CHARLESTOWN TOWNSHIP BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
The first regular business meeting for August was held August 4, 1997 at the Charlestown Elementary School. John B. Sauser, Chairman, Robin J. Kohn, Irene W. Ewald, James E. McErlane, Esq., Linda M. Csete, Secretary, and those on the attached attendee list were present.
The meeting was called to order at 8:00 P.M. and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited.
Mr. Sauser stated that the matters of an escrow release for the Sproule Development Corporation and a review of a proposed ordinance revision combining the Historical Commission and Historical & Architectural Review Board are to be added to tonight’s agenda.
He stated that the office will be closed from August 11th to the 15th for vacation.
Mr. Sauser announced that a ceremony will take place at the Revolutionary War Cemetery on August 20th commemorating and marking several grave sites. The ceremony will be conducted by the Sons of Liberty and will include a color guard and chaplain.
Mrs. Ewald announced that Larry Jewett, a longtime Charlestown resident who was instrumental in the founding of the Nature Center, has passed away at the age of 88. She described him as a person who gave of himself to better his community.
Mrs. Ewald alerted the residents to local sightings of coyotes, one very near the Charlestown Elementary School. She said that they are the size of large dogs and will attack domestic animals and small children. She stated that the Township’s animal control officer is working with the Pennsylvania State Game Commission on the problem. The Game Commission has recommended the Township bring in an expert to trap the animals, and she would like to proceed with this recommendation. Mrs. Ewald further noted that six years ago the Game Commission released coyotes into Pennsylvania to control the deer population and now problems are beginning to arise in many areas. Mr. Sauser disagreed with the statement that the Game Commission released coyotes, and further noted that it is permissible to shoot coyotes at any time of the year and encouraged people to do so.
Mrs. Ewald noted that citizens’ efforts to improve safety at the White Horse/Union Hill/Rees Road intersection have paid off with the assistance of Rep. Carole Rubley. PennDOT completed its study of the feasibility of a four way stop sign for this intersection has concluded that one is warranted. The signs will be installed as soon as scheduling permits.
Mr. Kohn announced that the Township has reached a price agreement with the Pyles for the purchase of a 20 acre tract on Yellow Springs Road. He stated that further paperwork is still pending.
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the minutes of July 7th with three corrections: First, in the fourth paragraph under Announcements, the addition of Mr. Kohn’s name to those attending the June 22nd ceremony at the Rapp House; second, the first sentence of the last paragraph on page one should read, “held over the past eight to twelve months” instead of “held over the past three months”, and third, on the last page under Land Acquisition, to begin with the addition of the sentences, “Mr. Sauser moved to table this item. Mr. Kohn and Mrs. Ewald voted nay.” Mr. Kohn seconded and all were in favor.
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the Treasurer’s Report for the period of July 1-31, 1997, and Mr. Kohn seconded. All were in favor.
Mrs. Ewald questioned check #1184 to Bell Atlantic for $687.88, $657.00 of which represented the cost of moving the Emergency Operations equipment from the Charlestown Elementary School to the Great Valley High School without the Supervisors’ knowledge or approval. Moving these phone lines was authorized by a PECO representative after the School District requested it. She suggested that the Board notify PECO Energy that the Township won’t be responsible for paying for the move or the subsequent phone bills at the new location which is not within the Township nor within the ten mile radius of the Limerick Nuclear Facility. Mr. Sauser suggested that a letter be drafted to PECO Energy on this issue and that in the meantime, check #1184 be held.
Mrs. Ewald noted some improvement in the size of the road contractor’s invoice for the past month but felt that more is needed as the bills still appear to be out of line with years past for similar work. She commended Mr. Thompson’s efforts on the Township’s behalf on this situation.
Mr. Kohn seconded Mrs. Ewald’s motion to approve the Accounts Payable for August 4, 1997 with the exception of check #1184, which is to be held until issue is resolved. All were in favor.
Mr. Sauser noted that the Mr. Kohli is on vacation this week but that his report has been received for the month of July.
