Opinions differ on student housing
The Fayette County Commissioners will render their decision on two rezoning hearing issues at their next regular meeting.
The first rezoning hearing was for CHL Development Corporation who requested a change of zone from M-2 Heavy Industrial Designation to R-2 Medium Density Residential on 20.8 acres of property across Route 119 from Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.
According to the corporation’s attorney, Anthony Dedola Jr., the purpose for the request is so the corporation can build student housing.
“There’s not only Penn State in the area but also the West Virginia Career Institute, and even the Laurel Business Institute has expressed a need for such housing, and we hope to fill that need,” said Dedola.
But Robert Finley, assistant vice president, finance and business commonwealth operations for Penn State, said the school is not in support of the student housing.
“We are not looking for student housing to support the Fayette Campus,” said Finley. “It’s a designated commuter campus and to have student housing won’t fit that model.
“If there became a need for student housing, we would provide it on our campus,” he added.
And while the Fayette County Planning Commission recommended approval on the request, it recommended denial for Fay-Penn Economic Development’s request to change an A-1 Agricultural-Rural zoned piece of property in the technology park to B-1 General Business.
The only interest generated for the 18.88 acres located in the technology park has been for student housing, but Fay-Penn’s attorney, Ernest DeHaas, argued that just because that’s all who have shown interest in the property at this point, doesn’t mean that Fay-Penn will definitely sell the property to a developer for that purpose.
“This is not and should not be treated as a request for a particular use,” said DeHaas. “It is not a request limited for approval for student housing, but for a zoning change.”
Finely once again said that the school was against student housing development, but would like to see Fay-Penn fulfill its proposition of developing the property as a research and technology park.
The problem that arises, however, is that the zoning has to be changed in order to develop the property with those uses in mind also.
Another group is apposed to the rezoning if it is to be used for student housing.
Although Mike Krajovic with Fay Penn denies the accusations, the attorney for CHL Development, Dedola, said the company was under the impression that the zoning change request was for developing student housing.
He added that because the property in the technology park is part of the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ), which is tax free, it would be an unfair situation for a company to build housing tax free, while his clients would be taxed.
“As private developers, if it would have been reiterated to us that we could have had the opportunity to develop on tax free property, we would have jumped on the opportunity,” said Raymond Carolla, vice president of CHL.
Commission Joe Hardy voiced his opinion on the request.
“It seems we have a real mixed bag here,” said Hardy. “These gentlemen (CHL representatives) aggressively pursued property for student housing that was not KOZ and Penn State’s saying that they don’t want it.
“For you to consider putting student housing there, personally I don’t think it’s going to fly,” he said.