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Borough Council Approves Cat Café Zoning Amendment, Discusses Summers On Allen Proposal

The State College Borough Council met Monday to hear public comment on several recent initiatives, including proposals for the establishment of a cat café and Groznik PR’s Summers on Allen pedestrian mall. Council also voted to approve a land-use zoning amendment that will allow the establishment of a Cat Café on College Avenue and discussed the procedure of tomorrow’s interim mayoral candidate hearings.

After several proclamations honoring Mayor Don Hahn, who led his final meeting Monday before his December 16 resignation, Council began an extensive series of public hearings.

After sparse comments on the Borough’s operating budget and application for HOME Investment Partnership Program grants, Council opened a hearing on the proposed zoning amendment that would allow the opening of a cat café downtown.

Mary Sellers, a Penn State English professor, took the podium first. She addressed one of Council’s previous concerns with the café: the possibility that students may adopt an animal from the cafe without the means to take care of it.

Sellers said that Myers and her animal rescue partners “already have a very strong vetting process in place to weed out those who would be swayed by the cuteness of an animal and would not be ready to commit to a long-term commitment that a cat would take.”

Sellers also said that the café would allow students to take advantage of animals’ proven ability to relieve stress outside finals week initiatives on campus.

Council later voted 6-1 to enact the zoning amendment in the Urban Village district and passed an accompanying resolution to emphasize the café’s compliance with a series of health recommendations

Council eventually opened the floor for the evening’s most talked-about topic: the Summers on Allen proposal to close Allen Street and turn it into a pedestrian plaza for eight weeks next summer.

A representative from Rapid Transit Sports, one of several businesses on Allen Street, opposed the initiative and suggested that it be moved to Friedman Park on South Fraser Street.

The representative said that the closure of the street would make it more difficult for customers, especially elderly or disabled patrons, to get to the store. He asked Council to reject the motion, and if it chose to approve it, he asked that it have an “exit strategy” for reopening the street if things went awry.

John Vickers-Jones, another State College resident commenting in support of the closure, said that he had attempted to close the street in 2004. He said he had visited many productive town-center plazas in Europe, and that he expected Allen Street business owners to benefit by the street closure.

Magisterial District Judge Carmine Prestia, who will retire in January, also commented on the closure.

“It’s not going to do anybody any good to remove 25-30 parking spots on Allen Street,” Prestia said. He also expressed concern over the obstruction of emergency response vehicles, and the possibility that the market could “get out of hand” quickly at night.

A number of other residents commented on the initiatives. One said the street closure would have a “chilling effect on business,” while Penn State economics professor James Tierney said it would a good step in creating an environment that would help retain young professionals.

Rob Schmidt, the director of the State College Improvement District, downplayed parking concerns, and said that there “aren’t going to be students around to create a drinking problem” while the street is closed.

Council will vote on the Allen Street proposal later this year.

Council closed its meeting by briefly examining two lists of questions that interim mayoral candidates can choose to answer at tomorrow’s candidate hearing. The 12 candidates will present in random order and will have five minutes to speak to Council, beginning with a description of their background.

Candidates will be provided a list of questions submitted by Council members, State College residents, and non-State College residents. A list of these questions begins on page 159 of Monday’s agenda packet.

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.


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