Mr. Zeigler reported that the Planning Commission met on July 8, 1997 and the draft minutes have been circulated.
Mr. Thompson reported that during the month of July, considerable pothole repair was undertaken. He commented that reviewing jobs beforehand with the contractor as discussed at the last meeting has been beneficial in controlling costs.
Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. Alston to elaborate on his report which included a brush fire along the railroad tracks on July 11th. Mr. Alston explained that Conrail used a different type of engine that day which exuded large pieces of soot, which, combined with the dry, hot conditions, started the fire. He stated that Conrail was extremely apologetic and responsive and noted that it’s been several years since the last time this problem occurred. At that time, Conrail switched to a different type of engine on this line that is less likely to cause these brush fires. Conrail is supposed to notify the Fire Marshal or Fire Chief whenever the former type of engine is to be used so that preventive measures can be undertaken.
Mr. Connolly had nothing to report.
Mr. Sauser stated that the July meeting minutes have been circulated and noted that the joint board of the VFSA has yet to meet in 1997.
John DiLello, Charlestown Road, stated that he doesn’t oppose the consideration of acquiring the 20 acre Pyle tract, but questions the future use of the land, the financing, how and when the residents should be involved and whether their opinions can be expressed prior to a final decision. He also cautioned that the Board consider not just the price of the land but the perpetual cost of its upkeep. He stated that while two supervisors can conduct business without a third, the third deserves an opportunity to be involved at every step.
Cathy DiFillippo, Charlestown Road, stated that she is one of the individuals reporting coyote sightings. She said that Rep. Rubley has helped her communicate with the Game Commission, which is attempting to trap the coyote that has been killing her poultry. She commented that while the Game Commission denies setting coyotes loose in Pennsylvania, there are reports that captured coyotes sport collars and tags.
Vincent G. Kling stated that the Charlestown Civic Association has been active in the matter of the Pyle Farm Acquisition. He questions why the Board has announced the spending of half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money without their input. The Civic Association solicited comments and Mr. Kling states that 90% of them were negative to questions such as whether the township needs more open space, should land be purchased next to a tract being purchased by the school district, should the matter be decided without public response, and should this be done without a referendum. He called upon the Township to stop and consider these responses. He also noted that the parcel under consideration has considerable sloped areas which will be expensive to excavate at the time any active recreation is planned, possibly equal in cost to the acquisition itself. He urged the Board to allow the Planning Commission to further study the matter before making a decision.
Karen Kenworthy, Charwyn Farm, agreed with Mr. Kling. She asked if she was correct that although the Board can purchase the land without the residents’ approval, such approval is needed when deciding on the use of the land. Mr. Sauser responded that the decision on ultimate use is up to the Board and that the voters’ recourse is to select Supervisors at the polls who think as they do. Mr. Sauser briefly explained the reasoning behind holding non-public executive sessions for such issues as real estate matters, mainly to avoid driving the negotiated price up. He stated that he agreed to hold the executive sessions provided no action is taken before bringing the matter of any acquisition to the public for comments. Ms. Kenworthy expressed her disappointment that the Board members don’t feel they’re accountable to the residents for their actions. She stated that this decision to proceed with the acquisition is totally unacceptable to her and she sees it as an irresponsible, libelous action. She cautioned the Board to consider the acquisition very carefully.
Priscilla Crowell, Charlestown Road, stated that she would like to fully hear comments on both sides of the issue. She stated that she is in favor of the acquisition and understands the need to move quickly due to the unique circumstances of the situation.
Michael Churchill, Pickering Road, commented that there are both procedural and substantive issues, which should be considered separately. The question of whether this is a good purchase needs to be discussed, including obtaining more information on the particular tract in question, cost issues, and other purchasing options. He further commented that with the change in the way the Citizen’s Forum is handled at the meetings, it’s impossible to discuss a matter such as this as should be done. He expressed that the meetings worked better before, allowing participation from the residents on an item by item basis. Mr. Sauser responded that he was reluctant to institute the change but feels that since it occurred, meetings are more cooperative and polite and that he allows more leeway on occasion. He expressed that he feels the public shouldn’t respond to every deliberation of the Board as this is the Board’s responsibility. Mrs. Ewald dissented, stating that she believes the public’s involvement is important at every stage of the proceedings. She further commented that she disagreed with the format change and did not support it.
