repeated requested an opportunity to review the complete sales contract, including all contingency provisions.

Penn State executives have repeatedly denied those requests.

Post by Katherine Watt

Penn State is escalating.

Notices posted by PSU OPP staff at the PSU/Toll Brothers development site on Thursday, July 20.

Kelli Hoover and David Hughes, Nittany Valley Water Coalition representatives, received the following email today from Kurt Kissinger, Associate Vice President for Finance and Business at corporate Penn State.

Kelli and David,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with us before the July 4th holiday to discuss your concerns regarding the Toll Brothers planned residential development on Whitehall Road. I understand that Charima has scheduled a meeting with representatives of Toll Brothers in the next couple of weeks. I look forward to participating in the discussion.

As a follow-up to our discussion regarding the presence of protestors at the site, we appreciate your concern for the health, safety and well-being of all concerned, in addition to the adherence to relevant University policy and local ordinances. As we discussed, the protestors camping at the Whitehall property are in direct violation of University Policy AD 57, which prohibits camping on University property except in those areas designated by the Office of Physical Plant or other administrative unit of the University. Also, the University previously received a determination from Ferguson Township that camping on University property at another location in the township is not permitted.  Accordingly, we kindly ask that camping on Penn State owned land on Whitehall Road cease immediately.

Furthermore, since our meeting we received the attached notification letter from Ferguson Township citing potential violation of the Township’s Sign Ordinance at the site. The University has 30 days to comply with the stated notice. Since the University has not granted its permission for the placing of signs, we kindly ask that you remove the signs immediately.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will be notifying the protestors at the Whitehall Road property that they are trespassing.  The area where the protest is occurring is not open to the public.  The protesters’ presence on the site violates University policy and has not been consented to by Penn State.

Thank you for our cooperation, and I look forward to meeting with you again soon.

Best wishes,

Kurt

Kurt A. Kissinger, MPIA

Associate Vice President for Finance and Business

The Pennsylvania State University/Finance and Business/208 Old Main/University Park, PA 16802

Tel: 814-865-6574/ kak47@psu.edu/www.fandb.psu.edu

Kissinger attached the following notice from Ferguson Township Zoning Administrator Jeffrey Ressler, dated June 28 and stamped received by David Gray, Vice President for Finance and Business, on July 3.

6.28.17 Ferguson Twp Letter re Sign Ordinance Violations

Within a very short time, Penn State Office of Physical Plant employees drove up to the Whitehall Road/Blue Course Drive site and pounded two new notices into the ground.

Photo above.

More context as to why Penn State may be escalating in this way, at this time, to follow.

Also of note, as the above was happening this afternoon, the Penn State Board of Trustees committees were meeting in Harrisburg, and Ferguson Township Supervisor Laura Dininni was in executive session with the rest of the Ferguson Board of Supervisors, who are apparently attempting to remove her from the office to which Ferguson voters elected her, or otherwise discipline her, because her fierce advocacy for her constituents and community water and farmland makes other members of the board uncomfortable.

Posted by KW

Updates – July 19, 2017

Potluck Saturday July 22; upcoming meetings; links to op-eds and letters to the editor

By KW

Occupation Update & Potluck

The occupation is now 6 and a half weeks old, and will celebrate the 7-week mark with a potluck at the site this Saturday, July 22, at 6 p.m. Please come out! Facebook event page.

Forthcoming Meetings

Thanks to the occupation, the many yard signs all over our community, many letters to the editor and other forms of pressure on Penn State, we now have two meetings scheduled with decision makers.

On Tuesday, July 25, Nittany Valley Water Coalition reps are scheduled to meet with Penn State reps to discuss possible alternative sites for the Toll Brothers project, that could become part of a land swap.

And on Wednesday, August 2, NVWC reps are scheduled to meet with Penn State and Toll Brothers reps to continue assessing the possibilities for a land swap.

Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor

There has been a good amount of public discussion in our two main local newspapers – the Centre Daily Times and the Centre County Gazette/StateCollege.com. Below are some of the links:

Expanding the Reach

We are interested in getting the message out to a statewide audience if possible, especially as the PA Supreme Court is considering whether or not to hear the NVWC appeal of the Commonwealth Court decision.

Contact info for newspapers in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh below – please write letters.

NVWC also has several thousand copies of a small flier to be hung on doorknobs around our community.

Please email nittanyvalleywatercoalition@gmail.com if you can help with that.

Updates

By KW

Nittany Valley Water Coalition representatives continue to work toward setting up a meeting with Penn State executives and Toll Brothers executives, to identify and assess other parcels of Penn State-owned land in the Centre Region for a potential land swap that would meet the community’s interest in protecting the Slab Cabin Run watershed from intensive development while still meeting Penn State’s interest in profitable land sales and Toll Brothers interest in profitable student housing development.

