Indiana, PA - Indiana County

WHITE TOWNSHIP: Grove neighbors air complaints

by JULIE E. MARTIN jmartin@indinanagazette.net on September 12, 2013 11:00 AM

A new student housing complex is drawing attention again, as those living near The Grove at Indiana turned out at Wednesday night’s White Township supervisors meeting to voice concerns over loud parties and speeding at the Acorn Street development in recent weeks.

The property’s manager was invited to the supervisors’ meeting to hear them out and share what steps are being taken to alleviate any problems.

A couple of “wild” parties at the complex — one on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and another last Friday — prompted late-night calls to officials.

At the start of the new semester, the 224-unit, 600-bed apartment complex created concerns for some of its own residents when opening times were pushed back by its developer, Campus Crest Communities, because of a delay in receiving occupancy permits.

Sidney McCune, manager at The Grove at Indiana, told White Township residents and officials that secure gates, quiet hours and the addition of two security guards at the development are among the steps being taken to keep rowdiness at bay.

Supervisor George Lenz said he had received five phone calls about goings-on at the development, some from residents in the township and others from those in Indiana Borough.

“I did not think it would turn into what it did,” said McCune, who started working as manager about the same time that The Grove, the newest and largest student housing complex in the area, opened with the new school year.

State police received dozens of calls about the goings-on and made a number of arrests at the parties.

But eventually, they couldn’t respond to additional calls. A number of residents at the meeting said they had called 911 to report the noise and other concerns and were told that, at the time, state police were no longer responding.

The state police had stopped responding because there were so many calls, McCune said.

McCune reported that The Grove had hired security guards and would have two on duty at a time. Should the need arise, security guards will have the responsibility for contacting the state police, according to McCune.

He also said that gates — which had not been locked when the parties began — were now locked and accessible only to residents.

Another step management is taking, he said, is the addition of noise restrictions, such as enforcing quiet times between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. weekdays and midnight to 10 a.m. on weekends.

The Grove management plans to enforce the rules, too, according to McCune.

“I have a right to fine tenants for nuisance,” he said.

Some residents suggested a fence or landscaping of some type be put in to create some sort of a buffer between the development and the nearby Heritage Oaks housing plan.

Others raised concerns over the happenings at the development, as well as the disturbance that they caused.

“I shudder to think (about) the things that happened those nights that didn’t get reported,” said Stephan Schaffrath, who lives in Heritage Oaks.

His wife, Michele Petrucci, expressed similar concerns, but said she is glad the issues are being addressed.

“I’m very pleased Sidney came to represent Campus Crest,” she said.

Still, she was unsure whether the measures would be enough.

“We’ll just wait and see,” she said.

The supervisors also approved a request for tax abatement at the former site of Gorell Enterprises Inc.

The county commissioners are seeking to receive Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone designation for the Wayne Avenue site, which was left empty when an Ohio company bought out Gorell.

Byron Stauffer Jr., director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, said that two other county sites are going for the designation, too. Those include the former BiLo in Blairsville and a plant in Green Township.

“We wanted to provide the northern part of the county with the same opportunity and benefit,” he said.

Also, members of the Indiana Free Library board of directors and staff requested an increase in the township’s support. They asked that the township consider bumping up its annual contribution from $65,000 to $79,000.

Township officials said they would consider the request at budget time.

The supervisors approved adoption of a codification of a reordered set of ordinances. The changes do not impact the current ordinances, but rather reorganize them into topical chapters. The change in format is part of a project that will bring township ordinances online. Milt Lady, township manager, indicated that the online ordinances should be available to residents soon.

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