The second regular business meeting for October was held October 18, 1999 at the Charlestown Elementary School, 2060 Charlestown Road, Devault. John B. Sauser, Chairman, Robert, C. Wert, Vice Chairman, Irene W. Ewald, Member, James E. McErlane, Esq., Surender S. Kohli, P.E., Ed Theurkauf, 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 announced that the Board of Supervisors met in executive session just prior to tonight’s meeting to discuss an applicant’s request with regard to the handling of his conditional use hearing. A decision on this request will be announced at the November 1, 1999 meeting.

Citizen’s Forum – Agenda Items

Mr. Sauser explained that since the agenda consists solely of one presentation, citizens would be permitted to comment on the subject at intervals throughout the evening.

Presentation: Brightside Farm


Mr. Sauser introduced the presentation by explaining that the Farm Committee, consisting of some residents, members of the Civic Association and of Charlestown Green would provide specifics on the possible acquisition of the Great Valley School District’s 55 acre parcel and propose uses for it. He asked the audience to keep in mind that the main issue is the question of whether the Township should acquire more open space, and invited the citizens to express their opinions and ask questions.

Mark Connolly, Parks and Recreation Chairman and member of the Farm Committee, introduced Ed Theurkauf of Thomas Comitta Associates, who provided an overview of the Township and its present open space. He referred to the 1993 Open Space, Recreation and Environmental Resources Plan, which recommended the creation of a Pickering Creek Historic Overlay District to preserve scenic, historic and environmentally fragile lands. He said that the Brightside Farm property has the potential of filling all of these roles. It is in the proposed Pickering Creek Historic Overlay District, accesses the Horseshoe Trail, contains historic structures, and possesses one of the most highly valued viewsheds in the Township. There is also the potential for playing fields at the site, other active uses and possibly a future municipal building.

Proposed Uses

  1. Equestrian: Ellen Behrle began by reading the statement prepared by Marcia Solda and Alix Coleman, who arrived later in the meeting. The statement said that the Pickering Pony Club would be very interested in an equestrian ring at this site for horse shows and other related activities, including educational ones. They said that an equestrian center attracts horse owners to the Township, which serves to preserve more open space, as they purchase large lots and tend to own them long-term. The center could also host dog shows and antique car shows. Ms. Coleman asked citizens to consider the “cost” of not acquiring this land, as the alternative is development.
  2. Private Golf Course: John Panizza, President of General Residential Properties Inc., began by explaining that his company currently owns the 94 acre “Deerfield” tract across the street from the Brightside Farm and Township’s 20.6 acre site. He proposed to purchase the 55 acres from the School District, and combine them with his existing 94 acres to design an 18 hole championship golf course. Twelve to fifteen condominium style homes would be developed in three dwelling groups on the combined tracts. They would be hidden by slopes in order to protect the viewshed. Three to four acres would be set aside for the Township’s use, possibly for a community garden. A donation to the Open Space Fund would be provided with no restrictions on its use. A golf course would require no funding from the Township and would remain in the tax base without adding to the student count at the Great Valley School District.
  3. Community Supported Agriculture: Mark Connolly described the potential of using approximately 10 acres of the site for a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) that could go hand in hand with the equestrian use. He pointed out that a CSA at the Brightside Farm would provide the third leg to the Township’s other public lands that include the Pickering Preserve and Charlestown Park by adding an agricultural aspect. He provided some history on CSAs and referred to the one in Kimberton as an example. Approximately 200 subscribers would pay into the CSA to provide an annual salary for the farmer, who would also be provided with a residence, in this case, the Pyle farmhouse. The farmer would have a lease contract and manage the property. Subscribers would go to the farm one a week, approximately 35 weeks of the year to pick up their share of eggs and organic vegetables.

Comments, Questions and Answers

Equestrian Center

Comment: Loudspeakers will be disruptive during events
Mrs. Solda: Horses don’t like noise, so loud speakers are kept at the lowest levels possible.
Mr. Nesspor: Why didn’t you come forward when the Parks & Recreation Board was looking for uses at Charlestown Park?

Golf Course

Q: If a golf course is developed, where will the water come from?
Mr. Panizza: Either from wells or by tapping into public water, as it is available nearby at Charlestown Oaks.
Pam Smith: Where does Philadelphia Suburban Water get its water?
Greg Nesspor: From the Pickering Creek and Schuylkill River – its more than enough
Q: Would it be a municipal, public or private golf course?
Mr. Panizza: It would be privately owned but open to the public.
Ellen Behrle: What if, in 10 years, a golf course is no longer desirable? What guarantees it won’t then be developed?
Mr. Sauser: The zoning would have to be changed to allow this use to begin with, and would be written in such a way as to insure preservation of the land.
Barbara DeWilde: If the golf course plan doesn’t work out, what will happen on the 96 acre Deerfield site?
Mr. Panizza: It will be developed, probably via the Open Space Option, to build 40 homes on approximately 1 acre lots with the remainder to be kept open
Ms. Cantrell-Kehoe: Golf courses use a lot of pesticides and lawn chemicals. Where would the run-off go?
Mr. Panizza: Since golf courses have little impervious surface, its not a problem to send water back into the ground on site. Also, more organic methods of maintaining golf courses are being used today.
Patrice Aitken: What other golf courses have you developed?
Mr. Panizza: None, but we are consulting with an experienced developer, Rick Marquardt.
Jacob Merriwether: Lives adjacent to the land and feels a golf course would be the worst scenario of those proposed.

