October 2, 2001


Board of Supervisors: Hugh Willig, Chairman, Kevin Kuhn, Vice-Chairman, Paul Hogan, Mike Rodgers and Irene Ewald
Planning Commission: Bill Davison, Chairman, Mike Allen, Vice Chairman, Michael Churchill, Wendy Leland, Andy Motel, Charlie Philips and Rick Reis
Others: Tom Oeste, Esq., Tom Comitta, Ed Theurkauf, Planner, Nancy Sarcinello, GIS, Linda Csete, Township Administrator, and those on the attached attendee list.

The meeting was called to order at 7:40 p.m.



Citizens Forum for Non-Agenda Items

No items were brought forward at this time.

Continuation of Hearing on the Comprehensive Plan

Mr. Willig welcomed the audience to the 2nd meeting continuing the presentation of the Charlestown Township Comprehensive Plan. He described the Comprehensive Plan as a guide to future planning and development in the Township. The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code requires the Comprehensive Plan, and although it doesn’t have a lot of legal standing itself, it is used as the framework to develop ordinances, which the Township plans to undertake over the next few years. He said that at the first meeting, much time was spent on the concept of Transfer of Development Rights (TDR), and he would like to discuss other aspects of the Plan this evening. If there is considerable interest in TDR, a special meeting will be set up to concentrate on this issue alone.

Mr. Willig said that at the first meeting presenting the Comprehensive Plan on September 18th, the Planners gave a slide show and presentation and fielded most of the questions. The format for this evening would be more informal, with the Supervisors and Planning Commission more involved with questions and answers. He asked Mr. Comitta to begin with an overview of the maps on display.

Mr. Comitta called attention to three display boards, which were also available as handouts this evening. These showed the results of the Fall 2000 visioning process questions and answers in which people were asked their likes and dislikes about the Township and what positive changes they’d like to see in the next 10 years. An Executive Summary of the Comprehensive Plan was also available as a handout.

Nanci Sarcinello, GIS Manager, gave an overview of the numerous maps on display.

Mr. Theurkauf said the land use plan acts as a visual representation of policy recommendations designed to avert indiscriminate development. Various zones were outlined as follows:

  1. Conservation Zone – Including Charlestown Village, scenic viewsheds along Pikeland, Charlestown & Yellow Springs Roads
  2. Minimal Impact Areas – Corresponding to the 1993 Open Space, Recreation and Environmental Resources Plan with indications that additional policy measures should be implemented.
  3. Areas currently under Adequate Protection.
  4. Areas that can accept more development due to lesser environmental constraints and better traffic accommodation. This could be enhanced through the creation of Moderate Impact Areas allowing for smaller lot sizes or expansion of PRD’s; or by creating a mixed use program to accommodate more office, industrial, and higher density residential and commercial uses along Phoenixville Pike or the Devault Village area.

Mr. Theurkauf showed the Open Space Disposition Map where valuable, desirable open space areas were identified. An educational program working with landowners to both protect their rights while preserving their land is proposed. Mr. Comitta said the Comprehensive Plan is a balance act between protecting the Township’s greatest assess and features while accommodating development in the most practical areas under state and county requirements. Appendix E of the Plan lists short and long-term strategies, including the introduction of various techniques to explore them. This would be something of a mini-toolbox culled in part from the County Planning Commission’s extensive toolbox developed as part of Landscapes 2020. Mr. Comitta displayed pictures of the Village of Devault as it appeared in the 1700’s through the 1930’s, where people worked, shopped and lived all within walking distance of a railroad station and post office. He said this is why the area was zoned Neighborhood Commercial in the 1950’s as it was the closest designation to the historical use of the area. He said that while protecting natural and cultural areas, the Township could emulate the past by making the Devault Village more habitable. It can include uses not practical elsewhere due to its infrastructure, which includes public sewer and water and larger roads.

Mr. Willig said the 1976 Comprehensive Plan focused more on “where not to build” but not “where and how to build”. The Zoning Ordinance says to create 80,000 sq. ft. minimum lots in the FR District, which doesn’t necessarily make sense on Charlestown’s landscape. He said a policy component was not present in the 1976 Plan; there was simply hope that developers would follow the Plan as a guide, which was not an entirely successful tactic.

Mr. Kuhn said the development of the Great Valley Corporate Center caused the rapid growth of the 1980’s and 90’s and noted that the impacts they create are largely out of Charlestown’s control.

Mr. Churchill said he is impressed with the Plan’s consistency with the 1976 Plan, preserving as much of the rural character as possible, while designing areas for low and high density use. He said additional tools are needed to stifle market forces.

Mrs. Ewald said that there was a shift in population after the 1970’s when the Army Hospital was closing. Population was lost in that area of the Township and shifted to other areas due to the rise of the Great Valley Corporate Center. She said Charlestown is fortunate to have people with a love of the land and to have had continuity with its land planner for over 25 years. She thanked the citizens and consultants for being a part of this process.

Mr. Comitta noted that no developers are present and remarked on the disconnect. He said an educational process is included in the Plan, to support the Planning Commission’s and Supervisors’communications with frequent developers in the Township.

