The first regular business meeting for February was held February 7, 2000 at the Charlestown Elementary School. Irene W. Ewald, Chairman, Hugh D. Willig, Vice Chairman, Kevin R. Kuhn, Michael J. Rodgers, Thomas F. Oeste, Esq., Surender S. Kohli, P.E., Ed Theurkauf, Thomas Comitta (arrived later), Linda M. Csete, Secretary, and those on the attached attendee list were present.
The meeting was called to order at 7:35 P.M.
Mrs. Ewald announced that Paul Hogan is out of town and is expected back for the February 14, 2000 meeting.
The following individuals came forward.
Mrs. Ewald asked for comments from the Board.
Mr. Kuhn said he is a resident of Whitehorse Road and sometimes cuts through from Union Hill or Rees Roads during off-peak hours. He said his responsibility is to safety first and convenience second. A traffic study will be undertaken before any decision is made on restrictions by the Board. He said he’s also concerned with Hollow Road, and cited the fatal accident at Hollow and Pikeland Roads last year. He said he’d like to do something for Hollow Road as well, but as a state road the options are limited. He suggested the Board ask the Township Engineer to investigate them. Mr. Kuhn said the Township is being used as a doormat by outside commuters and it’s an abuse to the residents. He’s concerned with the slip ramp issue and that it’s in the Township’s best interest for the Turnpike Commission to receive accurate traffic counts on Route 29, which would be better achieved if the cut through roads were restricted. He estimates 25-30% of the traffic that would normally go through the Route 29 intersection is being diverted through alternate rural roads.
Mr. Willig said he lives at the end of a dead end road in the area of Charlestown closer to Phoenixville. He said he used Union Hill and Rees as cut through roads when he commuted into Philadelphia in the past and found he had to adjust his schedule to avoid peak traffic times. He said if he encountered a traffic restriction along his usual commute route, he would re-adjust his schedule to allow more time. He sees the issue as one of safety and quality of life, though he acknowledged that sitting in traffic also diminishes one’s quality of life. He said after he settled in as a resident of Charlestown he felt differently about cutting through rural residential roads, and he’s in favor of imposing restrictions on Union Hill and Rees Roads.
Mr. Rodgers said he travels on Union Hill Road to reach Whitehorse Road in the mornings to pick up his grandchildren. He feels safety is the uppermost consideration and that he’s in favor of the restriction.
Mrs. Ewald said she lives on Pine Drive, an isolated road in the township not used as a through street. She said she commutes to Devon during rush hour in the morning but returns late enough in the evening that traffic is not a problem. She finds the roads congested and cars travelling at high rates of speed. She said she must remind herself not to speed at times. She feels the children on Union Hill and Rees Road live in danger due to the excess traffic. The blind hill on Rees Road frequently sends cars into the woods when they come up over the hill, find a stopped school bus picking up students, and can’t stop in time on the road. She said this is unacceptable. She put it to the people in attendance that the solution may be found among them. She invited people to bring forward their suggestions, acknowledging that this won’t be an easy problem to solve. She recommended trying the restrictions for a four to six month period and then re-evaluating. She welcomed help from the residents, saying they’re all part of the same community even though they may disagree on this issue. She said the bigger problem is the Pa. Turnpike slip ramp issue, which will divert a vast amount of traffic now exiting the Turnpike at King of Prussia into Charlestown Township. She said this would destroy the community.
Additional comments from the audience were as follows:
Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. Kohli if he had an update on the timetable for the bridge restoration on Route 29. Mr. Kohli said the design stage is not yet complete, and until it is, the project won’t be let out for bid. After the bid process starts, the project should be completed in approximately 4 months.
All persons being heard, she closed the citizen’s forum for non-agenda items and invited attendees to stay for the remainder of the meeting and to attend others. She said following the February 14th meeting scheduled at the Elementary School, the Board is working on arrangements to move future meetings to the Valley Forge Christian College.