Bob Jones questioned the price of the acquisition. He pointed out that East Whiteland has a great deal of open space nearby and agrees with Mr. Kling’s comment that excavating this site will be expensive.
Jean Helker, Sidley Hill Road, commented that if the township loses its open land, it can’t be retrieved later. She pointed out that development also costs the individual taxpayer. For example, on this particular road, an upgrade to the bridge would be likely. Possibly public sewers would be needed in the future. She stated that the Pyles told her Mr. Sauser urged them to reject the Township’s offer and that he’s been bringing developers to the site to try to interest them in it. Mr. Sauser responded that while he has spoken to the Pyles, he has not been involved in discussions with any developers, calling this statement false.
Mark Connolly, Broadwater Lane, commented that he felt the proposed cost represented a good price for the land. He stated that the Township has been stockpiling money, primarily through real estate transfer taxes. He urged the Township to invest the money in land, not simply spend it. He believes the land itself is a good investment that will increase in value so that even if better options come along later, they can still be availed.
Mr. Connolly referred to the 1993 Open Space & Recreation Plan, which recommends open space purchases in the Middle Pickering Rural Historical District, where this tract is located. He then referred to the Green Valleys Association Sustainable Watershed Management Plan, which focuses on creating a sustainable watershed by sustaining flow in first order streams. He comments that this should be one of the township’s highest priorities, and land preservation helps attain it.
Mr. Connolly’s final comment was that he’s seen other opportunities fail because of a lack of political will, as historically open space purchases are unpopular with the public. As time goes on they become great moments of vision. Although he commented that there may be other possibilities to consider, and that is questionable whether this is the best parcel to acquire, he sees that the Board is ready to go ahead and he urges them to proceed.
Alex Coleman, Green Lane Road, stated concerns over well water, particularly in light of the fact that the Coryell Farm is slated for development. Mr. Sauser responded that the Green Valleys Sustainable Watershed Management Study is a tool that the Planning Commission will incorporate into its planning process to help protect water resources.
Charlie Philips, Hollow Road, commented that he sold land for $35,000 per acre eight years ago and doesn’t feel that the price being proposed for this acquisition is excessive. He stated that he supports Mr. Connolly’s comments.
Barbara DeWilde, Valley Hill Road, stated that she’s been a resident for 21 years and asked for information on the size of the entire Pyle Farm, the zoning, and how many homes could be built there. She also asked where matters stood with the School District’s plans for acquisition. She commented that she feels her family is fortunately to live in the township and remarked on the magnificent viewshed which includes the Pyle farm. She stated that she’s in favor of the purchase and is willing to use her tax money to do so. She stated that the majority of Charlestown residents are fortunate to be able to afford to do so as well. She commented that the Pyle family gave their heart and soul to the Township and expressed her appreciation for them.
Lee Raden asked for the status of Broadwater Lane, stating his concerns for the deteriorating road. He wants the matter resolved before winter. Mr. Sauser responded that Mr. Kohli will need to respond to him on this issue.
Cathy DiFillippo asked what the acquired land will be used for. She’s concerned about adding paving, which creates run off.
Mr. Sauser gave some background on the Pyle Farm, which is called the Brightside Dairy Farm. He said the total farm, all zoned Farm Residential, comprises several tax parcels of approximately 135 acres, some of which straddles Yellow Springs Road while some is located along Valley Hill Road. The Pyles originally attempted to sell it in one piece but didn’t receive any offers. The School District is interested in the 54 acre parcel adjacent to the 20 acres under discussion this evening. The School District’s long range plan is to keep the parcel as a reserve location for a future school, and in the meantime may construct some playing fields. Mr. Sauser stated that the Township hasn’t decided what will be done with the 20 acre parcel. He sees active recreation in the form of playing fields as translating into flood lights, noise, and trespassers that can’t be adequately policed. He stated that Charlestown Park has problems now with vandals turfing the fields. He agrees with Mr. Connolly’s statement that many other tracts would be more suitable than this one. Mr. Sauser lastly commented that the township doesn’t need to purchase land to preserve it; there are other options such as the purchase of development rights. He states that he is negative on this issue and feels there are better options.
