The second regular business meeting for April was held April 20, 1998 at the Charlestown Elementary School. John B. Sauser, Chairman, Robert C. Wert, Vice Chairman, Irene W. Ewald, Member, Thomas F. Oeste, Esq., Surender S. Kohli, P.E., Linda M. Csete, Secretary, and those on the attached attendee list were present.
The meeting was called to order at 7:35 P.M. and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited.
Mr. Sauser stated that a letter was submitted by resident Karen Schlichter dated 4/19/98 expressing concern over an April 13th incident at the Charlestown Elementary School close to dismissal time. An individual parked on Charlestown Road in front of the school playing loud music and watched children at recess with unusual interest. The children were brought into the school and the doors locked until the principal and grounds superintendent approached the man and asked him to leave. The State Police were called by the school principal but the response time was unsatisfactory. It was later learned that this same individual was seen earlier in the day at the Three Ponds Development, where a woman called the State Police when he refused to unblock her driveway. She likewise received an inadequate response.
Mr. Sauser stated that he learned of the situation on Friday, April 17th and spoke to Lt. Dougherty at the State Police station in Embreville for an explanation. He was told that the incident occurred during a change of shifts. Lt. Dougherty said he’ll investigate the situation and provide a report to the Township explaining the inadequate response and how they plan to improve response time in the future.
Mr. Sauser said he was told that the Police are familiar with this individual, who has a history of watching schools and bus stops but has no criminal or psychiatric record. He provided a description of a dark 1982 Jeep Cherokee with the license number BVR-3468, asking residents to be on the alert. He stated that he provided the Principal, Mrs. Hartwick, with his local work number and pager number for her use in the event of any future problem where he may be able to provide assistance. A representative of the State Police will attend the May 4th Board meeting to present a report on this matter.
A resident said there is a history of inadequate response from the State Police and that this matter should be investigated on a wider range. She noted particular dissatisfaction among residents of Three Ponds and suggested that a survey regarding police coverage be sent to all township residents. Mr. Sauser requested specifics on any other similar situations.
In response to various comments, Mr. Sauser stated that the State Police have a mutual coverage agreement with Charlestown’s neighboring township police forces which allows them to enter and serve Charlestown in the event of a life-threatening emergency.
Both Mr. Sauser and Mr. Wert suggested that there may have been a communications breakdown with regard to the incident at the school. Mr. Wert stated that Charlestown Townwatch has had several instances in the past where they were able to get assistance from neighboring townships’ local police. In other cases, when Townwatch members have provided a license number, they were able to contact the State Police Liaison Officer and arrange for a Trooper to go to suspicious individuals’ houses to inquire about their activities in Charlestown.
Mrs. Ewald stated that in the past the State Police have done a wonderful job the vast majority of the time, but acknowledges that this incident is an exception, with the delay in getting a response to Mr. Sauser’s inquiry about the school incident even more cause for concern.
Mr. Wert stated that he’d like to explore the prospect of dedicated policing, in which the State Police provide coverage assigned solely to a particular municipality. He noted that this would be preferable to a local police force as costs would be lower and the level of officer training, equipment and facilities would be greater. Mrs. Ewald stated that this “Trooper in Residence Program” has been before the state legislature in the past and wasn’t sure it has passed at the present time. Mr. Oeste will investigate further. Many residents indicated their interest in this possibility.
In other announcements, Mr. Sauser stated that the Chester County Women’s Commission is hosting a Domestic Violence Roundtable on Wednesday, May 13th between 7:00 P.M. - 9:00 P.M. for anyone interested in attending.
Mrs. Ewald announced that there was a propane gas tank leak at the Limerick Nuclear Generating Station on April 17, 1998. Fire Marshal Fred Alston manned the Emergency Management Center for Charlestown and kept in contact with the Board at all times. The situation resulted in the evacuation of one of the buildings at Limerick but was resolved within two hours.
Mrs. Ewald displayed a Certificate of Achievement for new Eagle Scout Tom Kerrigan, which the Board signed for presentation at Mr. Kerrigan’s upcoming Eagle Scout ceremony. Mr. Kerrigan was instrumental in the relocating of the Horseshoe Trail between Route 29 and Charlestown Road, a difficult and time consuming project that is greatly appreciated.
