The first regular business meeting for January was held January 3, 2000 at the Charlestown Elementary School. Irene W. Ewald, Chairman, Hugh D. Willig, Vice Chairman, Paul J. Hogan, Kevin R. Kuhn, Michael J. Rodgers, Thomas F. Oeste, Esq., Surender S. Kohli, P.B., Linda M. Csete, Secretary, and those on the attached attendee list were present.
The meeting was called to order at 8:40 P.M.
Mrs. Ewald announced a policy change in the conducting of this year’s Board meetings. The Citizen’s Forum at the beginning of the meeting will be for non-agenda items only. Persons wishing to speak will register on a sign-up sheet and be allotted 3 minutes each. If additional time is needed, it must be requested in advance of the meeting. Citizen comments on agenda items will be encouraged at the time that item is addressed by the Board.
Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. Oeste to comment on two legal issues. Mr. Oeste announced that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the Township’s position in the federal case of Altemose V. Charlestown Township. Mr. Oeste said the Altemoses could possibly apply to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration, or they could file with the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears only those cases it selects at its discretion. Mr. Oeste said either possibility is unlikely. He noted that the Township may apply to the Federal Court for reimbursement of costs in the case. Mr. Kuhn clarified to the audience that this is a previous legal suit and not the current curative amendment challenge the Altemoses have since filed against the Township.
Mr. Oeste said that following the 12/6/99 denial of the Independence Construction Materials Land Development Plan by the Board of Supervisors, the applicant has appealed to the Court of Common Pleas for a review of the record.
Mr. Martin expressed concern that an appointment to the Zoning Hearing Board was not made during re-organization. He said they are continuing a hearing on January 11th and that, since member Harry Nagel wasn’t present for the opening of this hearing last month, a full board won’t be convened unless the appointment is made prior to this date. Mrs. Ewald thanked him for bringing this to the Board’s attention and said she would refer the question to counsel.
Mr. Sauser asked for an opportunity to comment prior to action on the Accounts Payable and was given the floor. He said that due to the heavy agenda on December 20, 1999, he was distracted from his intention of proposing bonuses for the Secretary and Roadmaster and requested that the Board consider doing so at this time.
With regard to previous matters during the Reorganization, Mr. Sauser suggested that the Board seek advice of counsel with regard to the Sunshine Law as it appeared that the Board had met privately before the Reorganization meeting. Mrs. Ewald said the Board would take his comment under advisement.
Mrs. Ewald stated that the Accounts Payable Report for January 3, 2000 lists checks totaling approximately $60,000.00, the majority of which the Board has no authority to approve or disapprove since the costs were incurred prior to the time four of the five members began their terms on the Board. She asked elected auditor Philip Staas for any recommendations. Mr. Staas said he reviewed last year’s budget but not the actual figures for each line item. He recommended that the Board approve those checks that do not exceed their line item budget figures for 1999 after this information can be reviewed and the validity of the bills can be verified. He informed the Board he confirmed that, prior to 1999, the Township’s policy was to pay all December bills received prior to the 2nd meeting of December at that meeting.
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the Accounts Payable List for January 3, 2000 with the exception of check numbers 2484-2488 and numbers 2497-2501, and to review these exceptions prior to the next meeting. Mr. Kuhn seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion and Mr. Willig asked how long the research would take to verify the bills. Mrs. Ewald responded that it would be done prior to the next scheduled meeting on January 10th. The vote was called, and all were in favor.
Mr. Sauser said the Auditor’s comments are ludicrous and pointed out that if the bills had been paid in December, the January carryover would be $60,000 less, amounting to no net effect. Mr. Kuhn responded that the Board needs to verify that these bills are valid, and if they exceed their budgeted amounts, an amendment of the budget would be necessary.
Ellen Behrle asked what will happen to the vendors providing their services if the bills are never approved. Mrs. Ewald answered that the Board will take advice from their auditors on this issue, stating that it’s the Board’s responsibility to carefully review bills before approving checks. This is more prudently done before the service is provided, something not possible in this instance since 4 of the 5 board members were not on the Board at that time the services were rendered. She pointed out that there was a Board to approve these checks in December, but they did not do so. Mr. Kuhn said the Board’s obligation is to the taxpayers first and the vendors second. Mrs. Behrle asked what checks were withheld, and Mrs. Ewald described the categories included. Mr. Sauser asked the Treasurer what amount of the $60,000+ bills were received after the December 20, 1999 meeting. but she responded she couldn’t answer without reviewing them further.
Mrs. Ewald noted that the Board cannot approve the minutes of December 20, 1999 since they were not seated at that time. Instead, she asked for a motion to accept them as written. Mr. Kuhn so moved and Mr. Rodgers seconded. All were in favor.
Reports from the Planning Commission, Historical Commission, Zoning Officer, Roadmaster and Fire Marshal are on file. There was no Parks and Recreation Report. Minutes from the last meeting of the Valley Forge Sewer Authority are on file.
Mr. Kohli reported that he received a noise complaint from a Charlestown Hunt resident occupying the second floor of an end unit flat. However, he said the building was constructed according to code and met the requirements of independent sound testing.
