Andy Motel, Chairman, Mike Allen, Vice Chairman, Sarah Peck, Wendy Leland, Michael Churchill, June Gorman, Rick Reis, Surender Kohli, P.E., Tom Comitta, Linda Csete and those on the attached list.

Call to Order: 7:45 P.M.


There were no announcements.

Citizens Forum

No matters were brought forward at this time.

Approval of Minutes

February 10, 2009 Minutes

Mrs. Leland moved to approve the February 10, 2009 minutes and Ms. Peck seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Update – Design Review Committee

Mr. Allen gave an update on the Spring Oaks TND plan following the 3/9/09 meeting with the Design Review Committee. He explained that the sketch plan has gone through various iterations that have altered the layout somewhat while following the same basic plan in accordance with the TND ordinance.

Mr. Allen said three items for Spring Oaks were addressed as follows and pointed them out on the sketch plan:

Mr. Motel said the sketch plan is the product of an intensive collaborative effort between the DRC, including Charlie Philips, Mike Allen and Tom Comitta and the applicant, Dewey Homes. He explained that the TND ordinance developed by the Township for the Devault area calls for a joint approach to the development plan that allows the Township more design control than is typical of projects in other zoning districts.

Mr. Allen said this latest sketch will be presented to the Board of Supervisors, and was brought back to the Planning Commission this evening just to show them the changes made following their recommendation last month.

Ann Ferentz, 1134 Tinkerhill Lane, asked who the developer is, and Mr. Allen said Dewey Homes. He added that J. Loew & Associates is beginning the process for another area of the TND, the Tyler Griffin tract.

Mr. Motel said the TND design is a much improved product over the previous plans submitted for Spring Oaks. Mr. Churchill said they had a pre-existing right to a residential plan, and Ms. Peck added they also had an intensive commercial plan previously approved. Ms. Ferentz asked if the 184 homes are single homes. Mr. Motel said they are a mix of townhouses, single homes and twins. Ms. Ferentz asked what the time frame for development is, and Mr. Allen said 2010-2014.

Donna Sapone, 2138 Union Hill Road, asked how much commercial would be in the new plan, and Mr. Allen said none, it will all be residential. He then explained that the TND zoning district has five separate areas with different uses. Areas 1 and 5, Spring Oaks, a Fillippo property and Tyler Griffin respectively, are residential. Area 2 is primarily retail. Area 3, south of the Turnpike including the former Pogey’s, consists of retail and office space. Area 4, which includes the Quarry, has office, CCRC, and hotel/conference uses permitted.


Great Valley Business Center

John Panizza and Bob Smiley of Genterra Corporation and Susan Phillips, traffic engineer, were present to discuss a revised sketch plan for the Great Valley Business Campus showing an alternative access road. Mr. Motel explained to those present that sketch plans are encouraged by the Township as a means to foster dialog between them and the applicant.

Mr. Panizza said they presented the alternate access concept at the last meeting and have returned to show a change in the positioning of the road per Mr. Comitta’s suggestion. He said the revised plan shows the proposed buildings more to scale. Except for the lower building, the others will likely change to reflect market demands and to address grading issues. The existing house shows a proposed addition.

Mr. Panizza said he wants to discuss whether the Planning Commission is in favor of the new road location, which would replace the existing portion of Yellow Springs Road leading to Phoenixville Pike. Mr. Motel asked what he thinks the tradeoffs are. Mr. Panizza said the relocated road would be a better way to get to Phoenixville Pike, and from his standpoint, it would give him the chance to work better with the grades through the steep slope areas. Mr. Motel said one of the Planning Commission’s concerns is the mixing of truck traffic with auto traffic on the relocated section, although he acknowledged that the existing road can be difficult to navigate. Mr. Panizza said there would be a more orderly, safer movement of traffic, and that although there would be more traffic added to the roads, most tractor trailers would be heading out of the township.

Mr. Churchill asked if a road relocation would change the use of Yellow Springs Road by encouraging more truck traffic to reach Route 113. Mr. Panizza said no, he believes it would only add truck traffic to the bottom section. Mr. Churchill agreed that they would probably still prefer to travel on Route 401 to reach points north. Ms. Phillips said the relocation wouldn’t change the current traffic patterns. Mrs. Leland agreed but asked about additional trucks on Sidley Road. Ms. Phillips said she’d have to look at it.

