The first business meeting for June was held June 3, 2002 at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154. Hugh D. Willig, Chairman, Paul J. Hogan, Vice Chairman, Irene W. Ewald, Kevin R. Kuhn, Michael J. Rodgers, Thomas F. Oeste, Esq., Surender S. Kohli, P.E., Linda M. Csete, Township Administrator and those on the attached list were present.
The meeting was called to order at 7:35 P.M.
Mrs. Ewald referenced an article in today’s Daily Local News on Charlestown’s Lt. Col. Wendy Leland, who will be leaving for a long-term assignment in Afghanistan this month. She asked the community to stay in touch with and offer assistance to the family for the duration of her absence. She praised Lt. Col. Leland as a real leader.
Mr. Rodgers announced a meeting at Valley Forge Park on June 5th to discuss regional traffic issues. They are considering re-routing Route 23 out of Valley Forge Park and are looking for more suggestions. One option is to route traffic from Route 252 to Route 202 to Route 23 to Pawling Road. He said a representative from Charlestown should attend this meeting, as this issue may affect local traffic.
Mr. Willig announced that he attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting with PennDOT representative Andrew Warren as one of the prime speakers. Mr. Warren reviewed the Route 202 project and the Route 29 Bridge construction. Sen. Gerlach, Rep. Rubley, Commissioner Hanna, various Township Supervisors and Phoenixville Borough Council members were present. There was praise for the willingness of local municipalities to work together as evidenced by the various regional meetings and groups being organized and attended. Mr. Willig said this interest in regional cooperation is getting a lot of attention, and this area is the most active in the state in working on Comprehensive Plans and regional plans.
Mr. Willig announced that the Board held an executive session on May 28, 2002 to discuss legal matters with the solicitor.
Mr. Willig announced that the Route 29 Bridge will open on June 13, 2002 in the afternoon.
Emory Todd, CPA, was present to provide a report on the 2001 Audit completed in March. He began with an overview of new government accounting standards that will affect Charlestown in the future. As a Phase 3 municipality, with revenues under $10 million per year, the financial statement will be required to include a valuation of all assets. This will require an appraisal of all real estate property, to be completed and included in the statement for 2004. Mr. Todd recommended starting on this now and including the data earlier than 2004 if possible. At present, the only property valuated in the financial statement is the Brightside Farm.
Mr. Todd then reviewed the 2001 Management Letter. This letter comments on the adequacy of the financial accounting system and includes a review of the prior year’s recommendations. All recommendations from 2000 were implemented with the exception of obtaining year-end bank statements cutting off at December 31st. Malvern Federal Savings Bank refused to change their cut off date when it was requested. The Treasurer has now arranged to use PLGIT’s check writing system, which should correct this problem for 2002. The recommendation made for 2001 was to request that the bond company, Program Administration Services Inc. provide calculations each month on how they determined the variable rate on the $2.1 M obligation bond. The Treasurer has made this request and they are now providing this information monthly. Mr. Todd said the accounting system is computerized and being run smoothly by an experienced person familiar with accounting procedures who is doing an excellent job.
With regard to the 2001 Audit Report, Mr. Todd said there was $3.2M in assets at the end of the year, including $1.5M for the Brightside Farm and $1.7M in investment assets. The only significant liability is the general obligation note for $2.1 M. The Township has a net worth of $1M+. 2001 was a traditional year with revenues of $1.3 M, mainly from real estate taxes, transfer taxes, licenses & permits, and state & county grants. This revenue was about $300,000 higher than budgeted, primarily due to higher transfer taxes and grant funding than what was anticipated. Expenditures were $1.4M, with $450,000 for highway maintenance, $180,000 for culture & recreation, $130,000 for legal costs, $135,000 for engineering, and $160,000 for planning & zoning. The deficit was approximately $100,000, leaving a fund balance of $1.1M, down from $1.2M at the end of 2000.
Mr. Todd opened the floor to questions. Phil Staas asked about note #5 on the Financial Statement, which recognizes the Phoenixville Pike Improvement Fund as a restricted fund, but the Obligation Note fund is not similarly categorized. Mr. Todd said that according to the bond documents executed in November 2000, the bond funds are not restricted to any one purchase. Mr. Staas said the funds would have to be used for asset investments and not operations. Mr. Todd agreed and said he can change the footnote on next year’s report.
