It was announced at Wednesday's Spring Garden Township meeting that the township is citing York College with a zoning violation.
The college was served with an enforcement notice for too much impervious surface near West Springettsbury Avenue and West Jackson Street.
The college is appealing for a special temporary exception from the township to keep the gravel in place. This will be discussed at the Aug. 20 Zoning Board Meeting.
York, PA - One day in early June, a former professor's home and a line of trees stood at the end of West Springettsbury Avenue between the neighborhood and York College. The next day the building was bulldozed and the trees taken down, and residents say it's taking away from the area's residential feel and raising concerns about communication between the community and the college.
A group of 14 residents from West Springettsbury Avenue and West Jackson Street met Monday night with Spring Garden Township Commissioner Matt Shorb to discuss their concerns about construction at York College. Many said the college is not always forthcoming about its plans and worry about their property values and quality of life.
The residents gave Shorb a tour and asked how they can be better informed of construction plans and who they can contact.
"We woke up one morning ..." said resident Pat Golembewski, trailing off.
"And it was happening," Ruben Gomez, of Jackson Street, finished her sentence.
Residents told Shorb that phone calls to the college have not been returned, emails have gone unanswered and that it becomes frustrating to make three phone calls to get one question answered. Rumors abound about the college's plans for the surrounding area, and responses are not always prompt. If they have been able to receive invitations to open houses at the new dorms, why haven't they received notifications at their homes about construction, they asked.
Assistant Dean of Communications Mary Dolheimer said that Ken Martin, dean of campus operations, has responded to emails and met with people on-site at the construction locations who have reached out to him. He is open to continuing that, Dolheimer said. The college also has a neighbor-student task force that meets monthly and all building plans have to go to the township for approval.
Two areas directly affect the neighborhood -- the former home of college staff and faculty at the end of West Springettsbury Avenue and a strip of land that runs between West Springettsbury Avenue and West Jackson Street that the college is currently using as a staging area for construction on the Willman Business Center on campus.
The staging area, owned by York College, used to be the site of a victory garden during World War II and continued to be a community garden until it was torn up to create a staging area. Now compacted gravel littered with pipes and construction materials stretches over where corn, tomatoes and lettuce used to grow. An area at one end, less than a quarter of the total area, continues to be available to the community as a garden until construction ends in fall 2013.
However, residents worry the foundation appeared more permanent and foreshadowed a parking lot or other plans that would increase traffic.
"You don't put that much stone down and then tear it up," said Dave Lippiatt, a resident of West Springettsbury Avenue for 20 years.
According to York College, there is only about 4 to 6 inches of gravel on the lot. The construction company did have to remove some dirt to create proper drainage, said Dolheimer, which would explain the added depth. The measures were meant to keep down on dust and dirt, Dolheimer said.
"It is purely a temporary site that will be used during the course of construction," Dolheimer said. Then it will be returned to be a community garden.
Dolheimer said there are no formal plans to build on either site or to expand the campus further into the neighborhood. There have been conversations about building an academic building on the site of the former professor's residence, and including a gate or some type of barrier would be discussed if the college ever develops formal plans, according to Dolheimer.
Shorb said that township residents can always reach out to township officials.
Shorb said he was surprised to find out there was a problem when the resident showed up at a June board meeting. At that meeting the residents pointed out that the victory garden lot appeared to break the township's codes that state only 15 percent of a total lot area can be covered by an impervious surface. The issue will be reviewed by the township's zoning board and Dolheimer said the college plans to seek an exception.
"We're trying to keep this a neighborhood," Golembewski said.
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