Emory Todd, CPA presented the 1997 Audit Report and began with an explanation of the independent auditing procedure and a description of what information is included in the Annual Audit Report, the Department of Community Affairs Report (required by March 15th each year to be eligible for State Grants and Liquid Fuel Tax Funds), and the management letter, which outlines any weaknesses in the accounting process. He stated that all expenses and income are verified independently, and escrow balances, payroll, payroll taxes, and basic accounting controls are checked. He compared this procedure with the procedure used when the township opts to utilize its board of three elected auditors. The Elected Auditors produce the DCA Report only, but they audit each disbursement individually rather than the spot check method used by an independent auditor.
Mr. Todd stated that the Township accounts are in very good shape, with all assets being cash assets, and noted that there were very few items mentioned in the Management Letter, the primary one a recommendation to utilize purchase orders for larger transactions such as road material purchases. He commended the Township Treasurer for doing an excellent job.
Mrs. Ewald asked if purchase orders could be used to help control the costs of work performed under contract, specifically noting her ongoing concern that even though the current road contractor was selected through a bidding process, time and equipment used are variables that she believes have resulted in bills 3-5 times the average charged for similar work in the past. Mr. Todd responded that Purchase Orders can be used for a variety of purposes and should be as specific as possible, but he was uncertain as to whether this type of work lends itself to specific parameters. Mr. Sauser stated that Mrs. Ewald’s assessment of the road costs is subjective and not a fair representation of actual costs. He stated that the road contract achieves the purpose of specifying time and equipment and that the Roadmaster is responsible for supervising this work.
Mr. Sauser commented that although he dissented in the vote to appoint an independent auditor, believing it more fiscally responsible to utilize the elected board at its lower cost to the Township, he was impressed with the report results and with Mr. Todd’s work in general.
Mr. Wert asked why expenses were higher than income for 1997 and Mr. Todd responded that it could be attributed to the open space acquisition of the 20 acre Pyle parcel.
Mr. Wert noted that Real Estate Transfers and Licensing & Permits account for over $500,000 of the $1,086,400 in revenue for 1997 and voiced a concern over replacing these revenues in the future if they begin to decline as would be expected eventually. Mr. Sauser pointed out that Licensing & Permits are largely revenue neutral since most have associated expenses of similar amounts.
Mr. Wert asked if Mr. Todd compared actual revenue and disbursements with the 1997 Budget on a line by line basis, and Mr. Todd responded no. Mr. Wert was concerned that the Pyle acquisition was not an item listed on the proposed budget.
There were no issues brought forward at this time.
Mr. Oeste explained that in conjunction with the construction plans for the Whitehorse at Charlestown development, a portion of Rees Road was relocated with the old portion to be vacated and ownership of the various sections conveyed to: the owners of Lot #12 at Whitehorse at Charlestown, Spring Oaks Associates, Steven and Robbi Wade and William and Alice Smurthwaite. The Road Vacation Agreement transfers the Township’s interest in the right of way to these owners. Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. Oeste and Mr. Kohli if everything was in order and they both responded yes. Mrs. Ewald then moved to approve the Road Vacation Agreement for the former location of Rees Road. Mr. Wert seconded and all were in favor. Mr. Oeste will obtain all signatures and record the agreement.
The Spring Road Tour was scheduled for April 30, 1998 at 5:00 P.M. beginning at the Soccer Club Clubhouse at Charlestown Park. Mrs. Ewald stated that she is unavailable to attend.
Mr. Oeste will advertise the proposed ordinance amendment after a determination is made on the use of one of the proposed names, Longview Lane located off Conestoga Road. Mrs. Ewald believes it conflicts with Joanna Reed’s property, which displays a “Longview Farm” sign and is widely known as Longview Farm. Mr. Philips, who served on the Re-Numbering Committee, said that according to the guidelines they used, there is no conflict since Mrs. Reed’s farm is located by Emergency Services by her house number on Bodine Road. Mrs. Ewald said she will speak to the property owners on this unnamed lane to ask if they’re willing to select an alternative name. The other proposed lane name is “Artisans Way” for a shared driveway off Howells Road.