Mr. Kuhn moved to approve the minutes of January 31, 2000 and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion from the Board. Mr. Willig amended the minutes to include the following statement at the end of the first paragraph on page 3: Mr. Neill said the Bedminster project was purchased at or near market value. The number of lots developed was half that of the by-right plan and a profit was still made. Mr. Kuhn accepted the amendment. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion from the public, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the Treasurer’s Report for January 1 - 31, 2000 and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion from the Board and then the public. There being none, she called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Kuhn moved to approve the Accounts Payable for February 7, 2000 totaling $85,040.00 and Mrs. Ewald seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion from the Board and then the public. Mr. Willig asked for clarification on the Road Contractor’s bill. He noted that one piece of equipment rated at $50.00 per hour was reduced to $20.00 per hour by the Roadmaster. Mr. Faggioli explained that he called for use of the rubber tire loader, a piece of equipment contracted at $20.00 per hour with an operator, but that the Contractor refused to provide it for use in the snow. Instead, he substituted a $50.00 per hour backhoe, which has a bucket 2 the size of the loader. Mr. Kuhn asked if this meant the process took twice as long, was 2 times more costly, and moved 2 as much snow as a loader would have, and Mr. Faggioli said yes. Mrs. Ewald asked if Mr. Faggioli assigned specific equipment for the job, and he said yes, noting that in his prior business as a road contractor, he always used a loader for this type of work. He added that he also ordered a grader, another $20.00 per hour piece of equipment on the road contract, and it was also unavailable. The Roadmaster questioned whether the contractor in fact has a rubber tire loader, and said that prior to the contract award, the Township should have confirmed the model year and serial number on all equipment listed. Mrs. Ewald asked if a rubber tire loader was bid by the contractor, and Mr. Faggioli said yes.
Mrs. Ewald asked for an opinion from the Solicitor. Mr. Oeste said the Roadmaster has the authority to direct the road contractor and to specify what equipment is to be used, provided that item is listed in the contract. The contractor has an obligation to provide it. Mr. Kuhn asked what is done if the equipment is unavailable, citing the grader, which was in for repair. Mr. Faggioli answered that a larger piece of equipment can be substituted, but must be provided at the lower cost. Mr. Rodgers agreed with this assessment, stating that he reviewed the billing with Mr. Faggioli and he adjusted the billing to meet the contract.
Mr. Willig asked why Rouse Chamberlin Ltd. is being backcharged for snow removal at the Whitehorse at Charlestown development. Mrs. Ewald explained that they will be charged for snow removal for Phase III roads only, which haven’t been dedicated to the Township yet. The Developer was unaware that the dedication process had not been completed, and she communicated to Mrs. Ewald that Rouse Chamberlin would be unable to provide snow removal service and agreed to reimburse the Township for these activities. Mrs. Ewald noted a similar situation at the Heatherwood development, where the private road wasn’t cleared by the developer and the Township took care of the road as it was considered a health, safety and welfare issue.
Mr. Kuhn asked about the disallowing of 5 hours on one of the billing items. Mr. Faggioli said he instructed the Road Contractor to clear the roads until 10:00 P.M. and resume at 3:00 A.M., but the Contractor disregarded these instructions and had his crew work through the night in order to save them an additional commute into Charlestown. Mr. Faggioli said these five hours amounted to $1,600.00. He said he felt that, if anything, he was lenient with the Road Contractor with regard to reviewing the billing. Mr. Faggioli said Rittenbaugh Inc. did an excellent job on the roads, working hard and giving their full cooperation to the Township. Mrs. Ewald said she saw steady improvement in the quality of work over the course of the month.
Mrs. Behrle said she is an employee of Delaware Valley Paving and worked for them when she prepared their contract bid last fall. She expressed her confusion in how the present contractor can bid any piece of equipment at $20.00 per hour including an operator. She acknowledged that sometimes a bid is unbalanced, providing a lower bid cost on those items you don’t expect to use often. She questioned why Charlestown has fewer and fewer bidders each year, and suggested that the next time the contract is bid the potential for this is avoided and the bid process made more fair. Mr. Kuhn asked if the state or one of its agencies has a standard bid package. Mr. Kohli said there are general specifications but each municipality tailors it to their own needs. Mr. Faggioli noted that the sewer rodder, bid at $5.00 per hour, is never available. Instead, the Contractor calls out a sewer service that charges $125.00 per hour to clean the drains. Mr. Rodgers said the Contractor bid the job and has to live by the contract. Mr. Kuhn agreed that the Township can do nothing other than follow the contract. Mrs. Ewald told Mr. Faggioli that as Roadmaster, he is in charge of the Contractor.
