|Hugh Willig, Chairman, Kevin Kuhn, Vice-Chairman, Paul Hogan, Mike Rodgers, Tom Oeste, Esq., Surender Kohli, P.E., Tom Comitta, Ed Theurkauf, Nancy Sarcinello, Linda Csete, Township Administrator, and those on the attached attendee list.|
The meeting was called to order at 7:40 p.m.
Mr. Willig welcomed the public to the special meeting to present the revised Comprehensive Plan and encouraged their comments and participation.
Mr. Willig described the Comprehensive Plan as a vision statement of how the Township would like to guide future development based on the realities of the day. He said the Comprehensive Plan is not a legally binding document but that ordinances are crafted using it as a guide. Mr. Willig stated that in early 2000, the Supervisors gave the Planning Commission the task of updating and revising the existing Comprehensive Plan, and that they have been working steadily on it since February 2000, devoting at least one meeting per month solely to this project. He said the Planning Commission has not worked in a vacuum but has had input and direction from the Supervisors. Several Board members have attended the Planning Commission meetings on the subject, and all board members have received regular updates. He said the draft revision was the task of the Planning Commission but clarified that the Board shares the responsibility for it.
Mr. Oeste explained that a Comprehensive Plan is required by Article 3 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), which is the code legislating and authorizing local municipalities to enact a Zoning Ordinance, Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance, and other land planning ordinances. The Comprehensive Plan is an overall plan for future development. Article 3 sets forth the requirements of the plan to address land use, housing needs, transportation, commercial facilities, protection of natural and historic resources, water supply, etc. Ordinances are then drafted and enacted to implement the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan is required to be reviewed every 10 years.
Mr. Comitta said the MPC provides a specific list of what is required in a Comprehensive Plan. Charlestown Township has received grant funding approval from Chester County to cover 75% of the cost of revising its plan, which was last revised in 1976. In 1993, the Open Space & Recreation & Environmental Resources Plan was adopted, which is intended to provide recommendations for the preservation of open space and for the development of future recreational facilities.
Mr. Comitta said that the proposed revised Comprehensive Plan was first presented to the Public on May 22, 2001, at which time slides were shown and all the maps were displayed and reviewed.
Mr. Comitta provided background and comments while presenting approximately 90 slides showing various elements of the Township. The slides included images of Planned Residential Developments, single family homes, commercial/industrial areas, and rural/agricultural parcels. The slides depicted current development in the Township, favorable rural landscapes, open space preservation, and parcels available for development or future preservation.
John Sauser, Pickering Dam Road, said he is a resident in the historic Charlestown Village. He said his perspective on land development is that the development pressure comes from the property owners who are trying to maximize their investments and exercise their constitutional rights within the bounds of legislation. With regard to a village concept, Mr. Sauser said he’s heard discussions on a Devault Village for almost 20 years and that there is no interest in it and no call for it. He said this is a personal objective of Mr. Comitta’s and he’s concerned that the current Board of Supervisors will succumb to his influence in this area. As a planner, Mr. Comitta shouldn’t be promoting this concept and ramming it down the Planning Commissioners’ throats. A third comment made by Mr. Sauser is that the Cedar Hollow area is almost all residential with almost no business activity and shouldn’t be compared to a village concept for the more industrial Devault. Mr. Comitta responded that in 1999, the Governor issued an executive order regarding villages and developed the Growing Smarter plan in 2000. Village design goes beyond Charlestown and Chester County and is being examined statewide and throughout the country. He said he asked the Planning Commission to choose between possible future outcomes for Devault. One was a status quo, and the other was a village concept. The Planning Commission unanimously preferred the village examples. Mr. Willig said Mr. Comitta is a good planner and the seven strong minded members of the Planning Commission are capable of making up their own minds. The possibility of a village design for Devault has been discussed since February 2000 as an alternate worth exploring: there is nothing definite decided. Mr. Allen said he wished to make it clear that the village concept was not forced on the Planning Commission and that he objected to the personalization of Mr. Sauser’s comments. Mr. Motel said he can’t disagree more with Mr. Sauser and that no one on the Planning Commission was forced to consider a village concept. Mr. Sauser asked how sending and receiving areas in a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) ordinance are matched and how the exchange of shares from residential to commercial is determined. Mr. Oeste responded that the Township isn’t in to this level of detail yet. Exchange ratios would be examined in conjunction with the drafting of an ordinance.