Mr. Kohn stated that he is in favor of the purchase. He addressed the comment that since the school is buying the adjacent parcel, this purchase is unnecessary. He disagreed, saying that with co-planning, it becomes a 75 acre parcel where parking can be cooperatively shared, thus decreasing the total amount needed. He denies that the process has been surreptitious, stating that the Board acted as they felt best for the Township. He sees the 20 acre Pyle tract as a gem in the township that is centrally located. He agreed with Mr. Philips’ comment that the land will appreciate in value. As to the question of what to use the land for, he says that’s yet to be determined. Mr. Kohn stated that if the opportunity is lost, it will never return, and that financing may be needed for some of the purchase but not all of it. He suggests that a financial adviser be called in on the matter.
Mrs. Ewald stated that she has served on the Board for eight years and is strongly in favor of the acquisition, agreeing with Mr. Kohn’s reasons and adding several others. The Rapp House, an 18th century house, is placed with the 20 acres surrounding it. She used the Zook House in West Whiteland, surrounded by the Exton Mall as a comparison. The Rapp House will have 75 acres of open space behind it, making this acquisition both a step toward open space conservation and historical preservation.
Mrs. Ewald referred to the 1993 Open Space study, financed by a county grant of $25,000, which involved the Board of Supervisors including John Martin, Vincent Kling and herself, along with the various township boards, consultants and several conservancies. Open public meetings took place twice a month for over a year. The result was an excellent plan that now has an opportunity for implementation. The use of the parcel will be determined with the cooperation of the Planning Commission, Parks & Rec Board, Supervisors and with public input. She pointed out the excellent recreation program at Charlestown Park, which is funded completely by volunteer organizations with no cost to the taxpayers. Considering the exploding growth curve of the township, more active recreation areas will be needed. Passive recreation is plentiful in the township at the park and along the Pickering Creek and Horseshoe Trail. Mrs. Ewald commented that money can’t buy the quality of life enjoyed in Charlestown, and that this acquisition is following in the footsteps of its 300 year heritage. She referenced Fairmont Park in Philadelphia, and asked what the city would be like without it. She noted that the agreed upon purchase price is less than what had been indicated by others this evening, and noted that Township solicitor negotiated for both the Township and the School District. Mrs. Ewald stated that there are sufficient funds in the budget to purchase the land out right, but agrees with Mr. Kohn that advice from an accountant or other financial consultant would be advisable for options.
Mrs. Ewald commented that Charlestown Park just “happened”, but this tract has been through a planning process that began in 1993 as part of the Open Space Plan implementation. She commented that several parcels were considered and the Board will continue to examine parcels with input welcome from the citizens. She commented that the Township needs to build an infrastructure, and it should not be from the pieces left over. The Pyle family encouraged conservation and has owned the property for more than 100 years. She saluted Harold Pyle, a former supervisor, and Libby Pyle, a former Township Secretary, and stated that the Township can carry out their commitment to land preservation through this acquisition.
Mr. Sauser moved to withdraw the offer to purchase the 20 acre tract from the Pyles. There was no second.
Mr. Sauser moved to table the issue to allow more public review. There was no second.