Mr. Sauser referred to a letter of April 9, 1998 from Gary and Paula Ramondo in which they requested the Township’s assistance in obtaining public sewer service for their lot in the Whiteland Ridge Development, of which only the Ramondo lot is in Charlestown Township, with one in Uwchlan and the remainder in West Whiteland Township. All the West Whiteland lots will be served by public sewer, and while the Ramondo lot originally passed a perc test for a standard in ground system, re-testing indicates that a mound system will be required. Their concern over the high failure rate of this type of system led them to investigate the possibility of public sewer hook-up served by West Whiteland. In response to their inquiry, West Whiteland Township indicated to them that they would be willing to provide service if Charlestown Township requested it by letter. The lot will have on site water.
Mr. Oeste stated that in order to obtain service from West Whiteland Township, Charlestown and West Whiteland Townships would have to enter into an intermunicipal agreement, in which he would recommend that West Whiteland be responsible for all maintenance and billing arrangements. Mr. Oeste further stated that Charlestown Township’s Act 537 Sewage Facilities Plan would require an amendment. Mr. Kohli added that the Subdivision Plan for Whiteland Ridge would also require an amendment. Mr. Ramondo acknowledged that he understands this to be an involved process and is willing to undergo the expense and time required.
Mr. Wert moved to initiate the paperwork to begin the process of obtaining public sewer service through West Whiteland Township for the Ramondo property. Discussion followed in which it was determined that Mr. Ramondo will obtain cost information and be prepared to make a commitment to the Board of his intention to proceed before the Township expends its efforts on his behalf. There was no second to Mr. Wert’s motion.
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve DHR Escrow Release #4 in the amount of $53,699.00 and Mr. Wert seconded. All were in favor.
Mr. Sauser stated that he spoke to Walt Green of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Mr. Green will make a presentation to the Planning Commission on a proposal for a slip-ramp off Route 29 on Tuesday, April 28, 1998 at 7:30 P.M. at the Charlestown Elementary School. Mr. Sauser requested that following this presentation, the Planning Commission conduct an interview of an additional candidate for the Planning Consultant position.
Mrs. Ewald said that she spoke to one of the Supervisors from Tredyffrin Township, who indicated that Tredyffrin Township looks favorably on the construction of a slip ramp.
Planning Commission Chairman Bud Zeigler stated that there was an omission in his memo of April 15, 1998 to the Board with regard to the three interviews conducted of candidates for the position of Planning Consultant. He said he neglected to state that the Planning Commission needs the services of a land planner in the upcoming months and the only one of the three applicants interviewed is satisfactory, namely Tom Comitta. Some Planning Commission members felt that the Township should investigate alternative candidates during the remainder of 1998. Mr. Zeigler requested that Mr. Comitta attend the meeting on April 28th with regard to the slip ramp proposal and Mr. Sauser agreed.
Mr. Zeigler stated that he is arranging for a representative from the Chester County Planning Commission to attend a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, May 5, 1998 to present the County’s Comprehensive Plan, particularly with respect to the Agreement it seeks with the Township and grant application requirements. Whether changes can be made to the Agreement is of key importance to the Township along with the acceptability of changes to the County’s mapping of the Township.
Planning Commissioner Michael Churchill suggested that the Township obtain a copy of the standard “Visions Partnership” agreement from the County for review prior to the meeting on May 5th. Mr. Wert suggested getting copies of agreements that have been modified by other municipalities. Mr. Zeigler agreed to request this information.
Kevin Kuhn asked why the Township was looking to replace its land planner when its had great continuity with Tom Comitta, who was instrumental in developing the Township’s Comprehensive Plan and in giving testimony at the Altemose hearings.
Mr. Sauser stated that several Planning Commission members indicated concerns with Mr. Comitta’s performance and the Board is looking for a stronger pro-active approach to the proposals that come before the Township. The Planner should provide alternatives for subdivision and land development applicants while balancing the best interests of the Township with the landowners’ and developers’ needs in order to create a win/win situation. He feels that zoning ordinance changes are needed if the Township is to preserve open space and other desirable features.
