Homes approved for student housing

Two Logan Township houses in an area zoned for single-family dwellings can be rented to Penn State Altoona collegians.

The township’s Zoning Board voted 2-to-1 Thursday to grant a variance for 113 and 121 Lawn Lane, in light of the location being a dead-end privately owned road, near three additional houses currently rented to collegians. The area is accessible via Penn Avenue, off Grandview Road.

“In this particular situation, I think this was the right decision,” zoning board Chairman Art Wood said.

“Where those houses are located, everything around them is student housing,” said zoning board member Wesley Barnhart, who voted yes.

The decision was rendered after the zoning board heard from representatives of Durbin Enterprises and Grandview Road resident Kay Winkler on behalf of the Township Residents Against Student Housing. If the variance is granted, it will only encourage more student rentals, Winkler said.

Zoning board member Andrew MacMillan, who voted against the variance, agreed with the risk.

“We’ll get more [requests] because others will use this as a precedent,” MacMillan said. “It has to stop somewhere.”

Harrisburg attorney James Diamond and Brian Durbin of Durbin Enterprises told the zoning board that the houses at 113 and 121 Lawn Lane were previously rented to collegians. That practice stopped in 2009 when the township began enforcing an ordinance prohibiting student rentals in the R-1 residential zoning district limited to single family homes.

Three nearby houses are also in the township’s R-1 district, but their longer rental history allowed them to be excluded from the 2009 enforcement measures.

Durbin said he has tried to rent 113 and 121 Lawn Lane but finds it difficult to attract tenants.

“Obviously they’re concerned with the students and the student activities,” Durbin said.

Winkler said the houses were family homes long before Penn State Altoona’s expansion.

“This is a perfect example of how student housing can ruin a neighborhood,” she said.

Diamond also provided the zoning board with a copy of Judge Hiram Carpenter’s 2010 ruling in an appeal filed by Nunzio Jr., Cynda and Brian Rehm who wanted a variance to continue renting a house on Juniata Gap Road to collegians. The township zoning board denied the request and pointed to the location being a mix of student and non-student houses.

Carpenter overturned the board’s decision and said that without the variance, the property becomes a single-family dwelling that no one would want.