The second regular business meeting for January was held January 19, 1998 at the Great Valley Nature Center. John B. Sauser, Chairman, Irene W. Ewald, James E. McErlane, Esq., Surender S. Kohli, P.E., Thomas J. Comitta, Linda M. Csete, Secretary, and those on the attached attendee list were present.
The meeting was called to order at 7:30 P.M.
Mr. Sauser moved to approve the Treasurer’s Report for December 1 - 31, 1997 and Mrs. Ewald seconded. The motion passed.
Mrs. Ewald requested that the appointment of a Township Supervisor be placed under Old Business on the agenda. Mr. Sauser stated that this matter can be covered under “Other Business” toward the end of the meeting.
Mr. Sauser opened the hearing for the Sprint Spectrum Conditional Use Application and announced a continuance to February 16, 1998 per the applicant’s request since the draft decision is not ready. Mrs. Ewald stated that she wished to hear testimony by Tom Comitta and Bob Smiley and that this could have taken place this evening to avoid unnecessary delays in the process. Mr. Sauser closed the hearing and said it will be continued to February 16, 1998.
John Ressitor of Vibratech Inc. presented results of testing undertaken on ten occasions between June 27, 1997 and August 14, 1997. Six seismographs were placed at various locations in the township for each test. Some test sites were varied so that 14 separate locations were tested in all, producing 60 recordings. Mr. Sauser noted that he, Mr. Kohn and Mrs. Ewald met with the township engineer in executive session for a briefing on these results.
Mr. Ressitor stated that the intensity of all the vibrations were found to be in compliance with both Pennsylvania and Federal laws. The highest recording indicated a ground shift of .3 inches per second, a displacement he describes as less than the thickness of a sheet of paper. The Pennsylvania limit is 2.0 inches per second. The accepted research finds that a movement of 4.0 inches per second will cause damage to a home. He clarified for the audience that this form of measurement is not the same as that done for earthquakes, i.e., measured at the epicenter of the event and calibrated on the Richter scale.
Mr. Ressitor noted that the shock wave frequency of the blasts correlates very closely to the natural frequency of the structures, such as houses, in the range of 2 - 20 hertz. This causes resonation which in turn magnifies the vibration felt in the house. This enhancement effect was still found to be within legal limits. Mr. Churchill asked if the frequency can be increased to minimize this effect, and Mr. Ressitor responded that it is possible to do so. He noted that the air shock that accompanies a blast also enhances the vibration through the ground, but that this is unavoidable. Wind also heightens the resistance of the structures to underground vibrations.
Tony Webb asked about the cumulative effect of the explosions. Mr. Ressitor responded that studies show this has no effect if the vibrations fall under the fatigue factor of the structure, which is the case in these blasts.
Louise Cantrell-Kehoe asked if the Township can enforce stricter standards than the state or federal governments. Mr. McErlane responded that it can’t be done, and in addition, some standards were set as part of prior township approvals.
Mr. Webb stated that he noticed the blasting was less severe during the testing time. Mr. Kohli responded that he doesn’t believe this to be the case, as he directed where and when to test and the quarry was asked to be consistent. Mr. Kohli pointed out that the State performs testing continuously, and tests during the study period had similar results.
Mr. Kling recalled a similar problem with the Warner Quarry several years ago when St. Peters Church had broken windows attributed to its blasting. The solution at that time was to change the point of penetration of the blasts.
Ms. Cantrell-Kehoe asked if the measurements for vibration can be taken from the inside of a home, and Mr. Ressitor responded that because there are two many variables that can effect the results, the only acceptable standard is to measure from the outside.
Ms. Cantrell-Kehoe also stated her concern for the students at the Charlestown Elementary School, who are disturbed by the blasting. She asked if the school can be notified prior to the blasting so an announcement can be made over the PA system. She commented that the effects of the blasting have been psychological and emotional as well as physical. She, and another resident, who has 26 broken windows in her house, each remarked that they avoid having people in their homes during the week when blasting is likely to occur.
Mr. Kohli stated that he met with William Corson of Devault Crushed Stone earlier today along with John Ressitor, and they discussed the development of a “vibra-map” which would be used to change the frequency of the vibrations. This, along with tighter controls on the blasting times, could lessen some of the problems experienced by residents. Mr. Ressitor explained that a vibra-map is developed via computer following extensive testing at 150 sites. Production shots and single hole shots are set off to create a vibration signature. Computer analysis then determines the optimal millisecond time frame for the blasts.
A resident asked about the air concussions that accompany the blasts. Mr. Ressitor responded that federal guidelines vary from 129-135 dB. The largest measurement he obtained under the study was 120-123 dB. He pointed out that the sound doubles every six decibels, so that even though a reading of 120 dB seems high, it is actually under half the limit. He acknowledged that the air concussion causes elongation of the blasting episode and, if over the limit, can cause glass to break.