William Stewart, Union Hill Road, said he supported some of Mr. Sauser’s comments. He said Union Hill Road gets 500-600+ cars an hour during the morning rush hour from traffic cutting through from Route 29 to Whitehorse Road to get to the corporate center. He said villages in other areas have better highway systems. He prefers industrial development at the Quigley Farm (Spring Oaks) rather than a traditional neighborhood. A strip mall, as he envisions a village, creates traffic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At least with an industrial use, weekends are still quiet. He believes the TDR concept is good but it’s too late for Charlestown and would be a mistake to incorporate it now.
Rick Tomassone asked where public water is available in the township and whether the Township intended to extend it throughout the area. Mr. Comitta showed the areas in Devault, along Phoenixville Pike, and in the northeastern section of the township where public water is available. He said that property owners must petition the Philadelphia Suburban Water Company to request an extension into their area. Rich Huey, Buckwalter Road, said usually it’s the townships that stop the expansion. Mr. Oeste responded that the municipality does have to authorize the extension of the franchise, and that Charlestown does not plan to expand its franchise.
Mark Connolly, Broadwater Lane, asked for the benefits and costs of the sending and receiving zones as well as the plusses and minuses of a village. He acknowledged that keeping farmland benefits everyone. Mr. Comitta showed the TDR map. He said without TDR, most farm sites would eventually become subdivisions. An option is to inventory the resources to be protected and send their development rights to areas already zoned for higher use. For example, the Commons at Great Valley could be allowed greater building coverage on its site. Mr. Comitta said the Devault village is not a future concept. It exists now, but doesn’t function well, with traffic congestion and no pedestrian access. Along with shifting more intensity of development to the Devault area, a small architecturally aesthetic village could be designed with shops and restaurants. He pointed out that the area is not large enough to create a large plan.
Sue Staas, Hollow Road, asked if the TDR concept is intended to assist landowners to profit from their land while keeping it open. Mr. Comitta responded yes, and added that participation in a TDR is completely voluntary. A match of sending and receiving areas is needed. He said the best example is in Manheim Township, where a vast amount of its northern farmland has been preserved. West Bradford Township has also seen success with TDRs. He explained that Manheim Township has created a “land bank” of TDRs. The Township purchases and banks development rights and resells them later. Mr. Motel pointed out that there are other receiving areas shown outside of the one in Devault. Mr. Comitta pointed them out: the Valley Forge Christian College area, the Devault area, and the PRD area on the western side of the Township.
Bob Jones, Valley Hill Road, asked how the Comprehensive Plan deals with the traffic anticipated from Atwater and the expansion to the Great Valley Corporate Center on top of a possible Devault Village. Mr. Comitta said with regard to development in Charlestown, an Act 209 study would be undertaken, which is a detailed traffic study that determines the land use impact on traffic so an impact fee can be determined based on trip generation. A fee assessment must be justified for traffic improvements. With regard to developments outside Charlestown like Atwater, regional traffic studies were examined and details provided in “A Plan for Circulation” in the Comprehensive Plan. He said a total build out of Charlestown according to its existing zoning would yield 777 additional houses plus substantial light industrial and commercial square footage. Utilizing a TDR concept doesn’t increase this amount; it concentrates the impact instead of spreading it out. Traffic must be moved more effectively, but a TDR plan won’t exacerbate it; the effect will be the same. Mr. Comitta added that all townships undertake their Act 209 studies after the Comprehensive Plan is adopted, not before.
