WHITE TOWNSHIP: Noise, litter prompt complaints
September 26, 2013 11:00 AM
by JULIE MARTIN

Residents again are asking the White Township supervisors to help find a solution to problems created by rowdy students, but this time, a number of those concerned live in Indiana Borough.

While The Grove at Indiana, the new student housing complex near the Copper Beech townhouses off North Avenue, was the focus of discussion at the Sept. 11 supervisors meeting, the half-dozen residents voicing their concerns on Wednesday were from the South Sixth Street area that borders the borough and the township.

Expressing worry over loud parties, heavy foot traffic and littering that they say stems from some student rentals in the area, a group of residents on and around South Sixth Street collected signatures and sent a letter to the township office.

Township officials are working with the owners of the student housing, as well as state police, according to township manager Milt Lady.

“We don’t want something serious to go down,” he said, adding that officials are concerned for both student and resident safety.

The housing discussed includes properties along Grandview Avenue and Maple Avenue that are owned by B&L Properties, of Pennsburg.

“It’s been a difficult time, a lot of disruption,” Mike Travis, of South Sixth Street, Indiana, told officials Wednesday night.

Due to its proximity to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, some of the student rentals have apparently become popular locations for parties, he said.

“We’re a lot closer and more convenient to campus than The Grove is,” Travis said.

His wife canvassed the neighborhood, obtaining signatures for the petition.

“We had a nice neighborhood there,” he said. “There was college housing, but there was a good relationship and property owners took care of (problems).”

Now, he said, “it’s unbearable at times.”

While the problems peak on the weekend, residents said they contend with noise and partying throughout the week.

Even on a weeknight, music can be too loud for Laura Irvin to hear the television. She and her husband, Tom, also live along South Sixth Street in Indiana, where they have been for more than 30 years.

With B&L planning to replace some of its rentals in the area with a student housing complex with more than 250 beds, some residents are concerned.

“I went to school here,” Irvin said. “I moved here because I love the community.”

Now, she describes what she sees in her neighborhood as “frightening.”

There were no such problems in the area last year, according to Irvin, “not even on homecoming.”

On a typical weekend this semester, students have left trails of garbage in their yards, including broken bottles and a busted television set.

“We went to church on Sunday and just couldn’t believe the litter,” Irvin said.

Residents said sidewalks may be so packed with pedestrians some nights that they spill out onto the street and block traffic.

Code enforcement officer Chris Anderson said he visited the neighborhood on the weekend to investigate. He, too, described the situation as “frightening,” with large groups of disruptive students overrunning the area.

Some houses can attract up to 100 students to a party, Lady said. He said he thinks many come from downtown to the student housing.

He met last week with both the owners of B&L and Campus Crest Communities, of Charlotte, N.C., which owns The Grove. This week, he has been talking with them by phone daily.

“They are willing to work with us and work with you to develop some things,” he told residents.

The owners, he said, are discussing measures such as adding security guards and gates with access restricted to those who live there. In the case of B&L, its management has also identified problem housing. Those problems, he said, are being addressed by the company.

Officials are also talking with state police, Lady said.

While state police are unable to address noise ordinance violations because they fall under township code and not state law, officials indicated that calls to state police can pinpoint disorderly conduct issues, bringing law enforcement attention to the situation.

Solicitor Michael Delaney also suggested residents could file a private injunction against property owners and residents.

“Enforce your rights is what I’m telling you,” he said. “You don’t need another law. You don’t need another ordinance.”

He also said that township officials could consider asking landlords to provide a list of their tenants.

If the problem continues, officials indicated that creation of a disorderly house ordinance may one day come into play. Township zoning may also be a consideration, but it is currently not on the table, Lady said.

Township officials will continue talks with the property owners, as well as state police, with an eye toward IUP’s Oct. 11 homecoming, Lady said.

“The big test,” he said, “is the next weekend.”

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