Vincent Kling said the most devastating influence on the Township is traffic. He would like to see PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission undertake an origin and destination study to determine what the result of a slip ramp off Route 29 would be to the Township. The Atwater complex will double the number of cars going through the Township. Mr. Davison noted the congestion on state roads running through Charlestown caused by commuters to the north of the Township as well. He said Charlestown representatives are involved in meetings with neighboring municipalities to discuss regional traffic issues.

A resident said he was opposed to the current practice of putting up sound barriers in place of trees along highways, saying that studies show trees absorb more sound than concrete barriers. A portion of Route 401 east of Charlestown was tree lined 3 months ago and is now a void. He suggests working with adjacent townships on road corridors. He also suggested the Township meet with the larger landowners and discuss land preservation goals with them. Andy Motel said this is exactly what the Open Space Commission is now undertaking, with a letter to go out to owners of 10+ acres shortly. There are ways landowners can realize their investments yet still conserve land.

Mr. Churchill said it’s not enough to attempt to restrict development. Incentives must be developed. The resident said he was in favor of land acquisition and purchasing of development rights. Mr. Churchill said more feedback of this nature is needed, as land acquisition is always controversial in the community.

Nancy Long asked if the Township would consider the purchase of easements. Mr. Motel said yes, and that funds are available through the County and State for this purpose. The Northern Chester County Land Grant program has accepted landowner’s applications for parcels over 25 acres in an agricultural security district to be ranked with a value assigned to them. He believes several property owners in Charlestown have applied. The County provides half the funding and the Township (or other organizations) the other half.

Mr. Kling said that on larger projects the developer should devote part of the space for civic amenities, such as schools.

Mr. Davison said the Township Commissions have been working on a definition for Open Space and that there is no agreement on what really constitutes open space. The resident said open space should be defined as such only if it is passive.

Sue Staas asked if the Comprehensive Plan will provide the township with more tools to preserve land, and Mr. Kuhn said yes. She asked if there are enough tools under the law to work with, and Mr. Kuhn said probably not.

Mr. Kuhn said by the time an application for development is received by the Township, it’s too late. The applicant has already decided to go forward and develop land, and it’s difficult to sway the course after submission.

Mrs. Ewald said one of Charlestown’s strengths is the community’s willingness to stand up and fight development.

Dr. Stewart said the Comprehensive Plan is a beautiful plan that shows great imagination, if it can be successfully implemented. With regard to traffic, he said he can’t get out of his driveway on Union Hill Road during rush hours and he’d like to see imaginative processes to control traffic on this road. He noted that the Blue Route took traffic away from Villanova and perhaps a slip ramp would have the same effect here. He asked if increasing the density to areas of the Township would add to traffic. Mr. Allen responded that areas of higher density will be planned close to prime collectors and should not increase traffic, as the overall density will remain the same, just concentrated differently.

Mrs. Stewart asked about the request for a no left turn sign from Route 29 onto Union Hill Road. Mr. Kuhn said PennDOT denied it. Mrs. Stewart said a way must be found to keep traffic on the main roads. Mr. Philips said commuters will naturally look for the easiest way, and that it is unfair to restrict traffic on a selective basis.

Janet Baldwin thanked the Board for the signal at Route 401 and Valley Hill Road. Mrs. Staas asked for details on upgrading the light at Route 29 & Charlestown Road. Mr. Kuhn said a closed loop signalization plan is included with the first phase of the Atwater development and will include an upgrade at Route 29 & Charlestown Road, signals at Yellow Springs/Warner Lane & Route 29 and Whitehorse Road & Route 29.

Marcia Solda asked if any consideration is being given to working farms in the Comprehensive Plan with regard to traffic. It’s dangerous to drive farm equipment down the roads due to the volume and speed of traffic. Mr. Kuhn said many of these roads are state roads, and frequently the Township’s requests for lowering of the speed limit is denied. Mrs. Ewald said in one case it was increased. Mrs. Staas asked if the Township couldn’t take back the state roads. Mrs. Ewald said this would increase taxes tremendously. Other townships have taken back state roads and later returned them. Mrs. Staas asked if any study has been done of the costs. Mr. Kuhn said that even if a road is a township road, there aren’t a lot of mechanisms for controlling traffic, for example, on Union Hill Road, without a police force.

Mr. Comitta said after the Comprehensive Plan is adopted, the Township can do an Act 209 traffic study, which will then allow for offsite impact fees to be assessed to developers. He suggested the Board contact traffic engineering firms to provide 209 study proposals. Mr. Kuhn said a regional Act 209 study might be very valuable.

Mr. Willig said the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is halfway through its traffic study and they are hoping to complete it by June 2002. There is no implementation schedule as yet.

Having no more questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Willig asked if there was interest in a special TDR presentation meeting, and several people indicated interest. He said a meeting would be scheduled and a notice would be sent to residents. Afterward, final discussions on the Comprehensive Plan would take place at the regularly scheduled business meeting(s) prior to adoption.


There was consensus to adjourn. Mr. Willig adjourned the meeting at 9:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Linda M. Csete, Secretary