Charlie Philips requested that the high grass and weeds at the intersection of Hollow and Charlestown Roads be cut. Mr. Rodgers said PennDOT must do this, as both are state roads. Mrs. Staas added that Hollow Road and Route 29 also needs to be cut. Mrs. Ewald said that since the state is responsible, there is a liability issue if the Township undertakes this work instead of PennDOT. She also noted a junk car for sale at Hollow and Charlestown Roads that has been there for many months. Mr. Kohli said there is nothing in the zoning ordinance to enforce removing junk; however, he can contact the owner with regard to the lack of a sign permit since there is a large sign posted next to the car. Mrs. Staas also reported dumping in a corner of Swiss Pines some distance from Swiss Lane, including an old refrigerator. Mr. Kuhn said this is private property and the Township has no right to act in this matter.
Mr. Rodgers said that at the PSATS conference he recently attended, there was a seminar on traffic safety and an example was given of a dead tree in a state road right of way that fell and killed someone. The heirs sued the state and the township, but the judge held just the state responsible since it was a state road. Mr. Rodgers is concerned with this situation, as this situation occurs in Charlestown along both state and township roads. He suggested advising property owners of dead trees in their rights of way. After some discussion, the Board said it would discuss this issue further with the solicitor.
Mr. Kuhn moved to table the approval of the minutes to the next meeting as he hadn’t had time to review them, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. All were in favor.
Mr. Kuhn moved to approve the Treasurer’s Report for May 1 - 31, 2002 and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mr. Willig called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mrs. Ewald asked for documentation for the 12 tax refunds to individuals listed in checks #1063-1074. The Treasurer stated that she received a letter from the Tax Collector explaining that these twelve payments were doubly paid by both the property owner and the mortgage company, so the owners are due refunds. Mrs. Ewald said she wanted proof of this beyond the letter.
Mrs. Ewald questioned check #1097 to East Pikeland Township for $1,000.00, reimbursing them for a yield analysis done by their consultant for the Solda property, which straddles the two townships. She asked for the work product. Mr. Kuhn said he has a copy of it, but the Secretary noted she did not receive it at the Township office.
Mr. Rodgers moved to approve the Accounts Payable for June 3, 2002 and Mr. Kuhn seconded. Mr. Willig called the vote, and four were in favor. Mrs. Ewald was opposed on the basis that documentation is needed for the twelve tax refund checks and a work product should be submitted for the yield analysis study prior to payment.
The Zoning Officer stated that the Building Permit report for May is on file. Mr. Kohli reported that the signalization of the intersection of Yellow Springs Road, Sidley Road and Phoenixville Pike is nearly complete and is waiting for PECO to make its connections. The light is required to flash for 7-10 days before it is made fully operational.
Mr. Kohli reported he has received numerous calls from first phase Charlestown Oaks residents who don’t want the plantings required by the approved plan in their backyards. They have little flat area close to their homes and want it to remain open and not overcrowded with trees and bushes. He said he asked Mr. Theurkauf to look at the situation and determine whether the planting was done in accordance with the final plan. If so, it may be necessary to revisit the approved plan.
Charlie Philips reported that the Planning Commission discussed comprehensive plan implementation at its meeting on May 28th and wants to accelerate the process. A response from the County on the grant application is expected by June 17th. No work can be done prior to approval or it won’t be eligible for reimbursement. After approval of the grant, a meeting will be scheduled between the township and the County Planning Commission to outline the schedule for revising the ordinances. The Planning Commission wants to first take care of “housekeeping” type ordinances, then concentrate on the stream buffer, and develop a framework for a TDR ordinance. The Commission is concerned that with development pressures ongoing, the Township needs a TDR ordinance as a tool if it wants to preserve open space. Mr. Philips encouraged the public to attend the Planning Commission meetings, particularly their 2nd meeting each month when this planning work takes place.
Mr. Philips noted that, in regard to subdivision applications, recent recommendations were for small subdivisions and lot line changes only. He said the Official Map will be voted on for a recommendation to the Board at the June 11th meeting. Mr. Kuhn asked if the Map is where the Commission wants it at this point, and Mr. Philips responded yes.
Mr. Philips referenced the June 3, 2002 Historical Commission report. The HARB recommended the application of the Longs pending outstanding information requested by Mr. Kohli, which includes a site plan showing the position of the driveway coming off Church Road.
With regard to the Baughman mill, the HARB wants to start Phase I restoration as soon as possible to avoid further deterioration of the structure. Although a grant application is under review, the Township will have to pay somewhat more than the 50/50 match, so this work can proceed prior to approval as long as the cost doesn’t exceed the match. The Secretary asked how to make arrangements for the owners to sign the approved subdivision for the Mill property. After some discussion, it was determined that she will arrange for the local owner to sign, and check with Mr. Bender to see if the Florida party must also sign. If so, arrangements will be made through a Florida attorney or title company to handle the matter.