(Mr. Comitta arrived at this time.)
There being no comment from the public, she called the vote on the Accounts Payable for February 7th. 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. Faggioli reported that 5.1 inches of snow fell in January in three separate events. There were a few complaints on Howell Road that were answered and attended to within one hour. He felt the number of complaints was limited and that the Contractor did a beautiful job. He added that 300 tons of salt were used on the roads.
Mr. Alston reported there were 5 automatic alarms in January with 2 of them to the same residence. He noted this same residence had 3 false alarms last month. He reported numerous accidents during the month, the majority of which could be attributed to excessive speed. Mr. Alston provided a brief description of the need to update the Fire Control Ordinance and develop a new Hazardous Materials Ordinance.
Mr. O’Brien asked what the effect of speed bumps is on fire equipment, and Mr. Alston responded that it’s the same as it is on automobiles.
Mr. Kuhn said Mr. Martin provided him with an agenda for the next Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting to be held February 23, 2000 from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. at the Desmond Hotel. He read the agenda aloud. He invited residents to attend and listen, reminding them they will not have an opportunity to speak. Mr. Kuhn said a primary concern for Charlestown and Schuylkill Townships is to gain an understanding of what the final work product from these sessions will be.
A resident asked for the names of Charlestown Township residents on the committee, and Mrs. Ewald named John Martin and Sue Staas as the two representatives, with Charlie Philips and Wendy McLean as alternates. Mrs. Ewald said the committee is heavily weighted in favor of business interests. She noted that the Exton Chamber of Commerce recently held a meeting on the subject but did not invite Charlestown Township.
Mrs. Ewald informed the attendees that the Township has a suit against the Turnpike Commission in Court, and asked Mr. Oeste to explain. Mr. Oeste said the Township has petitioned the Court to request that the Turnpike Commission be required to hold public hearings prior to the construction of interchanges or slip ramps. The Turnpike Commission has filed their answer, and the Township filed its reply. The next step will be the discovery and hearing processes.
John Panizza, George Asimos, Esq., Chuck Dobson and Bob Smiley of General Residential Properties Inc. (GRPI) were present to discuss their February 7, 2000 request for an extension of the Township decision date to March 20th. The current deadline is February 7, 2000.
Mr. Oeste provided some background on the situation, stating that in October 1999 the Township agreed to provide a decision on both the Conditional Use Application and Preliminary Plan by 12/6/99. As the conditional use process concluded, however, the 1999 Board determined that a decision on the preliminary plan couldn’t be made simultaneously with the conditional use decision because of compliance issues. The preliminary plan required numerous changes in order to comply with the conditions of the Conditional Use Decision and therefore a decision on it could not be rendered on the same night. GRPI therefore agreed to extend the decision date on the Preliminary Plan to 12/20/99, and subsequently, to 2/7/00.
Mr. Oeste asked the applicant for confirmation that there is only one Preliminary Plan before the Township for consideration at this time, and that the applicant is willing to grant an extension on the decision deadline to March 20, 2000. Mr. Panizza confirmed that this is an accurate statement.
Mr. Kohli said he understood that the applicant is revising the preliminary plan in order to comply with the conditional use decision and the Township consultants’ review comments. After all items were addressed, the Applicant will make a full, complete submission to the Township for review. Mr. Oeste asked if the applicant will be able to make this complete submission by 2/15/00 as stated in his letter of January 10, 2000. Mr. Panizza answered no, due to a weather related delay in obtaining the 2nd percolation test on Lot #8 as required by the Conditional Use Decision. The County Health Department has canceled a number of scheduled tests due to winter weather conditions and has set a new testing date of February 9th. Mr. Panizza expects their approval letter within two weeks of this date, and GRPI’s full submission to the Township can be made shortly thereafter. He said the submission will meet all the Township’s requests and requirements communicated to date.
Mrs. Ewald asked for clarification that there is only one plan currently before the Township for consideration, and Mr. Panizza answered yes. She asked if portions of the plan that have arrived in piecemeal fashion since the plan submission are to be considered revisions to the plan. Mr. Panizza answered that he only submitted the additional information township board members or consultants requested, and that they’ve been submitted to the Planning Commission for review. Mr. Kohli noted that the Planning Commission has already given its recommendation on the Preliminary Plan, and it was a recommendation for denial.
