Aspen West End, a six-story apartment complex, is under construction West College Avenue between South Buckhout and South Butz streets. Photo by Ben Jones | StateCollege.com
Ferguson Township’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to authorize a parking study on North Butz Street after residents expressed worries about what they fear could become “a very serious safety issue,” resulting from overflow parking from a new student apartment complex under construction nearby.
Aspen Heights Partners is currently constructing Aspen West End, a six-story building at the corner of West College Avenue and South Buckhout Street, with an anticipated opening in 2023.
Across the street from the west end of the new building, residents of North Butz Street told township staff they are concerned about a confluence of factors creating neighborhood and safety issues if the street is used for resident and visitor overflow parking for the new building, which will have 165 parking spots on site for its 96 units and 268 beds.
Two-hour parking is permitted on both sides of North Butz Street almost all the way to the West College Avenue intersection, and Rhonda Stern, who has lived on there for more than 30 years, told supervisors that students already often use those spaces beyond the permitted time.
“Usually we let it go a couple days and then try to preserve the neighborhood not to have a lot of cars on that stretch,” Stern said.
If vehicles are parked along both sides to near the intersection, cars turning right “have to stop and make a 90 degree right angle,” Stern said. She added that drivers tend to speed up as West College Avenue becomes two ways past Buckhout Street. A vehicle traveling south on North Butz Street would further exacerbate the situation for those turning onto Butz.
“God forbid you stop [on College Avenue]. Cars are coming fast,” Stern said. “It’s not safe to stop there. So when you make the right onto North Butz, you have to swing around. And when you swing around, if there was a car parked on both sides and if there was car coming down the other direction, it couldn’t happen.”
Two businesses along North Butz Street have parking lots and Grass Alley intersects the road, “so there’s a lot that goes on right there,” Stern said.
To date, the parking situation has been “tolerable,” Stern said, but she worries it will become a hazard once the apartment building opens.
“Our concern is once the students are living in the apartment building and looking for places to park they are going to take advantage of both sides of the road,” she said. “So that’s the safety issue for us.”
Stern said residents would like to see no parking on the east side of North Butz Street and two-hour parking, if it must remain, on the west side.
“I think this is both a neighborhood issue and a very serious safety issue,” she said.
David Modricker, the township’s director of public works, said the township engineer will conduct the parking study and provide recommendations to the board. Any changes would require an ordinance.
“The parking study itself will be rather straightforward,” Modricker said. “The part that will take a little more time is restrictions that the engineer would recommend that would also be acceptable to the neighborhood. In this case I don’t think that will be very difficult. What may happen when it comes to a public hearing for a resolution we may hear from other folks that want something different. That’s what has happened at other times in other neighborhoods. But in this case, if the sentiments expressed are generally how the neighborhood overall feels then it will probably be an easier process.”
Aspen West End is one of two mixed-use student apartment complexes currently under construction by Apsen Heights in the Centre Region.
On Squirrel Drive in College Township, work is underway on Aspen East Penn, which consists of two, four-story buildings with 262 units and 651 beds. Construction on that project has recently drawn complaints from neighboring Centre Hills Village residents about loud noises at inconvenient hours and drifting dust.
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