Louise Cantrell-Kehoe, Country Lane, said she feels a village would attract primarily residents, but Mr. Comitta said there’s no way to restrict it and others would be expected to go there.
A resident asked if there is a mechanism for governing architectural style. Mr. Comitta said other townships have been successful by using their land development ordinance and negotiation measures.
John Foster, Pickering Road, asked who mapped the trail system. He called it a gross misrepresentation on his property and it is now on the Internet indicating that the public has access to trails that don’t exist. He objects to this representation. Mr. Theurkauf said he compiled the trail map partly on his own from knowledge of the area and partly from the Pickering Hunt Club map. He said input from the public is needed to remove those trails that no longer exist from the maps. He said there were numerous public meetings and that the Planning Commission tried to make the process as open as possible. Tina Daly said she’s extremely upset and requested that all trails shown on the Stonorov, Daly and Foster parcels be removed. Mr. Theurkauf agreed to do so. Mr. Allen said the Planning Commission should plan to review all the trails.
Bill Stewart, Union Hill Road, said he would be negatively affected by a TDR concept as he lives close to a designated receiving zone. The benefits are for the receiving and sending areas and all others are affected detrimentally. He feels that incorporating TDR in the Comprehensive Plan before traffic studies are done is putting the cart before the horse. He asked who the Township anticipates the buyers of rights to be. Mr. Comitta gave some explanation of how the sending and receiving areas were selected. He said the three receiving areas were in the following zoning districts (1) Institutional, (2) Industrial, and (3) Planned Residential Development. In the 1993 Open Space Plan, the creation of a Pickering Creek Valley overlay district was recommended but not enacted. This area was selected for the majority of the sending area, as most of it is open farmland. Mr. Stewart asked why not include all farm residential properties, such as his own, in the sending area. Mr. Comitta said the most critical areas were selected. He gave Buckingham Township as an example of a township that allowed all its residential zoned areas to be sending areas. The result is scattered preservation and they now regret that it was not more concentrated. This motivated Charlestown to select specific high priority areas.
Mr. Sauser asked for a response to Mr. Connolly’s question on benefits and costs of TDR. Mr. Sauser sees that some will be winners, others, losers. Mr. Comitta said TDR has developed as a response to concerns on inevitable sprawl, which won’t be slowed unless people buy and preserve land or use other mechanisms and techniques. He asked the audience not including board and commission members for a show of hands of those who looked favorably on a TDR concept. Slightly more than half the audience raised their hands.
Loni Carrow, Tinkerhill Lane said 21 years ago when she moved here, Charlestown was very green and that the concept was to keep it that way. Why develop at all? Mr. Comitta said that several members of the Board of Supervisors have been attending regional planning and zoning meetings to discuss how to provide for development in conjunction with neighboring municipalities so that each one would not have to provide it all themselves. The Comprehensive Plan recommends exploring regional planning and zoning.
Debbie Kuhn, Whitehorse Road, noted that the land south of the Turnpike is zoned commercial on Phoenixville Pike, and from Route 29 traveling east on Whitehorse, zoned light industrial. She asked where the line is. Mr. Comitta said that the Light Industrial district along Whitehorse goes up to the Quigley Farm (Spring Oaks) up to old Rees Road and includes the quarry. This zoning has been in place since 1950. Mrs. Kuhn asked if the zoning was proposed to change and Mr. Comitta said no. Mrs. Kuhn asked if this means that Union Hill Road could be converted into businesses or office buildings, and Mr. Comitta responded yes.
Jim Scharnberg, Beatty Lane, asked how our proposed TDR receiving areas match with those of adjacent townships. Mr. Comitta said none of our adjoining townships have TDRs, although the East Whiteland Township Manager responded to the Charlestown Comprehensive Plan with the comment that the usage abutting East Whiteland is consistent.