Community Supported Agriculture

Mr. Nesspor: The Kimberton CSA has grant funding. Where is Charlestown’s? What about liability when the Township is the Owner of Record?
Mr. McErlane: The Township’s best protection is through insurance. All Township lands are insured and these would be no different.
Mr. Sauser: All lessors would be required to provide their own liability insurance and sign hold harmless agreements with the Township.

Supervisors’ Comments

Mr. Sauser stated that the general theme of tonight’s meeting is the preservation of open space. The Board wants feedback from the citizens as to whether the Township should try to work out an agreement to purchase the GVSD’s 55 acre parcel within the 90 day time period they will allow according to their letter of 10/13/99. A survey will be distributed to all residents asking for their input. The acquisition can be partly funded through state and county grants and the township’s existing budget surplus and open space funds. To become eligible for County funds, the Township must negotiate its compliance with the “Landscapes” program.

Mr. Wert explained that the Board of Supervisors met with the School Board on 10/6/99 to discuss the sale of the Pyle land. He read from Dr. Jones’ letter of 10/13/99 outlining the School Board’s proposed resolutions to authorize the appraisal of the parcel, resubmission of the subdivision plan to the Township, and establishment of a 90-day period for the submission and approval of a written agreement between the school district and Charlestown Township for purchase of the land. The School Board plans to require that the land price meet or exceed the appraised market value. Mr. Wert said that he’d like to see this land preserved, and that a decision to purchase it must be made within 90 days. The use of the land can be decided later. He said that the Township would benefit from a standing committee to study the benefits/costs of acquiring open space. Considerations of the purchase include the loss of potential revenue from the tax rolls and traffic impacts from the various proposed activities. He also wants to see the survey go out, and read it aloud requesting suggestions for additions.

Mrs. Ewald thanked her colleagues for their comments and the farm committee for pursuing their vision for the Brightside Farm. She said the land has many possibilities that may yet come forward. She asked if the citizens believe that the preservation of open space is a core value in the community, reminding them that there will be a real cost involved. She noted that the Township has no existing debt and considerable surpluses due to recent economic trends and careful fiscal management, therefore, approximately $400,000 is available from the current budget for the possible acquisition. With regard to taxes, she said the average township tax bill for a property owner in Charlestown Township is $100-200 per year. More than 40% of all property owners pay less than $100/year.

Grants Available

Wendy Leland researched grants and said that a number of smaller state grants from $10,000 – 50,000 are strong possibilities, including ones from the Dept. of Commerce and Economic Development, PennDOT (preservation of scenic roads), and grants through legislation efforts made by Rep. Carole Rubley. The Township would not be eligible for the DCNR grant because they disallow a purchase from one public entity to another.

The County is the strongest grant source, with $250,000 in matching funds available from the Heritage Park Open Space Land Acquisition Grant Program and the new $75 million open space initiative. The County Planning Commission will provide 75% of the cost of developing an open space plan that includes the site.

Private funding is primarily in the form of low or zero interest bridge loans. Private donations are always a possibility.

Federal funding is generally unavailable as waiting lists are decades long.

Financing Options

Rick Hevner described several techniques of obtaining financing for the purchase, including bond issues through banks, leasing companies, or by the Township itself in the form of tax free municipal bonds. Mr. McErlane pointed out that municipal bonds can be set up very quickly.

Mr. Hevner also described “balloon” type mortgages, for which the balance can be reduced when grants become available and when surpluses occur. He commented on the concern that purchasing open space removes a parcel from the tax rolls by noting that it also serves to enhance surrounding property values creating a balancing effect.

Cash Available

Mark Connolly showed that 60 of the 73 municipalities in Chester County have an earned income tax, and noted that West Pikeland Township receives $750,000 per year via this tax. Most people who live in Charlestown pay an earned income tax where they work, so to initiate one in Charlestown would cause no real financial hardship to them but keep their money in the community. He also provided an overview of the Township budget.

Citizens Comments

John Pittock, Wells Road, expressed a concern for the effects of the proposed uses on water quality, since his property is down flow from the tract. He suggested speaking to the School District about selling the property at cost plus expenses considering that Charlestown Township residents are also residents of the School District, and that preserving the land for open space is less expensive for the District than having the land developed and bringing in more students. He also asked how each of the proposed uses will handle traffic issues.

Jacob Merriwether, Webmaster for the Charlestown Township citizens’ website, reminded the audience that there are 20 pages on the site devoted to Brightside Farm with additional information on CSA’s and general Township data such as the 1999 Budget.

Citizens’ Forum - Non-Agenda Items

No items were brought forward at this time.


Mrs. Ewald moved to adjourn and Mr. Wert seconded. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 P.M. The next meeting of the Board of Supervisors is scheduled for November 1, 1999 at 7:30 P.M. at the Charlestown Elementary School.

Respectfully Submitted,

Linda M. Csete
Township Secretary