Mr. Philips reported that a demolition permit was submitted for the Devault Beaver house, which is outside the Historic District. The HARB took pictures of the outside and is trying to make arrangements to get access so measurements and pictures can be taken inside the structure prior to demolition. Mrs. Ewald asked for the price to purchase the house, and Mr. Philips said the owner was asking for $400,000 – 500,000, which was why none of the interested parties went forward. Renovations would probably cost another $500,000. Mr. Kohli added that the house had been thoroughly vandalized as well. Mrs. Ewald suggested getting an appraisal so the Board can consider acquiring the property at its appraised value. Mr. Philips noted that Gary Bender is drafting a “demolition by neglect” ordinance that will soon go to the Planning Commission for review.
Mr. Willig noted that the Roadmaster’s report is on file.
Mr. Alston read his May report, stating that there were four fire alarms, two wires fires, two CO detectors, two fire investigations, a mulch fire on Lewisville Court and 4 vehicle accidents. He reminded the public that fireworks permit applications must be submitted at least two weeks prior to any intended display.
Mr. Alston reported that the EOC participated in the biennial Limerick Nuclear Generating Station Drill on May 7, 2002. An excellent review was provided by PEMA and Mr. Kuhn congratulated him on the report.
Mr. Hogan reported that all the trees have been cleared from the top of the ice dam and that the 20-25 logs are available to cut up by anyone who wants firewood. He said Bill Jones is completing the final cleanup of loose rocks and debris and will be finished prior to the June 13th bridge opening. Also, Mark Cabot has trimmed along the Pickering Trail.
Mr. Hogan said he made arrangements with PECO to drop off poles at the Township yard and the Brightside Farm. A clean-up party at the farm is organized for this Saturday, and he invited people in the community to participate. A Boy Scout troop will be involved in the cleanup, and dumpsters will be on site.
Mr. Hogan said Mark Jones has done a good job on the fencing at Charlestown Park, removing some sections and repairing others. He estimates this work has saved the Township as much as $8,000.00 by eliminating the need for new fencing.
Mr. Hogan said Ben Bingham is planting some potatoes at the farm and others can plant there if they wish. Mr. Bingham intends to give out his produce.
Russell Hanscom said he spoke to Bob Elmer, who asked him to relate that the Brightside Farm Committee endorsed the Secretary’s draft forms for receiving proposals from groups and individuals. He expects the Committee to have a report for the Visioning meeting on June 10th.
Mr. Hogan said the Military Vehicles Association wants their last proposal to stand as is and won’t be submitting anything on the new forms.
Mr. Rodgers said he hasn’t attended the meetings for the past two months due to conflicts. He reported that the non-supervisory personnel voted 14-6 to join the Teamsters Union. Discussions are still underway on the Act 537 Plan and whether to seek capacity from Phoenixville Borough or expand the VFSA plant. He said Phoenixville is only at 45% capacity. Mrs. Ewald said they have compliance issues, and Mr. Rodgers responded that these are being addressed.
Mr. Willig tabled this item until later in the meeting.
Abby Schiff, Esq. was present representing Thomas Winnich. Lewis Patriello, Esq. was present representing Dr. and Mrs. Seibert. The Seiberts are seeking a revision to the approved lot line change plan for their and Mr. Winnich’s properties that would drop the condition of protecting the Horseshoe Trail running through the Seibert property via a Horseshoe Trail agreement, drafted by Mr. Oeste. Mr. Winnich is willing to sign the agreement, with small revisions, for his portion of the property.
Mr. Oeste said the Board is willing to accept ownership of an easement containing the Horseshoe Trail on the Seiberts’ property and provide them with complete indemnification. Mr. Petriello responded that this amounts to confiscating 6% of the Seiberts’ property, and doesn’t protect them from liability from anyone coming off the trail and easement. Mr. Oeste said the Township could indemnify the Seiberts for people wandering off the trail provided there is a causal connection.
Mrs. Ewald asked if Mr. Petriello had discussed this offer with his clients. She said the Board will offer to purchase the easement. Mr. Petriello said his clients’ position is clear to him, and asked how the Township can force someone to provide an easement. Mr. Oeste responded that this is not the case. He said Ms. Abby Schiff, then the attorney representing both Mr. Winnich and the Seiberts, accepted the condition at the time of subdivision approval. Mr. Oeste said no appeal was taken within 30 days of the decision.