In the last few weeks, several Penn State executives have stopped by the site to talk with occupiers, including Damon Sims, Vice President for Student Affairs; Zach Moore, Vice President for Government and Community Relations; and Steve Maruszewski, Assistant Vice President for Office of Physical Plant.

In other news:

Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors held an executive session on Monday, June 26 to discuss whether the Township should file a formal statement to the PA Supreme Court regarding the plaintiffs’ appeal of the May 2017 Commonwealth Court ruling regarding the planned Toll Brothers/Penn State luxury student housing development near Whitehall Road and Blue Course Drive.

Supervisor Laura Dininni had proposed that the Township urge the Supreme Court to take up the appeal, on the grounds that the conflict between the November 16, 2015 PRD approval by the Township and the Township’s own zoning laws has left Township staff – and municipalities across Pennsylvania – in a legally ambiguous position and weakened agricultural zoning as a land use planning tool.

Although the door to the meeting was closed, I was in the hall outside waiting to see if they would emerge and announce a public meeting in order to hold a vote. The supervisors and staff were speaking loudly because one participant was on speakerphone, so I heard most of the discussion.

Meeting participants included Board Chair Steve Miller, supervisors Laura Dininni and Rita Graef in person, supervisor Peter Buckland by telephone, Township Manager Dave Pribulka and Township Solicitor Joe Green. Supervisor Janet Whitaker was absent.

Pribulka summarized the problem nicely, explaining that the 5.5-acre parcel intended for stormwater detention, under the current legal circumstances, is simultaneously part of the adjacent Planned Resident Development (PRD) zoning, as an “accessory” to the student housing development, and also not part of the PRD, because it’s still zoned Rural Agricultural, although its planned use doesn’t comply with Township laws governing authorized uses of RA land. Township staff are therefore left in limbo if confronted with another land development plan making similar requests for similar land use plan approvals.

Supervisors Dininni and Buckland generally argued in favor of asking the Supreme Court to take up the case to provide clarification.

Chair Miller and Solicitor Green generally argued in favor of doing nothing, on the grounds that the Township “won” at the Commonwealth Court level. Green apparently prepared a recommendation memo to that effect.

Supervisor Graef generally tried to say nothing substantive while still saying words occasionally.

In the end, Buckland rang off before anyone could make a motion, and in the ensuing procedural discussion about whether to hold a vote and if so, whether to open the meeting to the public to witness the vote (in compliance with the PA Sunshine Act), Dininni was told that without decisive supervisor action to reverse Green’s recommendation as written in his memo, the solicitor’s recommendation would simply be implemented without a board vote.

And so it was.

I’ve since heard that about 50 concerned citizens sent emails to the board on this issue, which – if I understand correctly – is more than they’ve had on a single issue in quite awhile.

Through this event, we’ve learned yet another way that some local officials thwart the public interest in accountable, transparent, responsive governance – in this case, by presenting a solicitor’s memo as a default course of action, requiring a majority vote to override.

As always, this is useful information.

There is a large knowledge gap between what insiders know about how to rig procedures to obtain pre-selected outcomes, and what concerned citizens know about that topic, but concerned citizens are closing the gap fast.

Potluck party at the encampment!

Potluck party at the protest encampment of the Toll Brothers development
Friday, June 30 starting at 6:30 pm.

To mark the one month anniversary of the occupation of the Toll Brothers proposed development on the Slab Cabin Run watershed, we will host a potluck at the site. Join us and bring a dish to share, your own plates & cutlery, and a chair to sit on. There will be live music and great people to meet. There are several tents if you want to camp out overnight. Please park at High Point Park across the street or in the church parking lot next door. Bring your family and friends.

Action Items

From Kelli Hoover

Contacting Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors RePA Supreme Court Review of Land Use Appeal Case

We have a chance to create the circumstances that would strongly encourage the PA Supreme Court to take up our case against the Toll Brothers development, but we need your help to do it.

On Monday evening the Ferguson Township Supervisors are meeting to decide how to respond to the filing of our appeal against the Toll Brothers development. Two of the supervisors are willing to propose that the Board file a brief to ask the court to hear our appeal. We need to convince one more supervisor at least to join them.

To do that, please send an email to all five supervisors and paraphrase what’s written below asking them all to request that the PA Supreme Court hear our case.

Having the municipal officials ask for this will go a long way to convincing the Supreme Court to take the case. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Ferguson or not, and you can say that if you want, because this decision affects everyone in the region.

PLEASE DO THIS BY MONDAY MORNING AT THE LATEST.