A Green Lane Road resident asked what the effect of the Trammel Crow development would have on traffic. Mr. Theurkauf said Trammel Crow is required to undertake traffic improvements as coordinated with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
Bill Stewart asked who the Township expects the TDR buyers to be? Mr. Comitta said the only developer he has discussed it with is Jack Loew, who indicated he is interested. Mr. Stewart said he likes the idea of the township buying and banking rights. Mr. Comitta suggested he speak to Jack Hines at Manheim Township to get feedback on how the program works there.
Sue Staas asked about the area around Devault now zoned Industrial. What can be done according to this zoning? Mr. Comitta said Light Industrial zoning permits laboratories, warehouses, self storage, manufacture & assembly, motor vehicle service stations, communications towers, quarries, etc. Mrs. Staas asked if an application for this type of development was submitted, would the Board have to approve it, and Mr. Comitta said if it met the ordinance, yes. Mrs. Staas asked how do the residents empower the Board of Supervisors to make the best use of the land. Mr. Comitta said by setting up incentives, a value for them to pursue that is worked out in the zoning.
Russ Hanscom, Valley Hill Road, asked if the people in the receiving areas knew they could be so designated when they bought their properties. Mr. Comitta said only if they bought in the past six months, however, the receiving areas are in the industrial, institutional and PRD zones, not residential zones.
Mr. Sauser was concerned with language in Section C-18 of the Comprehensive Plan that deals with protection of Historic Resources. Mrs. McLean said the Planning Commission had reservations on this language and has removed it from the latest draft. Mr. Comitta noted that a plan for protection of historic resources is required by the MPC in the Comprehensive Plan.
Joe Mariano asked if the Planning Commission intends to review traffic in the receiving areas after the Comprehensive Plan is enacted. Mr. Comitta said yes, an Act 209 study will be undertaken. A detailed traffic study will determine if the Township wants a certain area as a receiving area. Mr. Mariano said we need easing of traffic now and that to do the study after enacting the plan is doing it backwards. Mr. Comitta said the area now zoned LI in 1950 was not realistic. If it had actually been built out, it would yield more trips than through a TDR plan. Dr. Stewart disagreed.
Ted Becker, Tinkerhill Lane, said he is in favor of a village concept. Industrial complexes yield less traffic but have noise and air pollution issues. Mr. Mariano said cars traveling to the village produce air pollution too.
Sue Staas said that since Devault is on the edge of the Township, it would attract people from Atwater and the Great Valley Corporate Center more than residents on the opposite side of the Township.
John Sauser said there is already an open space option in place on selected parcels in the Farm-Residential district allowing smaller lots with a percentage of open space set aside. What preserves that open space in perpetuity? He said deed restrictions are often broken. Mr. Davison said conservancy groups like the French & Pickering Conservation Trust and the Brandywine Trust ensure that the land is protected and defend any attempts to interfere with it. Mr. Sauser disagreed, stating that the French & Pickering Creek Trust frequently negotiates changes in its restrictions. Mr. Davison asked him to provide an example of a broken deed restriction and Mr. Sauser said he could not think of one. If TDR is added, the township could get a double whammy of more intensified usage. He said developments such as Three Ponds and Whitehorse @ Charlestown are beautiful and more development of this nature, happening later, might be more preferable to higher density now. This is development in a benign fashion. He said it’s presumptious of newcomers living in the township to want the township to stay as it is. Property owners have the right to develop their land, and if an individual objects, he has the opportunity to buy it himself.
A resident said that to do nothing constitutes benign neglect. Mr. Comitta pointed out that the Comprehensive Plan lists dozens of techniques, and TDR is only one of them. Others include an accelerated review process for large lot development (over 10 acres), and a recommendation for a special heritage landscape protection zone. He said the goal is to keep the countryside green while creating places with infrastructure that are enjoyable.
Mr. Willig scheduled a continuation of the meeting for Tuesday, October 2, 2001 at 7:30 P.M. at the Great Valley middle school, Room #154. He adjourned the meeting at 9:50 P.M.