Ms. Schiff said at the time of approval, she represented both the Seiberts and Winnichs and handled the application on their behalf, discussing the details with all parties. Mr. Petriello responded that Ms. Schiff did not have this authority and referenced a letter he received from Ms. Schiff indicating she did not represent the Seiberts. Ms. Schiff said she had no knowledge of this letter. Mr. Oeste responded that the application was submitted indicating the arrangement Ms. Schiff described, and that she accepted the approval on the Seiberts’ behalf following negotiations she participated in during the review process, and therefore this refusal to provide the Horseshoe Trail protection constitutes reneging. Mr. Oeste said there is no legal mechanism to amend the approval; another application would have to be filed.
Mr. Petriello asked for clarification that there is no approved subdivision at this time, and Mr. Willig said this is correct, unless the conditions of approval are accepted. Mrs. Ewald said the Board looks at this application as something that has been voted on and concluded.
Mr. Oeste said the applicants reneged on the conditions, and the Township can most likely enforce their compliance. Mr. Petriello said the easement language was not agreed to at the time of approval. Mr. Oeste said the Township expected both parties to negotiate a reasonable easement agreement, and the Board is not willing to accept the subdivision without this condition. Mr. Petriello asked if this is always a condition of subdivision approval for properties situated along the Horseshoe Trail. Mr. Oeste said it has been made a condition in the past, but can’t answer as to whether it’s been a condition in all instances for the past 30 years. Board members named various subdivisions where it had been made a condition. Mr. Petriello asked why it wasn’t required for all such applications, and Mr. Oeste responded it was because they refused the condition prior to approval, not after.
Mr. Petriello said his clients’ decision is final. Ms. Schiff asked if there is a deadline should the parties choose to re-file, and the Board members indicated no.
Mrs. Ewald asked if the Ordinance had been advertised and whether a court reporter was required. The Secretary said the Ordinance was advertised for May 20th and opened and continued from that date. Mr. Oeste said a court reporter is not required, and the Township typically doesn’t use one for ordinance hearings.
Mr. Kuhn said he received the final form of the Agreement this afternoon, which was approved earlier by the Board but not by Ordinance as required.
Mr. Rodgers moved to adopt Ordinance #101-02, authorizing Charlestown Township to enter into an intergovernmental cooperation planning agreement for the Phoenixville Region which provides for joint and cooperative planning by members of the region and the preparation of a joint comprehensive plan. Mr. Rodgers seconded and Mr. Willig called the vote. Four were in favor, and Mrs. Ewald was opposed, stating she truly believes the Charlestown people won’t be well served by it.
Mr. Rodgers moved to approve the last draft of the road bid documents for equipment and materials, to be opened at the June 17th meeting. Mr. Kuhn seconded and all were in favor.
Mr. Kuhn said a few of the original members have resigned from the Open Space Commission since it was formed, leaving a number of vacancies. Mrs. Staas confirmed that Priscilla Crowell, Tom Korber, Saul Kun, Bob Davis and Pam Smith had resigned, primarily due to time constraints. She said the Open Space Commission recommended that Marcia Solda be considered for an appointment. Mrs. Ewald said she is concerned with Mrs. Solda serving on the Commission since there is a grant application for an easement acquisition of her property under review. Mr. Rodgers said she can recuse herself from voting on this matter, but Mrs. Ewald said it still gives the appearance if impropriety. Mr. Willig said there are numerous large landowners on the Commission, and any of them could have the same conflict in the future. Mrs. Staas said the Commission has found it advisable to have a balance of both large and smaller property owners on the Commission. The larger landowners serve as an example to the community, and the smaller landowners represent those who will have to support open space preservation efforts through their taxes. Mr. Kuhn noted that a third party, not the Open Space Commission, determines whether there will be a grant award and Mr. Willig pointed out that the grant has already been submitted, so the Open Space Commission is finished with their involvement on it. Mrs. Ewald said that the application is still in negotiations at this time.
Mr. Rodgers moved to appoint Marcia Solda to the Open Space Commission, and Mr. Hogan seconded. Mr. Willig called the vote. Four were in favor, and Mrs. Ewald was opposed at this time, not because of Mrs. Solda’s qualifications but due to the appearance of impropriety.