Mr. Allen said truck and auto traffic would be mixed internally and all traffic would have to go through the new intersection at Phoenixville Pike. Mr. Panizza said that the traffic is mixed at Phoenixville Pike regardless. He said the idea of rerouting the road stemmed from earlier discussions with the Planning Commission of their concerns with accessing his site from the existing Yellow Springs Road. Mrs. Gorman said the present road is beautiful and she would hate for the gateway to her neighborhood to reveal itself through a commercial development.

Ms. Peck asked if the existing Yellow Springs Road were kept intact and the new road was constructed, would there be a warrant for another signal at the new Phoenixville Pike intersection? Ms. Phillips responded, probably not, even if the old section of Yellow Springs Road was closed. She added that if the old road was retained, there would be an awkward intersection across from Charlestown Oaks. Ms. Peck asked if there are adequate distances from the existing and proposed intersections, and Ms. Phillips said yes, adding that the only issue would be traffic backup on Phoenixville Pike.

Mr. Allen said that with the new road, Genterra could get more square footage, increasing from 187,000 to 239,000 square feet, and asked what the advantages are for the Township. Mr. Panizza said jobs would be created, but Mr. Allen said that would be true under the previous plan too. Mr. Churchill asked what the traffic impact would be with the increased square footage, and Mrs. Phillips said it would depend on the uses. Flex space, for example, has a low impact.

Mrs. Leland said she liked the idea of the relocation from a safety standpoint. Mr. Churchill said he’d like to get the traffic safety statistics. Mr. Motel said the Planning Commission needs traffic modeling data and a conceptual plan. He said Mrs. Gorman speaks for the residents of Charlestown Oaks and they need to consider their concerns. Mr. Smiley said the new road could be boulevarded to improve the aesthetics.

Ms. Phillips said Mr. Panizza originally asked her to show the best access to the site, without knowing the proposed use, and she thought the road shown was the natural place to access the site. She said it has the added benefit of a safer access to Yellow Springs Road. Mr. Comitta said he has trouble with the large size of the buildings, which wouldn’t be attractive even if the facades are enhanced. He asked if they can break them down to 9-12 smaller buildings rather than 3 large ones, which he sees as a very a-typical footprint. Smaller buildings would look better with the grades on the site. Mr. Panizza said they are sized and shaped for efficiency. Mr. Motel said the new road would give him more market opportunities and said the aesthetics problem has to be solved.

John Pittock, President of the Charlestown Historical Society, expressed concern over any additional truck traffic on Yellow Springs Road, which he defined as imminently unsuitable for the road. He also said that, as a user of the road, he wouldn’t want to mix his auto use with truck traffic and preferred that Yellow Springs Road be left alone.

Thompson Sketch Plan

John Thompson, Ben Thompson and Bob Showalter were present to discuss a sketch plan for the Thompson property. Mr. Motel explained that the 380 acre property is located in both Charlestown and Schuylkill Townships, and that the Thompson family has been working with both municipalities to plan a development that suits the family’s needs while minimizing the impact to the surrounding community. Mr. Motel said 23 estate lots are proposed. John Thompson said the property could have been subdivided into as many as 146-161 lots. Mr. Motel said the townships are working out an agreement with the family to acquire an open space easement on the property, with Charlestown planning to use funds from its Open Space program.

John Thompson displayed the latest sketch plan, which was developed with input from the Natural Lands Trust (NALT). He indicated that 200 of the 380 acres are located in Charlestown with the remainder in Schuylkill Township. He showed where the proposed roads are located. He said a previous plan showed Tinkerhill Road and Tinkerhill Lane being connected, but they’re now opting to leave them separate, with an emergency access shown connecting to Tinkerhill Lane from one of the roads in their plan. Charlestown is considering purchasing Lot #1, which is approximately 23 acres in size, for a park. Schuylkill is considering purchasing two lots for park use. Mr. Thompson showed numerous trails, many on the existing golf cart paths, as well as existing horse trails which connect to the Horseshoe Trail. Mr. Motel said these trails would become public trails upon plan approval. He added that the Township has submitted acquisition grant applications to the state and county for funding of the Lot 1 purchase. The County has indicated they’re very interested in the project and the Township will get word in June whether the grant will be awarded.