Mr. Kuhn stated that the consultants work at the Board’s direction and that the Board approved the existing ordinances. He commented that with the Township more prone to interested developers, the ordinances shouldn’t be made more lax. Mr. Sauser responded that that’s not the intention in revising the ordinance, rather that the old approach doesn’t necessarily result in good development. He said that incentives and tradeoffs with developers are needed, giving the Pyle/Coryell tract as an example. He wants to see the Planner provide more input and lead the developer through this process.
Planning Commissioner Charlie Philips commented that the present land planner hasn’t been given this direction. He feels the process can improve with the right direction to the Planner. Mr. Sauser agreed that the Planning Commission is instrumental in working with the applicants, but disagreed about the lack of direction. He stated that Mr. Comitta was given direction on the Pyle/Coryell tract by both the Board and Planning Commission.
Mrs. Ewald disagreed with Mr. Sauser’s statement that the decision to seek a replacement for the Planning Consultant came from the Board of Supervisors, saying that the matter was not decided on by the Board as a whole.
Mr. Wert read aloud Mr. Zeigler’s memo dated April 15, 1998 to the Board of Supervisors outlining the results of the interviews conducted by the Planning Commission of three candidates for the Planner position at their April 14, 1998 meeting. Mr. Wert said that he expects the Township Planner to be more aggressive and independent in his professional recommendations to the Board. He pointed out that with the wealth of planning information available from the Internet and other sources, the Township consultant should be expected to keep current on these matters and disseminate them to the Board.
Mr. Wert said he is concerned with how to best sculpt development in the Township while maintaining an adequate tax base. He further commented that he found Mr. Comitta’s advice lacking in the matter of the Sprint Tower application and that his report addressing on and off site visual impact mitigation was misleading.
Mr. Churchill said he wished to clarify that six of seven Planning Commissioners at the April 14th interviews believed that Mr. Comitta’s qualifications and accomplishments were far superior to those of the other two applicants. He agreed that the work he’s been producing is not what the Township needs in the future, but this may be the result of the Township repeatedly asking him not to undertake projects without specific direction and to focus on keeping costs down. He pointed out that when requested to provide background on cluster ordinances he produced good information. He said that Mr. Comitta was superb in the handling of the Altemose matter and did a good job on the 1993 Open Space Plan. Mr. Churchill said that when the Planning Commission asks for something from Mr. Comitta, they get what they want, and that without direction from either the Board or Commission, no Planner will deliver what is desired. He feels Mr. Comitta’s appointment should extend to the end of 1998 while the Planning Commission determines if he can do the job when managed and directed properly.
Mr. Sauser asked if the Planning Commission conducted a formal vote on this issue, and Mr. Zeigler responded no. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Philips clarified that a consensus was reached with six of seven of the members as Mr. Churchill outlined earlier.
Richard Huey, 17 Buckwalter Farm Lane requested help on a water run off problem he continues to experience due to construction at Charlestown Hunt. Mr. Kohli will work with him on the problem.
Bud Zeigler wished to apologize to Sally Winckelman for a comment he made at the April 14th Planning Commission meeting, that may have been misunderstood by those attending, with regard to equestrians misusing his property by riding in wet weather. He wished to make it clear he was not referring to Mrs. Winckelman but to other riders.
Mrs. Ewald said there were several items of Township business not appearing on the agenda and named them as: continuing complaints from residents with regard to blasting at the quarry and hours of operation, hazardous waste disposal programs and a discussion of possibilities for mitigating traffic concerns at the intersection of Route 29 and Charlestown Road in conjunction with PennDOT’s paving plans. Mr. Sauser requested a written list of these items. Mrs. Ewald requested that the Chairman poll the other Board members for agenda items prior to each meeting.
Mrs. Ewald circulated among the Board a booklet published by the East Whiteland Fire Company commemorating its 45th Anniversary.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 P.M. The next business meeting of the Board of Supervisors will take place on May 4, 1998 at 7:30 P.M. at the Charlestown Elementary School.