Mrs. Ewald asked why the Ordinance would apply only to subdivisions of three or more lots. She said it should apply to all subdivisions. Mr. Philips said the Planning Commission felt it wasn’t necessary for 2 lot subdivisions, many of which are lot line changes and don’t create concerns among the neighboring property owners. He said the issues come into play with larger subdivisions submitted by developers. Making an exception for two lot subdivisions goes along with the concept of a major/minor subdivision process.
Mr. Kuhn moved to direct the Secretary to advertise the Ordinance to require notifications to abutting property owners of a sketch plan submission, and Mr. Hogan seconded. Mr. Willig called the vote. Four were in favor and Mrs. Ewald was opposed, stating it should encompass all subdivisions and not just those over 2 lots.
Mr. Oeste summarized the draft decision to approve the conditional use application for Joseph Aliano, subject to six conditions. Mr. Kuhn moved to approve the Decision and Order for the Conditional Use application of Joseph Aliano. Mr. Rodgers seconded, and Mr. Willig called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Oeste summarized the draft decision to approve the conditional use application for Anthony T. Pomanti, subject to six conditions, including taking steps to mitigate the impact of construction on steep slopes and to manage stormwater and to control erosion and sedimentation. Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the Decision and Order for the Conditional Use application of Anthony T. Pomanti. Mr. Rodgers seconded, and Mr. Willig called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Kohli recommended that the final escrow release for Valley Forge Trails (Chautauqua) be approved, subject to the conditions outlined in his letter to the Chairman dated June 3, 2002. In accordance with this letter, he recommends that the Township hold the release of funds until the detention basin re-stabilizing work is completed and inspected. Additionally, all outstanding Township consultant fees must be paid in full. He noted that Mr. Theurkauf had made his final landscaping inspection and was satisfied with those items.
Mrs. Ewald asked about the Homeowners Association issue regarding non-payment of dues for Lot #2, owned by Tulio Landscaping. Mr. Kohli said this matter will be taken care of at settlement and doesn’t affect this escrow release.
Mr. Kuhn moved to approve the Final Escrow Release, #11, for Valley Forge Trails subject to the conditions stated in Mr. Kohli’s letter dated June 3, 2002 and to the re-dating of the 18 month maintenance bond to be effective as of the date Mr. Kohli certifies all work is complete. The bond must be received by the Township prior to releasing the escrow funds. Mr. Hogan seconded the motion. Mr. Willig called the vote, and all were in favor.
Mr. Rodgers requested that Board members refrain from scheduling additional meetings or executive sessions on the second Monday of the month, when he attends the Valley Forge Sewer Authority meetings on behalf of the Township. Mr. Kuhn and Mrs. Ewald agreed to give this request every consideration, but reserved the right to use this day when necessary. Mr. Kuhn said he appreciated Mr. Rodger’s commitment to the VFSA on the Township’s behalf.
Mr. Hogan referred to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that exposed larger, well known developers for hiring illegal aliens either directly or through their subcontractors, providing them with inadequate pay and unsafe working conditions. He recommended that the Township send a letter to all contractors stating that they are required to obey all immigration and safety laws. Mr. Kohli said contractors must already sign a form verifying that Workers Compensation Insurance covers their workers, and this should be sufficient. Mr. Oeste said the Township can’t enforce the immigration laws and is not charged to do so. He advised against getting involved with the INS as these matters are out of the Township’s jurisdiction. Mr. Oeste said he would have to check on any potential liability before the Township changed wording on its required contractor forms to include immigration requirements.
Mr. Oeste referred to the J. Christopher Burch subdivision, approved in 1999 but never recorded. The plans had been misplaced and recordation must occur as soon as possible. He recommended that a certification be signed by the Township secretary and copied onto the plans. He’ll contact the Recorder of Deeds solicitor for confirmation that this will be acceptable for recordation. Mr. Kuhn moved to confirm the June 7, 1999 approval of the J. Christopher Burch subdivision and Mr. Rodgers seconded. All were in favor.
Mr. Hogan reiterated his suggestion from the May 20th meeting that the person who hit the bridge on Pickering Road and was later denied a claim by the Township’s insurance company be billed for the damage to the bridge. He estimates $250.00 to repair the damage. Mrs. Ewald agreed, but the other members did not. There was no motion or vote on this issue.
Mrs. Ewald said she continues to have trouble downloading e-mail with her older computer system and intends to get a new one soon. Mr. Willig asked the Secretary to fax Mrs. Ewald all e-mail correspondence until further notice, and to investigate the cost of DSL computer lines for all the Supervisors’ homes.
The Board adjourned at 9:53 P.M. The next meeting will be held on June 10, 2002, 7:30 P.M. at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154.