John Thompson said the building envelopes shown on the lots are 1.5 acres in size, with the area outside the envelopes to be restricted from development. Mr. Churchill asked if the restrictions will be enforceable by the two townships and Mr. Thompson said yes, adding that the Charlestown land qualified for a conservation easement with NALT due to the forestation, viewsheds and agricultural land. No houses will be seen from Union Hill Road. Eleven houses are shown in Charlestown and 12 in Schuylkill, but two have existing houses, and three lots are under consideration by the townships to acquire for open space. Mr. Motel said that although the lots will all be under easement, there will be public access on the trails only, not throughout the development.

There was some confusion on the numbering of the lots. Ms. Peck asked if Lots 15a, 15b and 15c are counted as 1 lot or 3. Mr. Thompson said parcel 15b will combine with his brother Tom’s Lot 15, and he may be acquiring Lot 15c to add to his existing property. Mr. Showalter said the golf course will remain open as long as possible, and the development would be constructed in phases to allow this. They propose a temporary cul de sac ending the road on Lot 5 to be used during phase 1. Later this road would continue through to Whitehorse Road in phase 2.

In response to Mr. Motel’s question, Mr. Showalter said Tinkerhill Lane and Tinkerhill Road would not be connected, but they might add a cul de sac to one of them with an emergency access to their proposed road. Ben Thompson said they would temporarily need an access from Tinkerhill Lane to Lots 2, 3, 4, 5, and 22. Mr. Motel asked if there would be any through traffic to Mine Road, and John Thompson said no, there would only be access to Lot 21.

Mr. Showalter and the Thompsons responded to comments on Ed Theurkauf’s review memorandum dated 3/9/09 as follows:

Comment #2.a regarding Lot 21’s difficult access, woods and wetlands, prompting Mr. Theurkauf to recommend a portion of the lot be separated into a second lot to be kept as a conservation area: Mr. Showalter said there is already a gravel road in the location shown for the access. Ben Thompson indicated it will require a conditional use approval.

Comment #2.b regarding Lot 20’s building envelope in the woodlands, which should be moved to reduce clearing impacts: Mr. Showalter said the intention was to tuck the house into the woods, but he said the plans weren’t finalized. John Thompson said NALT recommended doing this to hide the houses. Mr. Churchill said there are other considerations, and asked the applicant to think about the problems with steep slopes and wetlands.

Comments #3 & 4 regarding trails and trail surface: Mr. Showalter said this part of the plan is still evolving.

Comment #5 regarding vehicular access: not discussed further.

Comment #6 regarding the municipal boundary question, Mr. Showalter said he believes his mapping is correct.

Comment #7 regarding the proposal to survey trees, Mr. Showalter said this will be done at the time of each building permit application. Mr. Motel said he wanted the survey inside the building envelopes to be done sooner.

Comment #8 regarding reducing the size of the building envelopes to 1 acre, Mr. Showalter said it would be difficult to reduce from 1.5 acres. The house, septic system, secondary septic site, and well with its 100 foot isolation requirement, must all fit inside. Ben Thompson said a smaller envelope would handcuff them. Mr. Motel asked who initially suggested the 1.5 size, and Ben Thompson said NALT. Mr. Kuhn asked if the accessory structures must be placed in the envelopes, and John Thompson said smaller structures would be included, but barns and riding rings can be outside. Ben Thompson said their conservation agreement will address the question of accessory structures and each lot will have a description of what is permitted.

Mr. Motel asked for comments from the Planning Commission on the sketch plan.

Ms. Peck said the plan is difficult to understand because the adjacent properties are not shown. Mr. Motel added that the footprints of the existing houses on those lots should also be shown.

Mr. Allen said the access easement to Lot #1 is shown as 25 feet but 50 feet is required.

Mr. Allen said the lot numbering scheme is confusing and asked that it be re-numbered without a, b, and c designations. John Thompson said there are 3 existing homes and 20 proposed new homes.

Mr. Allen asked if NALT will own any of the lots, and John Thompson said no. Mr. Motel added that all lots will be under private ownership except any that either Charlestown or Schuylkill decides to acquire. The conservation easement will be enforced by NALT and the homeowners’ association.

Mr. Allen asked if any improvements are proposed for Whitehorse Road, possibly a left hand turning lane into the development. John Thompson said Schuylkill Township indicated they prefer to keep Whitehorse Road as it is.

Mr. Allen asked if a 3-way stop is proposed for Whitehorse and Ashenfelter Roads, which is a dangerous intersection. Mr. Motel said this would be PennDOT’s call. Ben Thompson said they’re actually decreasing traffic volume from the site, comparing the future plan to the present golf course use.

Mr. Allen asked for the total percentage of open space and Mr. Showalter said it would be shown on the next sketch.

