CHARLESTOWN TOWNSHIP JOINT MEETING
|Kevin Kuhn, Chairman, Board of Supervisors, Mike Rodgers, Paul Hogan, Charlie Philips, Michael Allen, Chairman, Planning Commission, Rick Reis, Wendy Leland, Bill Davison, Andy Motel, Michael Churchill, June Gorman, Gary Bender, Esq., Surender Kohli, P.E., Tom Comitta, Linda M. Csete, Township Administrator, Melanie Lammers, Recording Secretary, and those on the attached attendee list.|
The meeting was called to order at 7:35 p.m.
Mr. Kuhn announced that Mr. Willig was not able to be present, but that they had talked and Mr. Kuhn may provide input on Mr. Willig’s behalf.
Mr. Kuhn recapped the purpose of the meeting and announced that Mr. Wade McDevitt was not ready to make his presentation this evening.
Mr. Allen cautioned everyone that this was not a debate, but rather simply a meeting to bring both Boards up to speed.
Mr. Allen thanked Mr. Philips for the great job he did on the Planning Commission.
Mr. Allen highlighted the many Robal & Associates submissions that began in 1987. He said the latest plan contains 19 single-family homes. He said the Planning Commission feels it is better than the plans Robal & Associates has submitted in the past, but noted that the zoning is PRD with an underlying FR zoning. He said the applicant’s submission does not fit either type zoning and requested guidance from the Supervisors.
James Tupitza, Esq., summarized his client’s plan, stating that it is in line with the Township’s Comprehensive Plan with regards to density. He said onsite water/sewer were considered, but public water/sewer made more sense, and that the cost of public water/sewer is what is driving the number of units.
Mr. Allen said they could develop under FR or the Open Space Option and do just 15 units, and Mr. Philips questioned why an Open Space Option sketch plan was never done. Mr. Tupitza said the current plan was one that worked financially for Mr. Balbirnie. Mr. Churchill added that there is a question as to whether there is a private deed restriction. Mr. Tupitza said they could not create a lot of less than 50,000 square feet. Mr. Allen said, based on the consultants’ analysis, the Open Space Option could yield 15 units. Mr. Tupitza said it is not cost effective to bring in public sewer/water and amortize it over 15 years. Mr. Reis questioned the cost difference between doing that versus drilling wells on each property.
Mr. Comitta clarified that FR zoning doesn’t apply to this application. He said it applies only if the tract is under 25 acres in size. Since this parcel is over 25 acres, it can only be a PRD.
Mr. Kuhn asked Mr. Bender about the deed restriction. Mr. Bender said it is enforceable if any party has the required standing. He asked Mr. Tupitza if they know who has standing, and Mr. Tupitza replied they think they do. Mr. Bender said it is an issue of interpretation.
Mr. Churchill said the issue at hand is the number of units and whether or not public water/sewer service is to be brought in.
There was some discussion regarding the likely tree damage on Sycamore Lane and water run-off. Mr. Kohli said the applicant would have to abide by all of the requirements dealing with the discharge of water.
Mr. Comitta gave an overview of the Devault Area planning, and Mr. Allen said the primary question is what the Township wants to do with this area. Mr. Philips would like to plan the area so it does not end up being a hodge-podge of styles. He said the struggle they find themselves in is that a Turnpike interchange will almost certainly go in. This will support industrial traffic. He said the Township could let it go as is or plan ahead. Mr. Davison recommended people take a look at Chemical Road in Plymouth Meeting to see what can happen ‘in a blink of an eye.’
Mr. Kuhn said he and Mr. Willig have some philosophical issues, as opposed to financial, and he thanked J. Loew, Eli Kahn, and T. Townes for their patience. He said he’s concerned about instituting an Earned Income Tax for the purpose of preserving open space and then turning around and developing such a large piece of land for residential. Financially, he is concerned at what point it becomes necessary to bring in police, fire, etc. As part of the Phoenixville Regional Planning Group, he would like to push the density elsewhere to help feed Phoenixville. He said Mr. Willig feels putting retail in that area would serve commuters more than Charlestown residents. Mr. Kuhn said he needs to be sold on why this concept would be an improvement. He said he is willing to trade transients for residents.
Ms. Sarah Peck asked if anyone has done studies to 1) determine the tipping point for needing additional services, and 2) calculate the pipeline of kids coming through the schools. She said this analysis should be done before making decisions. Mr. Allen indicated that over the past 15 years, there has been approximately a 2.5% increase per year in the number of school children. He said the current enrollment is 3787 and it is estimated to rise to 4191 by the year 2008.
Mr. Comitta said a decision should be made to have J. Loew either come back with their flex space plan or the Township should look at rezoning.
Mr. Kuhn asked, on behalf of Mr. Willig, if residential or flex office space use are the only two options. Eli Kahn responded that there is no demand now, or in the foreseeable future, for Class A office space. He said it has become an unprofitable business and could be that way for some time to come. He said industrial space has a price point, and therefore, money cannot be spent to make it more attractive. It needs to be cost effective. He said they looked at a lot of different products for that area, and nothing else worked. He said retail won’t work mainly due to the topography. He added that this area will change ‘in the blink of an eye,’ even before the Turnpike interchange goes in. He also stated that the flex plan will still have a big impact on services, just as residential would. He said they would like to separate themselves from TDR. He said they are looking for input from the Township as to whether flex space is acceptable. If it is, that is the way they will go; if not, they will go the other way. Mr. Kuhn responded that he does not like the flex idea and is afraid of the alternative. Mr. Kahn showed a rendering of the by-right plan. He said industrial zoning is there to provide function, not aesthetics. He showed a townhouse rendering and said they are willing to work with the Township to come to a compromise.
Mr. Philips said he would rather see high quality townhouses than flex office space. Mr. Motel suggested they change the zoning for the Tyler-Griffin tract only and see how it goes. Mr. Loew said they need to move forward with this project. Mr. Churchill said they have been enormously cooperative and that density is the issue. Mr. Philips agreed and said if there was any developer to trust, it would be J. Loew & Associates.
Ms. Sarah Peck said that sooner or later residents will want to see open space acquisitions for their earned income tax dollars. Mr. Kuhn said the idea is to keep down the number of residents. Mr. Allen disagreed, stating the idea is to preserve open space, not to keep the number of residents down. Mr. Kuhn said, to him, it is to keep the number of residents down due to the infrastructure required for higher density.
Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Philips said they preferred townhouses to the flex office space. Mr. Kuhn said he would like to table the decision until the Board has more time to talk about it and to include Mr. Willig. Mr. Loew asked for a timeframe, and Mr. Kuhn said a few weeks.
Mr. Churchill said overall planning should be done before the market heats up and suggested inviting the two major landowners to be involved in the planning.
Mr. Reis said the Boards need to understand the financials driving J. Loew’s decisions, and Mr. Loew said he would be happy to come discuss it.
Mr. Kuhn said the Township would guarantee an answer in two weeks after receiving input from Mr. Willig.
This topic was not discussed.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:27 P.M.