Mr. Philips said the Planning Commission’s first meeting for the year will be held on Tuesday, January 11, 2000. He requested guidance and input from the Board on moving forward with a review of the Comprehensive Plan, stating that the Planning Commission’s goal is to devote the 2nd meeting of each month to this topic.
Mrs. Baldwin said the Commission didn’t meet during December and there’s been no activity since the proposed Historical Resources Preservation Ordinance was rejected. She asked for the Board’s guidance in how to proceed on this issue.
Mr. Thompson said he had nothing to add to his written report. Mrs. LaBarge asked if the bridge on Creek Road is within Charlestown Township, and Mr. Thompson responded that it’s in Schuylkill Township. A Wells Road resident asked why it took so long to remove wires from a tree on Yellow Springs Road. Mr. Thompson said they were Bell Atlantic wires, and their response time is very slow compared to PECO’s. The resident asked if this is a safety hazard, and Mr. Alston said it’s been taken care of Mr. Thompson said Bell Atlantic still needs to come back and straighten up the sagging wire Louise Cantrell-Kehoe asked if the Turnpike Commission has communicated with the Roadmaster with regard to the slip ramp issue, and he answered no.
Mr. Alston provided brief details from his written report for December. He said the fire companies responded to 27 vehicle accidents and 27 automatic alarms during 1999. Mr. Hogan asked if the homeowner is fined for repeated false alarms, and Mr. Alston said the Township has no ordinance providing for a fine. Mr. Oeste said there is a criminal statute now and that other municipalities have imposed a fine in accordance with it. Mrs. Ewald noted that the State Police incident report shows the majority of activity in Charlestown is in the nature of false alarms. Dorando Faggioli asked how to avoid false alarms, when it trips anytime the electric goes out and a homeowner may not be home to notify the emergency providers it’s not a real alarm. Mr. Alston said the ordinances providing for a fine aren’t used to harass people but to deal with repeat offenders. Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. Oeste to provide the Board with a copy of the statute.
There was no one present from the Parks and Recreation Board.
Bill Hochwind reported that Joe Bateman of the VFSA gave a status report at the last meeting on the re-rate project, which is currently out to bid. They expect their water quality permit to be issued and construction to begin in the Spring and conclude in the Fall of this year. The 2000 Budget was adopted at slightly more than 1% above the prior year figure. A brief report on the bio-solid storage project has determined the project won’t be needed. Mr. Kuhn asked if the VFSA has considered any re-rating due to the Trammel-Crow application in East Whiteland/Tredyffrin Townships, and Mr. Winckelman responded no. He said the regional plan is also in process and due to come out in March 2000. It will be sent to each of the member townships for review. He invited the Board members to visit the Plant for a tour at their convenience.
John Martin reported that he and Sue Staas attended the last meeting held in late November and that he will provide a copy of the minutes, written by the Turnpike’s Consultant, for the Board. He said the next meeting is scheduled for January 26, 2000 at 7:00 P.M. at the Desmond Hotel. Observers are welcome, but no comments are permitted. He said hostility resulted from Charlestown’s court reporter at the November meeting and that the Board should reconsider its strategy. He said hand held recorders were acceptable. Loretta Watson suggested a video tape recording. Mrs. Ewald said the Board will discuss this issue further.
Mr. Churchill asked if anyone from the Township attended the meeting at East Whiteland Township where Trammell-Crow discussed infrastructure needs for its proposed office park. Mr. Kuhn said both he and Phil Staas attended the meeting, and that Mr. Staas did some analysis of the traffic study submitted by Trammell-Crow. The applicant proposes to develop the site regardless of whether the slip ramp becomes a reality. Mr. Kohli stated that no traffic improvements are required for the first phase, which consists of 500,000 square feet of office space. Eventually, 2,500,000 square feet of space is proposed, and at this point they propose widening Route 29 to four lanes coming from Charlestown Township, including the widening of the Turnpike bridge/underpass. He noted that sewer capacity is not currently available for this project.
The proceeds were taken by a court reporter and the record closed. Mr. Oeste said he will have a draft decision for the Board prior to the January 17, 2000 meeting and the Board will make its decision at that time.
Mrs. Ewald read aloud the timetable for the entire process of amending the Budget. She then moved to announce the Board’s intention to revise the Budget for 2000 and Mr. Kuhn seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion. Mr. Kuhn said he’d like the Auditors to review the budget further. Mr., Staas said he is particularly interested in researching how the various special funds were funded through the years, as this dictates whether these funds can be re-assigned. He also plans to consult state guidelines and pay particular attention to the budget line items versus actual figures. He questioned whether the Budget as approved is actually in balance. Mr. Sauser said while it’s good to have this level of oversight in the process, he stressed that there is a Board of Auditors and no one individual should be conducting its business. Mrs. LaBarge stated she is also on the Board of Auditors and plans to participate in the process. Mr. Sauser questioned whether the Auditors could meet without publicly advertising the meeting, and Mr. Oeste said the meeting must be advertised as open to the public. Mrs. Ewald called the vote, and all were in favor.
