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Neighbors Fighting Over Homes

Two homes in the State College Borough are at the center of debate among neighbors, some saying these types of homes aren't welcome.
STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - One Centre County community is upset over its zoning laws. Tuesday, they had a hearing to discuss them.

The two homes at question are zoned as R-2 residential properties, meaning they're specifically designed to be a single-family home in a residential zoned neighborhood.

But these two properties are being used for what some are calling "tourist homes" and now, there's a fight that has moved to the borough zoning hearing board.

Craig and Susan Stout bought the two homes and completely turned them around in a top to bottom renovation, which everyone agrees has been great for the neighborhood.

Then, when they couldn't sell one of them, they decided to turn them both into rental units, but the way they're renting these homes out is concerning to neighbors and borough officials.

"It's a clear violation of our Chapter 19 of Borough ordinances," Borough Zoning Officer John Wilson said.

Wilson said 612 Walnut Street and 138 West Prospect Avenue are being advertised as vacation homes. They're often rented out on a short term basis for special event weekends, their most popular time during Penn State football season.

The Stout's said they are advertised as no less than a 7-night per week rental and were never told this type of "transient" housing wasn't allowed.

"Do we have weekend guests? Yes we do. Do we have six week long guests? Certainly we do," Craig Stout said. "The borough's stand has been if you have long term tenants, then you can also have short term tenants, but none of that is actually defined clearly in the zoning ordinance."

Neighbors are mad, too. They said not having a consistent resident in the homes goes against code and is making their community less neighbor-friendly.

"The people in that home have ranged from very lovely, sweet families to people who have made me frightened," one neighbor said. "I have been accosted verbally by men who were intoxicated on their porch. 'Hey baby, I know you put out, come on over.' Really? I don't pay my mortgage for that."

"I understand what the community is discussing and why they want that sense of neighborly community and those people to talk to, but they didn't have that before," Stout said. "What they had before were two dilapidated, eyesore homes."

The Stout's said selling these homes to a single family for residential purposes is much more difficult than they would have expected.

"The reality is that the rental amounts that you can get in downtown State College don't justify the amount of investment they make in those properties," he said.

The Zoning Hearing Board considered both sides at the hearing Tuesday. They plan to announce their decision at their July 22 meeting.


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