William E. Corson, President of Allan B. Myers who owns and operates both Devault Crushed Stone and Great Valley Materials, expressed his interest in working on solutions together with residents. He stated that Mr. Ressitor toured the quarry and Vibratech will make recommendations and provide a cost estimate on January 26th. After this information has been received, they will work with the Board on solutions. He noted that they’ve made progress on the lessening the effect of back up alarms as much as possible while remaining within MOSHA and OSHA guidelines. Strobe lights are used whenever possible, and the sound alarms have been changed to a less irritating volume and pitch. He invited any interested residents to tour the facility.
A resident complained that the trucks coming in and out of the quarry speed and often don’t cover their loads. He noted that this is the case with the independent trucks and not the quarry’s trucks. Mr. Corson stated that they have no control over these trucks. Mrs. Ewald suggested that since it’s a law in Pennsylvania that all loads be covered, the State Police can be brought in to undertake truck inspections. Mr. Sauser agreed to contact them. He requested that observers who see uncovered trucks try to obtain a license number and company name on the truck and report them.
A resident complained of noise at night and asked what constitutes “operations”, which are only permitted between 6:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. Mr. McErlane responded that mining and operating of heavy equipment are prohibited, but not maintenance work and movement of materials. Mr. Corson stated that their agreement with the township outlines the work permitted during night hours, and that they remain within its parameters and decibel levels proscribed. Mrs. Ewald suggested reviewing procedures at the quarry to see if louder activities can be scheduled in the evening hours, for example, between 6:00 and 8:00 P.M., and Mr. Corson agreed to look into it. Mr. Corson further noted that the Great Valley Materials operation has no restriction on hours of operation, and people may be hearing this noise at night and thinking it comes from the quarry. Dr. Stewart commented that the sound of banging tailgates is most noticeable at night. Mr. Kohli stated that this has been addressed. Dr. Stewart also asked about a dampening system to control dust after blasting, and Mr. Corson responded that they’re still looking into this but haven’t found a solution as yet.
Mr. Corson recapped his intentions to work with Vibratech to develop a Vibra-map report; set specific times for blasts, and work toward reducing the number of blasts in a given period of time to possibly as few as twice a month instead of one to two times per week as is the current practice. Mr. Ressitor noted that the implementation of a plan may take several months in light of the extensive mapping that must be done.
Mr. Sauser stated that the applicant has requested an extension until February 16, 1998 for the Board to consider their request for approval of a new driveway plan for the Valley Forge Trails development. Mrs. Ewald asked why this meeting doesn’t take place in court, as the original approval was court-ordered. Mr. McErlane responded that the Board of Supervisors has the option of acting if they wish to.
Mr. Sauser stated that additional estimates are still being sought and tabled the matter until February 2, 1998.
Mr. Sauser moved to approve Charlestown Oaks Escrow Release #4 for $167,579.75. Mrs. Ewald seconded and the motion passed.
Mr. Sauser noted that since Mrs. Ewald is recused on matters dealing with Charlestown Hunt, he consulted with the solicitor over the escrow release requests for this project. Mr. McErlane indicated that Judge Wood stipulated several years ago that these requests don’t need to come before the Board for a vote and that the Engineer and one Board member can release the funds. Mrs. Ewald questioned the outstanding issue of Broadwater Lane and the Board’s vote last year to limit the number of building permits issued until this matter is resolved. She noted that two accidents served to close Route 29 for a short period one day last week and residents who would use Broadwater Lane as a secondary emergency egress found it unusable in its current condition. Mr. Kohli responded that the road was in place from the Andersen property to the Charlestown Hunt property, with concrete checker blocks to be installed in the spring. The area adjacent to the Rectenwald property is currently 8 to 9 feet in width. It has not been improved to 12 feet as required. Realen Homes must either relocate the road within the existing easement, or come to an agreement with the Rectenwalds to extend onto their property. He stated that Mr. Oeste has been communicating with Realen attorney Marc Kaplin on this issue. The road is stabilized for access by regular cars. Mr. Churchill pointed out that this emergency access is for emergency vehicles only and is not to be used by the residents, even if Route 29 is closed. In such a case, residents will simply have to wait for Route 29 to be cleared. Mr. Sauser stated that he’ll contact Bob Dwyer at Realen to express the Board’s disappointment over the lack of resolution on this issue. He stated that he will approve and sign Realen’s escrow release requests as follows:
Phase I Request #9 for #268,774.23
Phase II Request #2 for $104,871.35
Phase IV Request #2 for $217,308.00
Phase IV Request #2 - Recreation & Fitness Center for $395,972.30
Phase V Request #2 for $281,512.28
The proceeds were recorded by a court reporter. A transcript will be on file at the Township office.