Mr. Kuhn asked if the time clock for review starts over when the revised preliminary plan is submitted, and Mrs. Ewald answered yes. Mr. Panizza disagreed, stating that GRPI has an agreement with the Township that the decision would be made 12/6/99, and that agreement remains in force even though it was amended twice to extend the decision date. He said the Township should honor the agreement made by the previous Board and that the Township already received its part of the bargain when GRPI waived its claim to a deemed approved conditional use decision last fall.
Mr. Oeste said the Board has to decide between starting a new time clock with the revised submission or continuing with the agreement referenced by Mr. Panizza.
Mr. Kuhn asked if the Board could have denied the plan on 12/6/99. Mr. Oeste said yes, they could have denied it on the grounds that it didn’t comply with the conditional use decision. Mrs. Ewald asked if Mr. Asimos agreed with this statement, and Mr. Asimos said he agreed. Mr. Asimos said it’s not accurate to say the plan would have been denied. The Board elected to impose a series of conditions that the applicant would have found impossible to produce on its plan at the same meeting. The applicant has now made all required changes except the 2nd perc test on Lot #8, which is weather dependent.
Mr. Kuhn asked if there is a copy of the Township’s agreement with the applicant. Mr. Oeste responded no, but Mr. Panizza’s letter dated 10/12/99 is an accurate representation of that agreement.
Mr. Asimos asked what a reasonable time period would be to review the one missing item, stating that his applicant wants another extension. Mr. Kuhn said he is not in favor of an extension but prefers to start the clock over with the revised submission. He said he doesn’t want to be rushed in considering a plan that was recommended for denial by the Planning Commission. Mr. Panizza said this will extend the time period past his settlement date, and said he could have submitted the plan weeks ago with all but the one perc test item, but withheld it upon the request of the Township Engineer at their 1/7/00 meeting. Mr. Asimos said the Board can’t turn down the plan based on the failure of another agency to act. He said starting the 90 day time clock over is more time than the applicant needs. Mr. Kuhn agreed with this statement but said he wants the time regardless. If the Board is able to decide the matter earlier, it will. Mrs. Ewald agreed, stating that the agreement was an improper procedure that deviated from the ordinance, creating confusion. She said the Board should follow the rules and that it’s not fair if the Board doesn’t use a consistent procedure for everyone.
Mr. Willig asked if they’re not at the same impasse as in December. Mr. Panizza said no, that in December the plan wasn’t in compliance since there was no time to make it so following the conditions of the conditional approval. This time, he said the plan is in compliance, so it’s a different issue. Mr. Kuhn said he can’t assume the plan is in compliance until he’s had a chance to review it. Mr. Panizza said the Planning Commission denied the plan for reasons outside the Township Ordinance, on the basis that they felt there are too many lots, and Mr. Asimos elaborated. Mrs. Ewald said she disagrees with Mr. Asimos’ interpretation of the Township’s ordinance but understands his argument for his client.
Mr. Kohli repeated that the Township is waiting for a new submission, which can’t be made until the Lot 8 perc tests are completed and approved by the County Health Department.
Mrs. Ewald said what the Board has before them now does not comply. Members met the applicant’s engineer on site recently and he stated conditions were wetter than usual. Mr. Panizza said that regardless of this, the perc test will pass.
Mr. Panizza said he’d be willing to push the extension into April. Mr. Kuhn reiterated that he favors re-starting the time clock due to his newness on the Board. Mr. Kohli stated that the 90-day time clock starts at the first Planning Commission meeting following the submission, provided there’s a two week lead time prior to the meeting. Mr. Oeste advised the Board to take an action on the applicant’s request for an extension to March 20, 2000, and then if they wish, accept the application under the requirements referenced in the Subdivision Ordinance that calls for starting the time clock over.
Mr. Panizza made an offer to submit the plans as Preliminary/Final, in which case he would accept the 90-day time clock. Mrs. Ewald said she won’t accept a preliminary/final submission on this plan since it was denied by the Planning Commission. Mr. Panizza questioned why the Board has to act this evening, and Mr. Oeste said the time extension is only good through tonight unless the Board acts on his request for an extension to March 20, 2000 as outlined in his letter dated 2/7/00.