Mr. Kohn moved to sign the most recent offer submitted to the Pyles for their acceptance. Mrs. Ewald seconded. At the same time, Mr. Sauser amended the motion to include “based on availability of public grant money”. Mr. Kohn agreed that the pursuit of grant money would be appropriate as well as hiring a financial consultant. Mrs. Ewald stated that she doesn’t accept the amendment as a contingency to extending the offer to the Pyles. She agreed the Board should continue to look at county, state, and conservancy options for grant funding. She moved to accept the negotiated offer drafted by Mr. McErlane to the Pyles. Mr. Kohn seconded. Mr. Sauser called for discussion. He asked if Mr. Kohn intended to second the motion pending further input from a financial consultant, and Mr. Kohn responded no. Mr. Sauser asked the solicitor if there had been a response to the last offer made to the Pyles, and Mr. McErlane responded that he has received a verbal agreement through the Pyles’ counsel. Mrs. Ewald acknowledged that the Pyle family has personally contacted her with their agreement. Mr. McErlane stated that since the matter tonight falls under the approved motion from June 16th to negotiate within a specified range for this parcel, no vote is needed tonight. A vote was taken nonetheless, and Mr. Kohn voted aye, Mrs. Ewald voted aye, and Mr. Sauser voted emphatically nay.
Mr. Sauser called for a recess at 10:00 P.M. The meeting was reconvened at 10:20 P.M.
The proceeds were recorded by a court reporter. The record will remain open until Mr. Kohli’s comments are received. A decision is anticipated by the September 8th meeting.
The proceeds were recorded by a court reporter. The record was left open to receive Mr. Kohli’s comments. The hearing was continued to August 18th. Mike Honan, P.E. of Rouse Chamberlin Ltd. requested that the Township consider amending the 1991 Stipulation and Order for the Charlestown Brae (Whitehorse at Charlestown) subdivision, which specifies that no sand mounds shall be permitted. Mr. Honan states that the original approved perc test for Lot 47 recently failed, and the County Health Department requires a four year interval before re-testing. As an alternative, Mr. Honan would like to propose a sand mound system with a back-up site for this lot. He maintains that sand mound systems have greatly improved since 1991 when the agreement was made, and added that the surrounding neighbors have all signed a petition requesting that it be permitted. They would prefer to have Rouse Chamberlin construct a home on the lot now as opposed to Rouse selling the lot to another developer to build in four years. Mr. Honan displayed photographs of a sand mound system constructed by his company in 1988 which is functioning property and has a good appearance.
Mrs. Ewald explained that during the lengthy negotiating process with Rouse Chamberlin for approval of this subdivision, concessions were made on both sides. One of Rouse’s concessions was that there were to be no sand mounds. Mrs. Ewald states that the Township made concessions in kind and they would be nullified by a change to the stipulation now.
An issue between the Township and Mr. Colegreco, attorney for Rouse Chamberlin regarding whether a zoning variance is required to construct a sand mound is steep slopes was left unresolved.
Somerset Subdivision: Sewage Facilities Planning Module Resolution:
Mr. Kohn moved to approve the Resolution to accept the Sewage Facilities Planning Module for the Somerset Subdivision. Mrs. Ewald seconded and all were in favor.
Mr. Sauser moved to approve Escrow Release #4 for the Sproule Development Corporation in the amount of $51,681.00. Mr. Kohn seconded and all were in favor.
The Lawrences, residents of Charlestown Road, requested the Township’s assistance in two matters in their fax of August 4th. The Board directed the Secretary to proceed with both requests, the first, to request assistance from the State Police in monitoring speeds on Charlestown Road during rush hours, and the second, the ask the Roadmaster to request a study from PennDOT on truck traffic on Charlestown Road as the first step in determining whether restrictions can be placed on truck traffic on that road.
Mr. Sauser stated that an ordinance was advertised for this evening which proposes to combine the functions of the Historical Commission and Historical & Architectural Review Board into one body. Due to time constraints, the matter will be tabled until the September 8th meeting.
No matters were brought forward at this time.
The first meeting for September will be held September 8th instead of the 1st due to the Labor Day holiday.
Mr. Kohn moved to adjourn the meeting at 12:15 A.M. Mrs. Ewald seconded and all were in favor. The next meeting will be held at the Charlestown Elementary School at 8:00 P.M. on August 18, 1997.