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the expenditures covering training fees for new members of the Board of Supervisors and Board of Auditors. Mr. Kuhn seconded and all were in favor.
Mrs. Ewald explained that the 1976 Comprehensive Plan was last reviewed in 1990, as required every ten years. At that time it was revalidated for a ten year period. She encouraged the Planning Commission to begin the review process, acknowledging that it could take up to one year to complete. She asked for ongoing recommendations to the Board as each Section is covered and reviewed. She added that Supervisor Liaisons to the Planning Commission, Mr. Willig and Mr. Rodgers, will attend the review sessions and report back to the Board. Mrs. LaBarge asked what the comprehensive plan and its review entail, and Mr. Philips provided some details. He said that input from the public is welcome and needed, and that he looks forward to coordinating with the liaisons. He would like to involve the Township Planner and asked for the Board’s approval to go forward, as well as to provide funds in the Budget for outside consultants and organizations with details on planning methods such as TDR and water resources protection. Mrs. Ewald asked him to review the budget needs and notify the Board of the Planning Commission’s recommendations. She added that Schuylkill Township had some good presentations from outside groups, and Mr. Philips said he already had their names. Mr. Kuhn asked if the County Planning Commission has any useful resources, and Mr. Philips said this will be investigated with Mr. Comitta. Mrs. Ewald said the current Comprehensive Plan is available for review at the Township Office.
Mr. Rodgers moved to authorize the Planning Commission to begin its review of the 1976 Comprehensive Plan. Mrs. Ewald seconded and all were in favor.
Mrs. Ewald announced that the Board will hold an executive session with the Great Valley School Board and its representatives on January 5, 2000 at the School District office to discuss the acquisition of the 55 acre Pyle farm on Yellow Springs Road. She said the Board would like to order its own appraisals of the property to compare with those of the School District. Mr. Rodgers moved to authorize the ordering of appraisals of the property. Mr. Hogan seconded and all were in favor. Mr. Oeste clarified that according to the Sunshine Act; the Board may meet in Executive Session on this issue until a binding agreement is reached.
Charlestown Oaks Escrow Releases
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve Phase I Release #11 in the amount of $38,501.25 and Phases III-VI #1 for $867,597.25 for the Charlestown Oaks subdivision. Mr. Hogan seconded and all were in favor.
Authorize Solicitor to Represent Board
Mrs. Ewald moved to authorize the Solicitor to represent the Board of Supervisors at the Zoning Hearing Board for the Subdivision Services Inc. application scheduled for January 13, 2000 with intention of opposing the application for approval for billboards to be erected on a property at Phoenixville Pike and Yellow Springs Road along the Turnpike. Mr. Willig seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion. Ms. Cantrell-Kehoe applauded the Board’s intention to oppose the application. Mr. Philips asked if the scenic highway law applies in this situation, and Mr. Oeste said he’ll take it into consideration. Mrs. Ewald called the vote and all were in favor.
Mrs. Ewald read Resolution #552-2000 in its entirety, authorizing the Solicitor to seek reimbursement of costs from Leon J. and Carol Altemose following the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmation of the federal case decision in the Township’s favor. Mr. Rodgers moved to approve Resolution #552-2000 and Mr. Willig seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion. Mr. Willig asked what the Board can hope to recover and Mr. Oeste explained that certain administrative costs are eligible, such as filing and copying charges. He described the procedure as relatively simple and commonly practiced. Mr. Sauser stated his concern that considering the ongoing litigation with the Altemoses, the Board may wish to reconsider in the event the action is viewed as persecuting or vindictive. Mr. Oeste responded that this is an entitlement of the Township as the prevailing party and a normal procedure that doesn’t present a problem in this regard. Mrs. Ewald called the vote, and all were in favor.
Mr. Philips explained the Planning Commission’s recommendation with regard to the General Residential Properties Inc. subdivision plan for Spring Lane Farms. He stated that the applicant proposes to relocate the road in a wetland area, as this location is preferable to the alternate currently shown on the plan. The alternate was developed after the applicant was notified by the DEP that the wetland area was a possible bog turtle habitat and therefore not acceptable for a road crossing. Since that time, it’s been determined the habitat does not exist, and the road can be moved back to this location. The Planning Commission reviewed the request and believes it is a desirable change. In order to relocate the road, the DEP requires a letter from the Township Engineer indicating that the Township supports the change. Mrs. Ewald scheduled a presentation of the proposed change for the January 10, 2000 meeting and asked that plans be submitted to the Township office by January 5th.
Mrs. Ewald stated the Board’s intention to conduct interviews for positions on the various boards and commissions over the next few weeks prior to making the outstanding appointments. She said the Board plans to review all outstanding business over the next two months and to conduct weekly meetings until this is accomplished in order to keep the meetings at a reasonable length. Agendas will be planned to cover approximately 2 1/2 hours of business, from 7:30 P.M. to 10:00 P.M.
Mr. Kuhn moved to adjourn the meeting, and Mr. Hogan seconded. Mrs. Ewald adjourned the meeting at 9:45 P.M.