Mrs. Ewald moved to request that the Applicant extend the decision deadline on the Brooklands Preliminary Plan indefinitely and to follow Section 302-E of the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance with respect to the anticipated revised Preliminary Plan submission, with Section 302-E providing guidelines triggering a new 90 day review period. Mr. Willig seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion from the Board, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor. Mr. Oeste asked the Applicant if he agreed to the conditions of the vote, and Mr. Panizza answered yes. Mrs. Ewald said she failed to ask for public comment prior to the vote, withdrew it, and asked for public comment now. There were none. She called the vote again, and all were in favor.
Mr. Alston distributed a proposed draft ordinance revision to the 1968 Fire Protection Ordinance. He went through the revisions on the blackline copy, which, among other changes, added a fine structure for repeat false fire alarms and a prohibition of parking in marked fire lanes or in any manner that would impede the progress of any emergency vehicle.
Mrs. Ewald asked if people who have consistently false alarms can correct their systems. Mr. Alston answered yes. Mr. Kuhn asked what percentage of false alarms are repeats and Mr. Alston said not that many, but explained that each false alarm is treated like a real fire, bringing in volunteers from their jobs and putting all the necessary apparatus on the road. Mr. Willig asked how many marked fire lanes are there in the township. Mr. Alston said they need to be established, noting that even the Elementary School isn’t properly marked. For cul de sacs with center islands, there would be no parking against the island.
Mr. Alston said the draft is in its preliminary stage and is being submitted to the Board and Township Solicitor for their input. Mrs. Ewald suggested the Planning Commission also review it.
Mr. Alston distributed some materials relating to a proposed Hazardous Materials Ordinance, noting that the information is very preliminary in nature. He read a list of issues under discussion including: timeliness of reporting new or depleted material, reportable quantities, reporting methodology, proper storage procedures and fees. He provided sample copies of a hazardous materials handling permit application, a grid map of hazardous material locations, and a permit fee structure. He anticipates producing a draft in the next four weeks. Mrs. Ewald placed this matter on the April 3, 2000 agenda.
Mr. Kuhn was appreciative of Mr. Alston’s efforts and stated the ordinance is long overdue. Mr. Hanscom asked if the ordinance revision will be made public, and Mrs. Ewald answered that the process is just beginning and there will be public discussion as well as a hearing on the ordinance when a final draft is prepared. Information will also be included in the upcoming newsletter.
Ms. Neumeister asked how the hazardous material information will be disseminated, since the Township is served by two different fire companies. Mr. Alston said he works with both fire companies as well as a number of others, and that both Kimberton and East Whiteland Fire Company chiefs will have the information on hand. He cited the recent incident at ChemClene in East Whiteland Township just outside of Charlestown. The East Whiteland Fire Marshal arrived on the scene with a book referencing all hazardous materials sites in East Whiteland, including ChemClene. The book included a description of what materials were stored and where they were stored in the facility and was referenced before operations to put out the fire could proceed.
Mrs. Ewald tabled the following items to February 14, 2000:
Traffic Accidents - Review
March 2nd C.C.A.T.O. Spring Convention
John R. Cellucci Extension Request
Scheduling Great Valley Nature Center Conditional Use Application
Mr. Oeste referred to the revised draft decision for the Deerfield Conditional Use application, noting amendments to items #12, 19 & 20. Mrs. Ewald read aloud portions of the Decision.
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the Decision and Order for the Conditional Use Application of General Residential Properties, Inc. - Deerfield, and Mr. Kuhn seconded. Mrs. Ewald called for discussion from the Board and then the public. Mr. Hanscom asked to review the draft decision, as he was a party to the proceedings. He was provided with a draft copy and a brief opportunity for review. Mr. Oeste provided a summary of its contents. Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. Hanscom if he had any questions or comments and he responded no. She called the vote, and all were in favor.
Ms. Neumeister submitted a letter dated 2/7/00 from Josh Tarnoff, 118 Charlestown Hunt Drive regarding the Union Hill and Rees Road Traffic Restriction issue for the Board’s consideration.
Mr. Rodgers moved to adjourn the meeting, and Mr. Willig seconded. Mrs. Ewald adjourned the meeting at 10:35 P.M. The Board adjourned to Executive Session at the Township Office.