Email addresses for Board of Supervisors

SAMPLE TEXT

“Dear Ferguson Township Supervisors:

As you know, the legality of the approval of the Toll Brothers development has been appealed to the PA Supreme Court. Because the Commonwealth Court’s decision did not directly address the issues related to the Township’s zoning ordinances in conjunction with PRD approvals, considerable confusion has been created about how to interpret what the Township can and cannot do when considering these kinds of development approvals in the future.

I am writing to respectfully request that the Board file a response to the Supreme Court appeal asking the Court to hear the issue. The Township has been put into a position of potential liability by the confusion created by this situation, which can only be clarified by a hearing in the PA Supreme Court. This is the right thing to do for the Township residents and for the Board’s ability to make clear decisions on zoning/PRD approvals in the future.

Thank you.

Your name

Where you live (township)”

Contacting PSU Board of Trustees to Urge Land Swap:

Below is a letter from David Hughes of the Nittany Valey Water Coalition to President Barron sent on Thursday, June 22 to give Barron information that the science and the risks to the wells from the Toll Brothers development are real and why.

Penn State has been claiming that there are no risks to our water, and that we have no science to back up our claims that there are indeed potential risks.

Please consider writing to President Barron and the Board of Trustees to voice your concerns to ask them to do a land swap with Toll Brothers – sell them land that doesn’t threaten our water supply.

Addresses for Barron and Trustees (Jay Paterno will be replacing Albert Lord in July):

  • Abraham Harpster – amh102@psu.edu
  • Albert Lord – all300@psu.edu
  • Alex Hartzler – jah107@psu.edu
  • Alice Pope – awp130@psu.edu
  • Allison Goldstein – asg206@psu.edu
  • Anthony Lubrano – apl12@psu.edu
  • Barbara Doran – bld221@psu.edu
  • Betsy Huber – beh17@psu.edu
  • Chris Hoffman – crh24@psu.edu
  • Cynthia Dunn – cad46@psu.edu
  • Daniel Mead – dsm232@psu.edu
  • David Han – dch24@psu.edu
  • David Kleppinger – dmk93@psu.edu
  • Donald Cotner – dgc14@psu.edu
  • Elliott Weinstein – eww127@psu.edu
  • Eric Barron – president@psu.edu Admin
  • Ira Lubert – iml2@psu.edu Trustee
  • Julia Potts – jap58@psu.edu Trustee
  • Kathleen Casey – klc341@psu.edu Trustee
  • Kay Salvino – kfs13@psu.edu Trustee
  • Keith Masser – kem375@psu.edu Trustee
  • Luke Metaxas – lrm26@psu.edu Trustee
  • Mark Dambley – mhd15@psu.edu
  • Mary Lee Schneider – mls85@psu.edu
  • Matthew Schuyler – mws18@psu.edu
  • Pedro Rivera – par119@psu.edu
  • Richard Dandrea – rkd135@psu.edu
  • Robert Capretto – roc5064@psu.edu
  • Robert Fenza – ref18@psu.edu
  • Robert Jubelirer – rcj10@psu.edu
  • Robert Tribeck – rjt107@psu.edu
  • Russell Redding – rcr132@psu.edu
  • Ryan McCombie – rjm40@psu.edu
  • Ted Brown – ebb136@psu.edu
  • Thomas Wolf – tww10@psu.edu
  • Valerie Detwiler – vls153@psu.edu
  • Walter Rakowich – wcr121@psu.edu
  • William Oldsey – wxo111@psu.edu
  • William Shipley – wss129@psu.edu

When you send your message, please also send a copy to nittanyvalleywater@gmail.com, so the coalition can keep track of how many letters get sent.

 

Update from the Occupation – June 22

Occupation Day 20

I wasn’t on site until about 11 pm today when I just popped in to say goodnight.

Dave Stone told me he talked to a gent from DEP today who said he was surprised that he didn’t see more public outcry when he first saw the permit application. I’m wondering why we couldn’t trust our elected officials to do the right thing. Isn’t that what they’re elected to do?

Although I wasn’t physically present at the encampment today I was there in spirit. As I know many of you were.

In body, I was getting back in touch with my Pisces nature and spent quite some time removing plastic trash from Roaring Run. I sat on a rock in the stream meditating on how lucky we are here and what a bad track record the human race has with keeping water clean and available for all beings.

My meditation was inspired; I had a first today – I saw a bobcat up close, running right to Roaring Run. This place where our water flows from houses and protects many living beings. We are ALL in this together.

I’m wondering if someone would take over the daily encampment updates as this will be my last one. I’ve enjoyed it, especially your replies❤️, but I’ll be spending less time on site as I’ve got to turn more intently to politics.

I’m hoping to get ahead of some threats and to help provide some positive opportunities long term.

In solidarity,

Laura