Mr. Allen asked about the 1.5 and 1.6 acre lots adjacent to Lot 1. Tina Daly said the plan erroneously shows these parcels as belonging to the Township but they’re actually privately owned by her family. She said they do not want any trails on their property.

Mr. Motel asked for comments from those present and the following people spoke. 1. Steve Roth, 1094 Tinkerhill Lane, asked how the Charlestown park parcel would be accessed and where parking would be located. Mr. Thompson said parking would be on the parcel itself, with access from Tinkerhill Lane. Mr. Roth said this would create traffic. 2. Ann Ferentz asked why consider a park? Mr. Kuhn responded that in order to qualify for public funds, the grantors want to see more than just a conservation area with limited access. Mr. Motel said the Township Open Space Director, Aliena Gerhard, said that the state and county agencies are more likely to grant funding for open space to townships willing to provide full public use. Mr. Reis said in the future, if the rails to trails conversion ever takes place, the park could be accessed by bikers and hikers from there. Ms. Ferentz said she doesn’t want a park, and wants to see Tinkerhill Lane continue to be a dead end road and that she objects to the traffic a park would promote. 3. Lee Haller, 4255 Whitehorse Road, says he’s walked the Thompson property for years and his wife and daughter ride horses on the trails. He commended the Thompson family and the Township for working together on a conservation plan. As a developer, he said he doesn’t see how the math could work and sees it as an amazing deal for the Township. He asked if the equestrian trails will be maintained. Ben Thompson said they’d have to ask the HOA, saying they have liability concerns. Mr. Motel said he has information regarding immunity from liability he can provide. John Thompson said their property has traditionally been open to everyone except dirt bikers and hunters. 4. Rob Johnston, 1129 Tinkerhill Lane, said his property abuts that of Steve Thompson. He said in general he thinks the plan looks great. 5. Ann Ferentz, 1134 Tinkerhill Lane, asked how it was decided to have the emergency access from Tinkerhill Lane and not Tinkerhill Road. Mr. Motel said that Tinkerhill Road comes off Creek Road, which has heavier traffic and floods during rainy weather. 6. Christiane Aubrey asked if Mr. Motel ever heard of Union Hill Road and was he aware of the morning traffic on it. Mr. Motel said yes that he was well aware of the drive time traffic issues as he lives on Whitehorse Road. 7. Rob Johnston said Tinkerhill Lane is very narrow for an emergency access. Mr. Motel agreed the Lane would change somewhat but asked if the change couldn’t be ameliorated. Ben Thompson said the roads in the Thompson development would be private roads, not township roads, and shouldn’t invite a lot of outside traffic. 8. Steve Roth asked if there is a specific builder involved in the project. Ben Thompson said they haven’t decided yet and are still working it out with the family and attorney. Ms. Peck asked if Bentley Homes was still involved, and Ben Thompson said no. John Thompson said they plan to put all the infrastructure in place and the family will retain the lots for some time.

Mr. Kuhn said that Ben and John Thompson have been good enough to bring the sketch plan in at this early stage which is why many of the details are not yet available. He said the Thompson family has been negotiating with the two townships for 2 to 2 ½ years and they’ve been wonderful to work with. There has been a lot of thinking between the two boards of supervisors to balance competing interests, maximize conservation, and mitigate development while considering the family’s rights.

Mr. Kuhn said he was a proponent of connecting the two Tinkerhills for reasons of health, safety and welfare. Both roads are non-conforming to current Township ordinances due to their length and lack of secondary access. He said he still thinks it’s a mistake not to connect them, since the residents of either road would have no way out in the event of an emergency that closed their one access point.

Mr. Kuhn said that with regard to the possible township park on Lot 1, most people using it would be the surrounding neighbors. There is already an active park, Charlestown Park, and another large passive park at Brightside Farm with easy, open access. The Township has a responsibility to provide parks and the ability to continue receiving grant money depends upon it.

Mr. Churchill said the Thompsons came in to the Planning Commission a couple of years ago with Bentley Homes, proposing a large residential subdivision that caused great concern. He said the family’s later interest in a conservation plan is a tremendous thing. Mr. Motel was in agreement.

Mr. Motel said this is the starting point for the review process and he encouraged the neighboring property owners to continue attending the meetings and providing their comments. He said the Planning Commission appreciates their thoughts.


The meeting was adjourned at 10:35 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,

Linda M. Csete
Planning Commission Secretary