Mr. Sauser announced that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected Leon J. Altemose’s Petition for Allowance of Appeal, finding the Charlestown Township Zoning Ordinance to be valid and the Commonwealth Court decision upheld.
A resident asked for the possibility of further appeal, and Mr. McErlane responded the likelihood of Mr. Altemose’s success in obtaining one is extremely small.
Rosemary Philips asked if the Township will attempt to recover legal costs from the Altemoses, and Mr. McErlane responded that he has advised against it as the attempt to recover costs will probably exceed the costs themselves.
Mr. Sauser asked for nominations from the Board to fill the vacancy on the Board of Supervisors. He noted that if the Board doesn’t appoint a member within thirty days of Mr. Kohn’s January 5, 1998 resignation, the matter goes to the Vacancy Board. Mrs. Ewald nominated the following individuals:
In addition to these five names, she nominated those who were brought forward during the January 5, 1998 Board of Supervisors meeting, including:
Vincent G. Kling Sr.
Mrs. Ewald stated that she has two more interviews scheduled for January 26, 1998 with perhaps a third, and feels that the Board should be able to agree on one of them. She remarked on the good experience of conducting the five interviews on January 12th and noted that the individuals did an excellent job of presenting themselves and would be good candidates for the Township’s various Boards and Commissions. They all exhibited their willingness to serve, a sensitivity to the community and a lack of business or personal conflicts with the position of Supervisor.
Mr. Sauser stated that his nomination of Robert Wert stands. He spoke to Mr. Wert on January 13th during which Mr. Wert expressed a commitment to doing the job, and a willingness to serve. Mrs. Ewald stated that she will not be supporting his nomination. She said that in the past there has been a lack of communication between the Chairman and other Board members, and she sees this situation continuing if Mr. Wert were appointed. She based that observation on Mr. Wert’s failure to notify the Board of Supervisors of the relocation of the Emergency Operations Center from the Charlestown Elementary School to the Great Valley High School last summer. He was contacted repeatedly by the Board for an explanation before making one at the January 5, 1998 Board meeting. Mr. Sauser stated that since Mrs. Ewald will not second his nomination of Mr. Wert, he will wait for the Vacancy Board. Mrs. Ewald invited Mr. Sauser to the interviews scheduled for January 26, 1998, after which time they could review all the names on her list. Mr. Sauser declined, stating a prior commitment.
Susanna Staas stated that it would be good for Mr. Sauser to hear all sides by speaking with the candidates and keeping an open mind.
A resident noted that at the January 5, 1998 meeting, Mr. Wert said that the residents are not deserving of his time and that he works a 60-70 hour week. She feels he doesn’t have sufficient time for the position of Supervisor. Mr. Sauser responded that Mr. Wert will do the job to the best of his ability.
Priscilla Crowell stated that she respected Mr. Wert and his work with the Emergency Operations Center but feels that the Board needs a third member who is more conciliatory in nature to act as a bridge between them.
Michael Churchill urged Mr. Sauser to avoid using the brute force of the Vacancy Board but to work with Mrs. Ewald on a nomination both can agree to. Mrs. Philips agreed with his comment. Mr. Sauser remarked that the majority of residents disagree with this approach and that he has been encouraged to stand firm in selecting the best person for the position, whom he believes to be Mr. Wert. He believes that Bob Wert can work successfully with both present Board members.
Bob Jones stated that only one name can be put forth for nomination at one time. Mrs. Ewald disagreed. She invited Mr. Sauser to review the list of candidates one by one.
Mr. Kling questioned whether Mrs. Ewald notified everyone in the township of the meeting last week. She responded that she sent 1,010 postcards inviting residents to come forward to interview for the position of supervisor and that the meeting itself was publicly advertised as well as announced at the January 5, 1998 meeting. Mr. Kling praised Mr. Wert’s work for Charlestown Townwatch and voiced his support for him as a nominee for Township Supervisor.
Stephen Schlichter agreed that it was announced at the January 5th meeting and that he attended the interviews and thought it was a wonderful opportunity to select an individual for the job. He expressed his wish that Mr. Sauser would attend the interviews on January 26th.
Ms. Cantrell-Kehoe remarked that Mr. Sauser is dismissing her qualifications and that of the other candidates. Mr. Sauser responded that he knew her to be a short time resident who was not familiar with township matters. She gave a brief description of her background and urged him to learn more about all the candidates.
Kevin Kuhn asked if Mr. Sauser had any intention of considering nominations other than Mr. Wert’s. Mr. Sauser stated that the second class township code allows for the situation where two remaining members of the Board are not in agreement by allowing for a Vacancy Board member to break the tie without a concession being given by either board member. Mr. Sauser disagreed with earlier comments that a mediator-type candidate would solve the problems of the Board.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:15 P.M.